Kari Byron, Mythbuster Mom: Preschool Hustle

Education Featured GeekMom

KariCloseUp-e1308329695929I am writing another $50 check, to another preschool … just for the chance to have my application reviewed.

The more I think about this game, the more it feels like a grift. I show up to a potential preschool along with a dozen other mommies and daddies to compete for a spot that may actually not exist. We’re all trying to look like the most interested, the most invested, and the best candidate — all while our 2-year-olds are running around putting things in their mouths with their finger up their nose.

Is this just an urban problem or modern problem? Is this really the lynchpin for my child’s entire future? If I choose the wrong preschool, am I dooming her to a life of, “Do you want fries with that?”

The stress is overwhelming. It was easier for me to get into college. It was easier for me to get an apartment in San Francisco at the peak of the dot com boom!

I never took rejection as personally, as I do now when it comes to my kid. I got a letter in the mail denying me from a preschool co-op that I applied to when my daughter was a few months old. My husband had to put ME on a “time out.”

The preschool hustle is making me a crazy person.

If I make it to the end of this process without choking out the obligatory suck-up mommy taking pictures of the potty area and asking philosophical questions about their educational structure…My baby may just learn how to make ants on a log and finger paint macaroni art.

Next stop, Harvard.

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172 thoughts on “Kari Byron, Mythbuster Mom: Preschool Hustle

  1. I don’t really understand the preschool thing. Up here, we don’t really *have* preschools. Our kids stay at home or go to daycare until they’re about 4 or 5, then they start in kindergarten (now moving to full day). Preschool has this connection to the upper class here, something for only the wealthy. I couldn’t afford $50 extra bucks every time I had to apply to our (nonexistant) preschools. Kindergarten is free, it’s fun, and the kids learn a lot. Isn’t that good enough?

    1. You must live in a different part of “up here” than I do (though I’m not sure because you reference all-day kindergarten, and we’re about to implement that here too). I’m in BC and went to a preschool in a pretty backwoods part of the province. It’s kind of like childcare, but in the same building as the school. I don’t think its the same as the crazy private pre-schools in the states, and from what I understand its harder to find a daycare than it is to get into preschool now (except maybe private schools).

      I’m pretty sure I learned that Billy would pinch you if you let him and that you CAN put that macaroni up your nose. It really had no bearing on my getting into university, though the macaroni trick really makes me the life of the party.

  2. I had a similar experience in Cary, NC — signups were a little less discriminating in terms of the “qualifications” but for the better preschools, Moms were virtually camping out the night before to be towards the head of the line come 8am Monday morning.

    I remember the application fees for the preschools too — wow! It’s gone up over the years — I think it was $25 for my sons.

  3. I found a daycare that was also an accredited school through 6th grade at the time we started. We didn’t have to apply and be interviewed, we just signed up and got in. It was wonderful for our daughter and she learned so much.

    There was a daycare down the street from the office that we inquired about because we’d heard good things about but it was more expensive and the waiting list was so long we couldn’t even get an interview. We decided to take the advice of Groucho Marx: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as members.”

  4. Preschool was easy for us – an extension of my daughter’s day care. It was getting into Kindergarten that was a 2-year job in NYC.

  5. I bet you would love Montessori. “You can’t understand Google,” vice president Marissa Mayer says, “unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.” She’s referring to schools based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician born in 1870 who believed that children should be allowed the freedom to pursue their interests. “In a Montessori school, you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so,” she says. “This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, why should it be like that? It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.” http://bit.ly/hRHdTu

    Depending on where you live, some Montessoris begin as early at 18 months. Most begin at 3, with primary running through Kindergarten. Others go all the way to HS.

    1. My daughter goes to a Montessori daycare/preschool, and we love it. My place takes them at 6 weeks, so you can start your kid at one daycare and not need to switch places if you want a preschool environment later. In this area, very few preschools pick and choose among children. It’s essentially first-come, first-serve with exceptions if you already have another kid in there. Before I chose the Montessori place over a traditional daycare, I sat in on a preschool class to see what they actually do. It was a very relaxed, nurturing place and I liked the sort of learning activities they did. Plus, they are anti-containment device for babies because they believe in holding them and lots of floor play. Anyway, my daughter is moving up into the toddler classroom next week. She loves going to daycare and enjoys doing the toddler learning activities. If she continues to like Montessori learning, I’ll try to get her into the Montessori charter elementary school. That is one that requires applications due to limited space vs. demand.

  6. I feel really fortunate to be in Florida. Here pre-K is free to everyone.

    Luckily one of the local churches had built a super flashy, high capacity, long day (>5 hours 4-5 days a week) facility that is ‘the’ place to go. That left the small program that I wanted with openings.

    I hope you find a good fit for your family!


  7. Being a bit of a geekdad myself I can see where you would want to find the best preschool for you toddler.

    Having said that, when YOU have to be interviewed to let a child into a program intended to help develop them socially and mentally then maybe the school is too intent on their own collective ego than doing what you are paying them for. I can see observing the child to see if they could/would/should benefit from their environment, but YOU (and making you pay for the privilege) is ridiculous.

