Paying for Preschool

Much easier than it sounds
By Dr. Kate G.

Being completely honest, I am cheap. I will scan the aisles for good deals, I live for consignment sales, my toddler gets second hand toys as gifts for holidays, and I am never too embarrassed to ask for the college student discount that I technically no longer qualify for (we are all students of life, right?) However there is one area that I refuse to try to cut costs on and that is my child’s education. As with every educated consumer, I have taken the time to educate myself on what is considered a quality and what I am willing to pay for it. Learning through experience has taught me a great deal in a short amount of time.

Knowing what you want: Going back to work after having our daughter was tough- really tough. I grew up with a nanny. From the time I was 8 weeks old I was lucky enough to have a grandmother-type figure in my life, every week day, from breakfast to dinner. As I re-entered the work world, I wanted that for our daughter- a constant that nurtured her and her developmental needs. The idea of full-time daycare out of the home was never an option. However, the cost of in-home care is expensive- trying to find that young, retired grandmother-type that is willing to work for $7-$8 hour no longer exists. So when my time came to go back to work my husband and I looked at each other with the dreading question of who is good enough to take care of our child? We had enough money to pay a sitter $8/hour for 32 hours a week. We thought this was pretty good, then we learned what $8 can get you:

  • A recent college grad who is willing to watch your child long enough during the day to catch the best soaps on TV and consume most of your junk food
  • An individual ‘in-between’ jobs who is waiting for that full-time job to come along
  • A graduate school drop-out who has decided she needs to ‘find herself’ and therefore with 2 days notice quits and leaves for the other side of the country
  • In general, a safe person who will come to your home, feed your child, change your child, and plant them in the middle of your living room surrounded by toys to entertain themselves with.

When my child began to recognize tv programs with more enthusiasm than play time with other children I decided more social development was in order. Also being the financial-scrutinizer that I am, I decided that we could better spend our money on a part-time preschool program and a part-time nanny. After visiting a couple of preschool programs I chose 2, signing our daughter up for one-day a week at one program and 2 days at another. The one-day a week program cost $132 a month while the 2-day a week program cost $170 month. I thought that I was getting a better deal at the 2-day program.  Even someone who is bad with numbers can see a financial advantage with $170 per month. However it is with this cost-benefit analysis that my market research became interesting.

Here is what we learned $170 per month for 2 days can get you at a mediocre preschool:

  • A director that calls you ‘dear’ and your child ‘honey’ because she can’t remember you or your child’s name
  • A child that is forced to nap 2 times in a 4 hour period simply because the other children in that age room are sleeping
  • A single classroom that had more cribs and playpens than interactive toys and play stations
  • An outside play yard that is covered in astro-turf and has one slide and 1 small climbing gym
  • A child that screams for you to stay when you drop them off and a child that is still crying when you pick them up.

Here is what we learned $132 per month for 1 day a week will get you at an amazing preschool:

  • A teacher team that not only knows your name, but takes the time to see how you are doing, not to mention comes to your home prior to the school year because they recognize the difficulty in transitioning from the home space to the school space.
  • An environment that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also engages all of your senses upon entering the classrooms- that’s right, multiple rooms, each for a different purpose, that create the total class space for one age group
  • A daily routine that involves going outside for walks on grounds that have trees, birds, and a gross-motor enhancing playground
  • A parent participatory experience from which you leave feeling as if you have learned more than your child as you watch the teachers redirect and engage the children calmly
  • An educational philosophy that values every moment as teachable and precious.
  • A place where your child grows as well as your family

Within 2 weeks of starting school I pulled my child from the less expensive program and placed her in The School of Grace 2 days a week. The $262 per month payment was the easiest check I wrote. As we entered our second year at the SOG we decided to sign our daughter up for 4 days a week, knowing that the tuition payment would be a bit larger in comparison to some other schools.  However we knew, without a doubt, that The School of Grace is a place where your investment is priceless.