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Picking a Preschool: Weighing Costs, Curriculum and Program Focus

With dozens of preschools in the Macomb area, parents have a wide selection from which to choose. Patch helps narrow down where to look and what questions to ask.

This is the first in a two-part series to help parents explore preschool and kindergarten options in the local area.

Though not a mandatory level of education, preschool is a popular option among parents looking to ease their child’s entry into kindergarten.

For Macomb Township mother Jennifer Pirziola, providing this transition for her 3-year-old son Anthony is key.

“We really want to prepare him for kindergarten,” Pirziola said. “Now that they’re going to full day, we just really want to prepare him for that transition. I think it’s more about getting him to be enthusiastic about school than what they’re actually going to teach him.”

While most preschools do introduce basic concepts such as the alphabet and number recognition, for the typically 3, 4 and young 5-year-old students, the key lessons are in socialization and structure.

“The benefits of coming to preschool are the interaction with other kids their age, and learning to take direction from someone other than mom and dad,” said Preschool Director Char Hohnstadt. “The bigger emphasis is the social interaction. All the academic stuff is gravy.”

With no shortage of preschools in the Macomb Township area, parents have the advantage of choosing the preschool program that best fits their needs.

While a tour of the school should be at the top of a parent’s list, L’Anse Creuse Early Childhood Center Director Sharon Grala said mom or dad should also be asking these key questions:

  • What programs do you offer?
  • What sort of education and experience do the teachers have?
  • What is the student-teacher ratio?
  • What curriculum do you follow?

Parents should also check the school's policy on potty training. While some programs will help train a child, others require the child be able to tell a teacher their needs independently.

In the Macomb area, there are roughly four types of preschool programs: public school districts, independent institutions, churches or parochial schools, and Montessori.

All preschool programs tend to emphasize social skills, structure and early academic concepts, but depending on the program's developer, some may see other subjects taught as well.

Speaking on behalf of St. Peter’s, Hohnstadt said that because their program is “first and foremost a Christian preschool, our No. 1 objective is to share Jesus with the kids.”

At , which teaches according to the Montessori method, the program “teaches to the individual child” but does so in a mixed-age classroom. 

“Montessori program children learn from each other, so the younger children have older students as role models and our younger children aspire to become the leaders of the classroom,” said Toni Partyka, Oxford Academy program director. “We all want our children to be leaders and not followers.”

Little Preschoolers Preschool, an independent institution, focuses on preparing its students for the transition to kindergarten through structure and curriculum.

“Kindergarten is so demanding these days, they’re sort of at a disadvantage if they haven’t had some preschool experience prior to kindergarten,” said Pam Harrison, Little Preschoolers program director. “We introduce them to a somewhat structured setting so that the transition to kindergarten is that much easier as they’ve been exposed to structure and transitions.”

But amid comparing programs, parents must also compare costs.

"You definitely have to weigh (the cost) because some are as much as college tuition and I’d rather have him go to college to be honest," Pirziola said.

Public school preschool programs in the area include:

Religious-based preschool programs in the area include:

Independent preschool programs in the area include:

Montessori preschool programs in the area include:

To search for a program based upon specific requirements such as age, hours, or special needs, visit the Great Start childcare database

Steven Stoll January 16, 2012 at 03:22 PM
There is only one preschool that is consistently rated #1 by the parents, and that is Shelby University, located on Van Dyke just north of 23 Mile. Outstanding curriculum, as in the kids read, yes read before they're off to kindergarten, and so much more. Awesome friendly staff, cleaner than your home, and on and on. I cannot recommend them highly enough. a Dad

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