    I have a friend (a career educator, now retired) who runs a fully qualified daycare (which most of her client parents refer to as a school), she does observe the potential clients to see if they ‘fit’ into her daycare. What the parents do is immaterial to her, just the kids. Her place allows her (and he two teachers and four daughters), to interact with the children in a scheduled environment without the stress of a programmed learning environment.

    About the closest they come to a rigidly scheduled anything is trips into Washington DC to go to the various Smithsonian Museums and galleries. If the kids do not want to do something (collectively) then she will do something else (play with the colts in the neighboring pasture is always popular). The closest thing to formal instruction is learning to deal with social interactions.

  8. The ironic thing is that you are all competing for a spot and paying $50 – $100 just to apply, and then $10,000+ per year in fees, and the employees are making $7 / hour. Pretty messed up. Also having my wife work at several high-end preschools over the past 6 years, I can honestly say that the teachers and not the facilities and especially not the administration are what make it a good school. Try and actually talk to the teachers, because the person giving you the tour is more of a salesperson than someone that will ever interact with your child.

    Private daycare is great if you “really trust” the person taking care of your child, like a fellow mother or very close friend that loves to take care of their own and other children. Also make sure they share your same religious, developmental, and ethical beliefs, because I’ve seen some serious clashing in how people think their child should be raised. I say “really trust” because there’s way more negative events with private daycare than preschools.

    Montessori schools seem to be an appealing compromise, but some are a little over the top in being eccentric. Again make sure their practices are in-line with your own beliefs.

    Not really a one size answer to the question. Just make sure you are very comfortable with whomever you leave your child with and pay attention to how they react to their care provider. They should want to go to them after they get over their initial separation anxiety.

    1. I completely agree with JESTEP. My wife had work in daycare for awhile but the pay is just minimum wage or a lil extra. Talk to the teachers or find a small in-home daycare. We love our daycare place, the price is competitive and the class size is lower than the state max, at most 8 kids on any given day. She works with all the kids and only has a bare min of TV time.

      Also if a place uses the name preschool, then they should have at least one certified preschool educator on staff providing daily activities with the children. Always ask for this and the documentation.

  9. Here in the middle of Hoosierland, preschools come in three flavors: Montesorri, church-based, or private. No interviews for any of ’em. It must be a a big city/coast thing to have your kids interviewed for preschool. How ridiculous.
    @Jeremy – preschools actually are different than daycare, if they’re any good!! I equate day care with TV/games/crafts, and preschool with something more structured (or not, in the case of Montesorri schools).

    1. @Aunt Babe – greetings from a fellow Hoosier! In my mid-sized city, the vast majority of preschools are church-based. There are a few Montessori and “private” pre-K’s, but I ended up sending my older dd to one of the church-based schools. In our case it didn’t come down to religion/theology/dogma so much as how much the staff loved what they did, and that they genuinely cared about the kids. Our pre-K was light on the doctrine; we knew going in there would be some, but it was very ecumenical. In another couple of years, we look forward to sending our younger dd there.

  10. C’mon, Kari . . . You’ve got the punctuation for quotes correct on the “fries,” but not on the [semi-sic] “time out”? And I thought you were perfect . . . harumph!

    Seriously, good luck with the preschool thing. What a pain; I have a friend in Portland in a similar situation.

  11. Kari– I can totally understand. It was the SF pre-school racket that ended up driving us into the wild burbs of San Mateo where we found an awesome preschool without any of the stuffy pretense of the “elite” preschools in SF. Look around and, if necessary, broaden your search.

    1. We paid $50 for a chance at an opening in the current class of a preschool in San Mateo (up near Crystal Springs), as well as $50 for a possible position in the fall semester. Granted, we were about 15th in line on sign up day. We’ve also looked into Spanish, German and/or Mandarin emersion classes for our kid. Mandarin, because it may be good for our kid to learn the language of our soon-to-be-overlords.

  12. Montessori! My son’s pre-school Montessori experience was wonderful. He had a list of things he needed to do each day, but he could do them in any order he pleased. He loved the academics but didn’t like the fine/gross motor activities. He moved slowly through those activities but was reading and had great geography knowledge before he entered kindergarten. His friend on the other hand excelled in the motor activities and moved way ahead in that area.

  13. Out here in the sticks we’ve pretty much got (maybe?) 2 options. Religious or Head Start preschool. I’ll take Head Start. Competition for space? Hah! For the first time (at least for the years my 3 have been in the program) they hired another teacher so they could split the preschool class in two. I can’t imagine what my reaction would be if I had to deal with what the more urban upscale preschools put parents through. To me it’s horrible, the schools should be competing for your kids rather than the other way around. It seems to me to be a artificially created scarcity rather than how good their program is. If they really wanted to use their philosophy of teaching to better humanity they should add classes (and hire teachers) to meet demand. They seem to be more in the business of helping the people who get into their schools feel “elite” versus those who jumped through their hoops and were rejected.

  14. Yes, it is a hoax. No, it is not necessary. Review any current research and it will tell you that kids are perfectly capable to learning anything at any age. Meaning, kids can have no preschool or advantages in early education but can still become very successful academically. The key is that they WANT to learn and WANT to succeed. My personal belief is that placing kids in highly competitive educational situations early on just kills their love of learning earlier.

    1. It’s true that you can push them too soon, but that just says that you put them in school too young. Learning is a natural human behavior, but other skills need to be in place to help accomplish the learning. That is what Kindergarten was supposed to be for. Now, if a kid starts kindergarten without those skills, she is “behind”. Preschool is the new kindergarten, and if you don’t have a useful preschool experience, you will not be ready to learn. Kindergarten has been this way where I live for nearly 30 years, but we also have what they call “social promotion” so that those kids that are not prepared to learn, and therefore don’t, are passed to the next grade anyhow. This has resulted in very low test scores and progression to college rates. And no, my community is not a poor inner city mess! I live in an affluent bedroom community to LA. To Kari and her fam–good luck !

  15. Kari,

    I agree with earlier posters that the whole application/exclusivity game you are getting sucked into is useless as far as your little one is concerned… it’s just an ego thing for them.

    When my son was of that age, I visited schools until I liked one that I saw. No application fees, no herds of anxious parents… maybe you could ask around your area to see if there are any preschools that the parents like!

    Also remember: preschool is not a requirement, nor is it necessary to your child’s growth. The only benefit that is inherent is preschool is socialization with other kids, and there’s lots of non-exclusive ways to accomplish that! Heck, when I was little, kindergarten wasn’t even required! I didn’t go, because I already knew how to read quite well, color, and take naps. 🙂

    Good luck.

  16. I have friends in the same boat. This isn’t Harvard, Yale, or some service academy that requires a Senator’s endorsement…oh wait, that could come next.

    Find a pre-school that suits your needs and requirements . Never ever should there be any kind of “entry or application” fee to put a child into a preschool.

    What preschool your child ends up going to will not sculpt what you child will be like in 20 years. Heck at that age, they can barely remember what you told them 5 seconds ago.

    Don’t sweat the trivial garbage that far too many adults today sweat over. What preschool will Brianna or Keegan get into…Its all horse hockey

  17. I have yet to see what we ended up doing in Chicago, having been daunted by everything from the snobby pre-schools and academies to the hyper-inflated prices Montessori and Waldorf charges – how about a parent’s cooperative? We obviously don’t live in a city known for it wheatsy-crunchy alternative-lifestyle, and yet I found at least 4 very near to us on the North Side alone. While there is some participation required (e.g., we had to provide lunch and snacks for the class twice a month in exchange for our son being there almost full-time, one of us would attend a monthly meeting, and we’d all participate in a bi-annual cleanup of the place) the maximum size was 10 kids, and all the instructors were thoroughly vetted by.. well, us. We had complete control of the curriculum and activities, got to know the instructors and parents… in short, we had much more control of our son’s pre-school education and daycare and actually had fun doing it. We found a coop with artists, musicians, folks in the entertainment industry, people like us who were fascinated by all things geeky and science-based. Oh, and did I mention it was at a fraction of the cost? Another idea is to perhaps hook up with like-minded parents and start one of your own. Ours had been successfully run for over 20 years when our son got in, and that was 5 years ago!

  18. Kari, honey, when it comes down to it, there’s really only 5 criteria that are important when selecting a preschool for your 2 year old.

    (1) Is it clean?

    (2) Are they accredited and licensed to work with little people?

    (3) Do they actually like working with little people?

    (4) Do they actually get down on the floor to interact/play with the kids?

    (5) Are there plenty of age appropriate activities for the kids?

    Beyond that, it’s window-dressing. And this interviewing the parents stuff is ridiculous! You’re trusting these people with your precious child for X amount of hours a day!! YOU should be interviewing THEM to see if THEY meet YOUR standards, not the other way around!! Remember that!

  19. If your kid is dumb, a great preschool won’t help. For that matter, a great high school or college won’t help. Just look at all the ditzy actors/actresses and himbo sons of politicians that were given free passes to Ivy League schools only to emerge on graduation day as the same himbos and bimbos they were before (but holding a meaningless piece of paper).

    By contrast, if your kid is smart, he/she will learn on a desert island. The worst case scenario is that he/she will be bored or bullied at a bad public school. But someone who loves learning will learn in almost any environment.

    In other words, don’t worry so much.

  20. I’m right there with you. I’m waiting on a contract right now from our first choice school. I’m in a smaller city, and really there are only two choices for us, so we’ve been really nervous.

    The reason I’m so concerned about preschool is because its her best chance to get into the school. Existing students get first chance at the spots in each grade going forward so getting her into a two year old program means getting her in for the actual school part.

    Kari- those schools don’t know what they’re missing out on that have passed your kids up.

  21. We had a bizarre time going through daycares as well with our daughter. We did eventually find one that would do. We pulled her from daycare a month after our son was born.

    Honestly, three quarters of the operators are nothing but money grubbing weasel t*rds. The remainder are on “some damned-fool idealistic crusade”.

    I really don’t know which are worse.

    Hang in there, this too will pass.

  22. Wow, I’d think that most pre-schools would be knocking down your door to get your kid to be in their program, just so they could brag and say “we’ve got Kari Byron’s daughter at our school!”

  23. My daughter is three and I’ve browsed a tad but I’m not sure preschool is the surefire thing everyone says it is. At least where I’m at (Oklahoma City), I’ve yet to find a preschool that can offer her things I can’t teach her myself or, in conjunction with the killer daycare she goes to, she can’t learn. ABCs – check. Numbers through 50 – check. Colors – check. How to get most of the glitter on the glue stripe instead of her clothes – check. Social skills, problem solving, pre-writing skills, pre-reading skills – check, check, check, check. Perhaps I’ll save the bit and wait for free kindergarten.

  24. I have to step in on the side of the preschools here. Well, at least on the side of some of them.

    The game is played on both sides. Having worked with a co-op preschool on the Peninsula for almost 7 years now, I have seen half a class turn over before the school year started. That means that out of 25 families, at least ten-twelve of them signed up and reserved a space, went through varying levels of pre-prep (meetings, materials, etc) and then ended up going with another school.

    Part of that $50 charge is to try to keep this kind of churning down. Many families sign up for multiple preschools, then cherry-pick later in the summer among the places they have been accepted to. The school and teachers burn time and resources, and families who may have been a better fit for the school end up waitlisted.

    Preschool teachers are as underpaid as the rest of the educational system, and they bust a** all summer long.

    So while I get that the process is tricky (and have been through it myself three times here in the Bay Area already), it’s tricky on BOTH sides.

  25. While not a geekMom, I am a GeekDad. With my daughter, who just completed kindergarden this year, we never sent her to pre-school. It’s my opinion and my wife’s opinion that pre-school seems to be slightly over rated. Maybe it’s a good place to let your child meet and interact with other children to build social skills. After the garbage my sister-in-law when through with her son and pre-school, I’m kind of glad we didn’t send our daughter to pre-school.

    As far as I can tell, my daughter is very smart for her age. She love reading and reads at a high First grade level, probably higher, according to her teacher. They ran out of books to give her for reading and even the highest level ones they had were rather easy for her to read. We’ve helped her learn mathematics in creative ways before school and during the year which pays off. I’m also teaching my daughter some tech topics since she loves tinkering with things and finding out how something works.

    I guess my point is that if you have time to do those things, what could be the point with pre-school other than building social skills they will need.

  26. There are several preschools here and elementary schools that are “elite”. My daughter’s preschool was very popular. You had to get in line the night before registration as it was first come, first serve. We didn’t do that for Kindergarten. Thankfully, the elementary school we live in the boundaries for is a good school (we’ve already made trips for open house, and library night. There are several more activities throughout the summer as well).

  27. Kari, (I hope you don’t mind my informality, but after watching you for 9 years, I feel like I know you) please don’t worry about the pre-school. You and your husband are your daughter’s best teachers. Pass on your innate curiosity. Read to her. Show her the beauty of a butterfly’s wings. Set fires with a magnifying glass (safely, of course 😉 ). Hold a praying mantis in your hands. Watch the waves roll in. Teach her to never be afraid to be smart. Let her know what true kindness means. Those things will carry her farther than the name of a school she can list on an application somewhere down the road. They will be the things that truly define her as she interacts with others through life.

  28. Lucky me… we didn’t have problems like that on our place. What I did was, I talked to the school 3 months before the start of classes so I won’t have to worry with the slots. Good luck on your daycare hunting!

  29. Can’t you take Tory Belleci with you to the pre-meetings, then have a quiet word with the staff to say if your child does not get accepted you will be sending him back every day for a month. :o)

  30. My husband was a preschool teacher for an award winning national chain for several years. Honestly, preschool doesn’t matter! Our 3 children never went. They are all still with us and doing well in school. : )

  31. You’ll be fine. It’s an urban problem. I had my little boy in boring distant US suburbs, and then we had to relocate for 2 years to London, UK. Same exact problem. My boy did not get a chance to go to any preschool before kindergarten, because we weren’t already on the waiting list by the time he was 2 yrs old. No preschool at all, but now in 3rd grade he’s 99th(.999) percentile on all the tests he has had to take. Preschool isn’t really the issue; it’s the support the kids get all down the line. And everybody’s brain grows new lobes at different times, but they do grow. So don’t worry, just be supportive. So glad you have your own spawn now!

  32. Kari- Please don’t let them make you crazy! There is this terrible sense of guilt/urgency being fostered in society re preschool. Hands on learning happens as long as you let it…at home…or in a quality daycare setting. No need for anything fancier, more expensive or certainly more stressful for you. We did homeschool our kids after bowing out of this competitive rat race for preschools years ago. Both daughters are college grads now, working and successful in life. No preschool required. I also think Montessori is great if they are actually FOLLOWING what Montessori is about…which is not always the case. May want to read up on the child led learning aspects if you choose to pursue that.
    Hugs and stay sane-

  33. I’m in the SF Bay Area too, and I know what you mean. I made the decision to keep my daughter home and do home pre-school until she was 4, then I put her in a Spanish Immersion preschool through our community center. I think it was the best decision I made, she thrived.

    Now I have my almost 2 yr old and I nanny for a almost 1 yr old and will be doing home preschool with them until around a similar age. I think the more one on one care is better for their self esteem. 🙂

  34. Why do preschool at all? Your kid is gonna spend the next 12 years institutionalized at the least. The best teacher is a competent parent.

  35. Kari, I don’t think the preschools are as important as they make themselves out to be.

    The effects of what the preschool teaches are going to slowly disappear over time. Whatever your daughter learns in pre-school, she’s going to know much more thoroughly by third grade, regardless of whether she’s what she did before kindergarten.

    I guess the question is, is there any real benefit to learning your ABCs when you’re a toddler as opposed to later on? Will the adult version of her feel that difference?

    In my experience, there are a lot of things that we parents make a big deal out of, but what’s really most important to the developing mind are being paid attention and a feeling of being loved.

  36. Another geek mom out here in NYC who totally feels ya. The pressure and the negative emotions are incredible. I have a 9-year-old and a a 4-year-old, and here are my fabulous words of wisdom: it gets worse, but you kinda get used to it.

  37. Yes, school, especially preschool, is overrated. After sending two kids to preschool who are now in gifted programs getting ready to go into 3rd & 7th grade, I’d have to say that it’s more the home life that shapes them than the preschool experience. If you share your love of art, science, and whatever else you are into, then your kids will learn that love, too, and will thrive. Don’t let the paid teachers at your kids’ school be their only teachers. My friends and I all took this similar approach and by the time our kids got into Kindergarten, we wondered what on earth they’d be learning since they’d already mastered the entire year’s curriculum and then some. BUT, I’m in no rush to fast-track my kids through school. They have all the time in the world to work, so I’d rather they relax and enjoy school, even if that means socializing more and breezing through some coursework. Bulid robots at home, sculpt masterpieces, and read classics to challenge and excite them. Enter academic competitions when they are older and join extracurricular teams. Sign up for early art, music, and athletic classes after school. The options outside of school are endless. Most importantly, just relax and have fun.

  38. At the end if the day our kids learn more from us as parents. I don’t remember what I learned in preschool but I do remember my mothers love and her spirit. She was a single mom in the 70’s working in the male field of computer programming. She always gave me the opportunity to try things – even when it was experimenting with cooking ketchup and coffee grounds on the stove. Told me the worse answer someone could say was no, but I had a better chance at yes just by asking.
    Those are the things I remember, not who my preschool teacher was

  39. I think you’re in a very unique situation here. Have you thought about home schooling? You’re on a TV show that is hotter than the Mojave desert in mid August. You have great teachers on the show, Jamie, Adam, Cory, Grant, yourself, not to mention all of the researchers that work for the program. I’m not saying take your kid to work, but look at different educational systems before sending your child off to a “your money cheerfully accepted” school that may not teach the same values that you hold dear or worse yet, may not teach them anything at all….

  40. I’m a pediatrician. Getting our daughter into Catholic School kindergarten here in Atlanta was like me getting into med school, and honestly, I was a little more excited about her getting in than I. Interestingly enough, friends who lived in Cleveland OH who had Catholic schools on every corner, had 3 or 4 choices vs. we were lucky to get into 1 out of the 3 we applied to. HS was a little easier, as she had done well in elementary school, but again, 39 middle schools were applying for the 250 slots of the freshman class! It’s never ending…we are now sliding into looking for colleges for our rising Jr. Easier 2nd time around as sibs get first crack….usually!

  41. I work in SF and had the same problem. We decided to go with a small in home day care and are supplementing our kids’ education at home.

  42. Here in the Philippines,our kids starts as early as 3 1/2 yrs.,preschool starts with the nursery level then kindergarten and lastly preparatory level. It could be expensive with private school fortunately daycare school run by the government are offered free. I have kids and I know it’s definitely an advantage to have them learn at an early age provided that they are interested or show interest at schooling. Learning with kids their age gives them a chance to discover many good things…

  43. Kari, relax. I’m a new parent just like you. Our little one has been in day care since she was 4 months old. She’s closing in on 2 now. She’ll be there til she’s school age. The place is a great, social environment for her. My wife works there in mornings, so our daughter gets half price there. I work afternoons/ nights, so my daughter goes twice a week to keep the socialization going. Talk to your friends. The best place you can find is that given a “word of mouth” recommendation. Happy hunting, and enjoy parenthood. 🙂

  44. Kari, you want your kid to be a kid, not some crazy kid getting educational drills 70% of the school day.

  45. $50 “to compete for a spot that may actually not exist”? Nice scam they’re working there…

  46. You know, I never went to preschool and I’m top of my class (in high school). Teach a kid to love reading, and the rest follows.

  47. Funny, I didn’t go to Kindergarten, or preschool. I’m 56 years old and can usually read, and sometimes write.
    My parents taught me to read and write by the time I was 5. (Yeah, I’ve been a geek ever since… I read Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Pohl and Andersen).
    I run a successful internet business and manage a campground at the same time.

    I’m not certain that preschool or kindergarten are that much of a boone to the education of a child as compared to the bonding and learning that a child gets from it’s parents.

    Albert Einstein didn’t go to Preschool, neither did Horace Greeley, or, probably for that matter Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.
    Where would our beloved Mythbusters be without their original ideas and thought processes?
    Yeah, I know… those come from the producers, but, how would there be a show without them?

  48. I am 16 an I never went pre-school or Pre-K and I’m just fine. I started in Kindergarten, my parents had already taught me the alphabet, I could count to 100, add and subtract, read and write. Things may have changed now. My sister who is two grades below me is learning stuff two years earlier that me.

  49. My youngest just graduated from a preschool that is operated by the city that I live in. All 3 of my kids went there and had the same teacher. It was great. They learned so much and were very ready for kindergarten. Plus they learned how to interact with other kids in a classroom setting. They are in elementary school before you know it. Good luck Kari!

  50. Completely agree with the “grift”…I know many single parents who are going through the same thing, and it sadly reduces several to tears because things are already so financially difficult. It’s like extorting the parents with the leverage of emotion.

  51. Wow, I live just across the Bay, and I’ve never had trouble getting my kiddos into preschool. Granted I was looking at part-time, play centered schools rather than ones that offered daycare and academics.

    I hope you can find a preschool for your little one that you love.

  52. Kari-
    After spending the money on a really good preschool, we ended up opting for the BEST possible option we could and have never looked back: Mom.

    Homeschooling meant downsizing our lifestyle, but let me assure you that we UPgraded our happiness by doing so. The two working parents model, so seemingly necessary in the Bay Area did bring in the most cash, but it did not make us the most happy.

    And it is pretty hard to argue with the teacher:student ratio of 1:1. Our daughter begins 2nd grade this fall, and she is excelling in the homeschool model. We are part of a charter school which gives us a budget for supplies and activities and there is a teacher adviser who meets with my wife and daughter once a month to track progress.

    I have no doubt that my daughter is getting the best education possible! Did you go on 3 field trips a week to museums, zoos, and into nature? The interests of my daughter’s are followed out and that foments a thirst to learn.

    It may not be possible with your career, but your husband? Even if this doesn’t work for you, the people reading this blog and people in general might benefit from at least considering that it is not about getting into Harvard nor about making the most money…the important thing when it comes to your family is an enriched environment to teach children the joy of learning and the happiness of parents and children.

    1. Karl pretty much said what I came here to say. Preschool is not only not necessary for your kid to have a good future, there is plenty of debate about whether it’s even beneficial at all. If you need a place to stick your kid while you work, fine. You might be better off with a nanny, and save your family a lot of stress. Don’t get caught up in the race just because everybody else you know is doing it. Think for yourself, and think hard. Is that stress really what you want for your kid? If you start it now, is it ever going to end? Cause after preschool is what? The fanciest private schools? They have a similar rat-race to get in. And if you do get your kid into a string of the best schools, there’s no guarantee she’ll be accepted into the “best” college, or have a “successful” career–the definitions of which all depend on her priorities, anyway.
      Good luck finding a suitable placement.

    2. I totally agree! I have a background in teaching, which helped, but I homeschooled all three of my kids for PreK only. This gave them the jumpstart they needed, and it gave me fantastic insight into where they were lacking, how they learned, and what issues to share with their teachers once they started Kindergarten. My oldest has been a reading level ahead of the rest of her classmates from day 1, all because she picked up reading like a fish to water.

      It’s not nearly as much work as you think, either… Full time preschool took me about an hour each day, with a snack halfway through. I did one number and one letter a week (writing, saying, and learning the sounds, blending sounds later), plus basic color, shape, perception, and application exercises. I followed all of that up with tons of review, more application, and sight words.

      The best part? I used store-bought books, and I spent less than $50. Total. Yup! Use online resources for free printables, etc, and you’re golden.

      Just think about it.

    3. As a homeschool graduate, I can attest to the fact that it’s a great option for the child. I loved it, and it allowed me to focus on my interests.

  53. I’m 25, I never went to preschool, and I don’t feel I have suffered. If you put the effort in to it (ie: read to your kids, teach them their abc’s, show them how to tie their shoes) your child can go right to kindergarden. It’s not the be all end all.

  54. I began school in Japan at 4 years of age before moving to the States. I’m sure not testing was involved since my Japanese at the time was nonexistent! What I do remember is a lot of fun days of learning through a great deal of interaction with many educators (very patient educators!), music classes (where I learned to play the harmonica at the age of 5 much to my parents horror!) and a huge appreciation for the other half of my culture. The teachers in Japan usually visit student’s homes before school starts to meet your partents! The point is When my son, who is now 10 began in the public school system 5 years ago he went armed with some preschool aid but with more parental guidance. Preschool came in the form of a summer program however as a parent I know we are the silver bullet to our children’s start in education! Preschool was fun for my son but even with working full time and being in school as a single mom I helped my son prepare for kindergarten and the process continues. Thanks to shows like Mythbusters he has a healthy well fostered love of science and engineering. This is far longer than I imagined my post would be! 🙂 My main point is be strong in your search for a great school! We, as parents are just as important as the educators so always be involved. Plus you will have an edge when science project time rolls around so good on you! And to make this short story longer, yeah, it’s a modern problem vs. an urban problem (just an opinion though). Go team modern Generation!

  55. I don’t understand why a 2, 3, or even 4 year old needs preschool. Being with their parents or going on a play date, or to parks, museums, etc., lots of reading and learning letters or numbers is fine. You can teach them everything they need to know at this age at home. They will be in school soon enough and will do just fine. We did not start school until we were 6 and had no problem.

    Preschool is really just another name for daycare, but they make a big deal out of it and charge more and make you think you are giving your kid such a head start. The children who really need it perhaps are underprivileged kids who get no stimulation or attention. You are working yourself into a big snit for nothing. Tiny children should be embraced in the love of their family, they will be out soon enough. Don’t fall into the trap of “they have to get into “this” school or “that” program because you cause yourself unneeded stress.

  56. Kari, it’s an urban and a societies problem that creates the pre-school stress that you are having. We live in the most rural part of rural that you can think of. There is only 1 pre-school, you either enroll your toddler or you wait until kindergarten to enroll them. I absolutely believe that one can be anything the want, even if they didn’t attend THE school which society considers is IT.
    Choose the place that YOU like most. It’s your child that will shine, no matter where she will be. Don’t make your family slave to societies expectations.

  57. I have to say (single mom in SF with a 15 year old at a charter school within the SFSUD distict) that i am grateful for the Montessori Children’s house of the W.C. on lake street for having give her a wonderful, caring and varied start. Sending her to public school was much less stressful after that. Of course, the SFSUD’s current lottery system can go suck b*lls.

  58. I was reading over a preschool pamphlet once, and it listed a whole bunch of things my kids did already. The only difference: academic benefits. Blocks build motor skills, drawing buils creativity, etc. Why pay for a description?

  59. Hey…I’m 52. And STILL a geek. When I was your age there weren’t any other techies in the engineering side of broadcasting…and I’m not talking about running board for some talking head or holding a camera…I mean TRANSMITTERS! OH YEAH! Being pregnant and inspecting high-voltage transmitters/wave-guides/cooling systems and maintenance & repair 24/7/365…that was EASY compared to finding appropriate pre-school/sittters…you see, I FEEL you pain! But the good news, my kids, both of them survived and are OK not because of my parenting skills, but in SPITE of my parenting skills. Enjoy the cuddleing, the story-times, being goofy together…those things, they grow out of. Don’t sweat the pre-school so much. Your children will show you what’s right for them by what makes them happy…just be a good observer, like you are at work. Geeks unite! Have fun, and if I can be of further assistance…feel free to write…

  60. I work with children all year round, both in my day job as an elementary teacher and when I am working with my hobby, yo-yos. (Yes, I get some strange looks as a 34 year old yo-yo enthusiast.) As far as the education of children is concerned, the best tool at their disposal will always be a nurturing set of parents helping them with their studies and fostering their passions. I have personally witnessed time and time again how a parent who actively participates in their child’s education bolsters their child’s confidence and increases their success in school. As long as you are actively involved in your child’s education your kid will be fine no matter what preschool you choose. This is the approach my wife and I have taken with both our children. They did not go to a fancy or prestigious daycare. They went to a chain daycare that offered a good approach to teaching young children. They have since moved on to public school where they are doing well.

  61. I agree with most of these people. It’s too bad you don’t have a grandparent around to help too. I didn’t go to preschool, but was raised in church (though I’m not christian now). I think being around good hearted people, family, and decent genes, made me into a decent person today. I’ve had to earn my small success the hard way, and sacrificed a lot, but the overall values my parents’ taught me was helped get me here. If your husband wouldn’t mind being a stay at home dad, I would explore that route.

  62. Don’t put so much emphasis on which pre-school. Instead, make sure you are vested in your childs educstion and supplement as much as possible. Parental involvement is paramount to a child’s success. That’s how this teacher’s eyes sees it!

  63. Preschool is just daycare. Good parenting is far more important than any place you send her.

  64. Kari,
    Did you or your husband attend an elite preschool? You seem to have done pretty well for yourself. I didn’t but what I did do was spend a lot of quality time with my parents who taught me through modeling that my education was important. My kids will not be enrolling in preschool but they will have two involved and caring parents to ensure that they work hard and earn an education that will help them do something they enjoy in life.

  65. I spent graduate school studying education statistics which may be of interest, or at least take that edge off. In terms of standardized tests, children who attend pre-school do better in Kindergarten than those who did not attend pre-school. That effect persists, but loses strength until about 5th grade, after which it is no longer detectable.
    In terms of income, when other factors are controlled for, a child who attend pre-school will earn about $1000 more annually than a comparable child who did not attend pre-school.
    The key factors in student achievement are much more broad than macaroni painting, such as parent income and education, parent involvement with school, student education and career aspirations.

  66. According to several studies (which were discussed on NPR’s Planet Money Podcast a couple weeks ago), preschool makes a huge difference over a persons life, but the one they attend, not so much.

  67. It’s a jungle out there!
    Kari, have you considered a daytime Nanny? Decent ones will offer everything you’re looking for, with the added benefit of familiar, comforting surroundings. The best ‘leg up’ is the chance to have creative playtime.
    Happy hunting!

  68. I never thought about it from a normal moms point if view, my three ear old has a seizure dissorder with a global delay and the state pays his tuition to a developmental preschool. And as long as I can my almost two tearing potty trained intime he’ll go to a Christian pre school for free cause my husband works with them through his job.

  69. Humm Pre-school and things…

    If you find the time, don’t you think it’s better to show your child yourself?

    In my day (I’m pre-lunar landing 😉 ), age 3, here’s a saw and some wood child, build yourself a cabin, there… age 5, power tools 😉 argh !

    Seriously, we used to go and play, not have to wear tons of protective suits and follow all the safety rules before going out of the house. Granted, today’s urban environment isn’t what it used to be, a bit more care is needed but do you have to hired specialist on pre-k care and teachings.

    I’m sure you can show your kid how to count, learn the alphabet, tie their shoe laces and draw with their finger/nose and eat glue… come on.

    50$/per attempt for unsure spot, I call that fraud and mis-representation. You should sue !

    venting over, back to power tools…

    All in all, break-a-leg, just any leg, one of those ppl at 50$ per, that’s good 😉 relieves tension, well at lease to think about it !

    Legal things: humm suggestions here-in are meant to suggests thoughts not actions, just think about it, dream about it… Don’t do it 😉

  70. Funny story: I ***HATED*** school, even preschool.

    When I got out of pre-school, they gave me a “graduation” certificate. I thought I’d graduated and I was done! When my mother had to tell me I had 8 more years of servitude to go, I was absolutely crushed. She says I cried for 3 days.

  71. I think the level of parental engagement that leads to worrying about preschools is going to do much more for a child than which preschool they actually attend. Preschool is over in a year, while parental engagement can go the length of their academic career.

  72. I never went to preschool and I don’t feel like I was ever doomed, however I now work at one of the most prestigious preschools in the state and I gotta say the most important factor is having parents that are active in their child’s learning. There is only so much we can do, most of it depends on what you do. I’ve seen 3-year-old come in who struggle with their ABCs, and I’ve seen some come in that can read, some up to a 3rd or 4th grade level. I don’t know how much I can emphasize that it doesn’t matter if they have 4 or 5 stars as long as you are doing all that you can at home.

  73. As long as they are in pre-school, and it IS one that allows both play and learning, it will be fine. Don’t worry about your child NOT getting into the RIGHT pre-school…this is not really going to matter much. All that does matter is that the pre-school gets them ready for the next year.

    Also, how many of us can remember EVERYTHING that happened to us when we were 4?

  74. I know you probably won’t read this since there are so many comments left on your blog it’s hard to keep up but I feel your pain. I decided to start both my kids in school early because I thought it would be better for them. They both took 2 years of preschool. My son is now starting first grade and my daughter kindergarten. I survived. Whew! lol. It wasn’t easy but from what I read from your blog it sounds like you have it harder. I’ve never heard of a preschool where you have to ‘apply’ to get it. That’s absurd. Both my kids attended public preschool but when my husband and I moved to Galloway NJ back in November there was no openings in the preschool program for our daughter. We had 2 options, take her out of school all together or pay for private school. We didn’t want to take her out of school, she loves it so much and she’s very bright, we we went with the second option. We now pay 731 a month, plus we have to pay for extra things like class trips, but they teach her spanish, sign language, and she’s at a first grader reading level at four. No application, we just walked in and signed her up. Our next challenge? Our son, who’s 6, took an IQ test and he scored above average. WAY above. We always knew he was special but having a genius for a son is scary. They also said to keep an eye on our daughter because she may be the same way. I can tell you at 4 I didn’t speak perfect spanish, know sign language, and could read at a 1st grade level, and at 6 I didn’t know or understand the inner workings of a computer, I didn’t take my toys apart and put them back together perfectly, and I certainly didn’t know how to pick a lock with a belt buckle (yep that’s my son!). My daughter wants to be a doctor and my son a scientist. So we are very scared but very blessed. Good luck in your preschool adventure.

    Maybe we’ll see you at Harvard 🙂

  75. No worries K,

    So far our kids have done well without the “advantages” of hip daycare co-ops. Heck my cousin didn’t finish high school- he was bored of it and had excellent SATs so just said see ya, I’m going to Rice. Turns out you don’t need a HS diploma if yer schmart…Now he runs his own software company and has 3 amazing girls of his own.

  76. As a former preschool teacher and child development student, let me say, the first five years of a childs life is when the brain does most of it’s developing, also a Childs brain responds best those that the child has close emotional bonds too. Having said that, it’s great that you’re getting your child into preschool, but your Childs development and future rely much more heavily on how you teach him. So relax and just play with him and give him all the love and support you can and his future will be very bright.
    P.S. When are we going to see him on the show? I’ve been waiting to see how cute he is.

  77. Kari,
    Please just call it daycare. A two year old should be with a parent not a stranger. When my two children were little I worked the graveyard shift, and still do, and my husband worked the day shift. My children were never without a parent. They went to pre-school at the age of five and are doing great. My 18 year old just graduated from high school and the other will be following in two years. I understand that you are a working mom as am I. I work in the trauma ER at a local Portland hospital and my husband is a graphic artist so we made it work. Just saying.

  78. Eh…don’t sweat it, Kari. Face it. Even if she went to the best preschool on the planet, it isn’t like you’d give 100% of the responsibility to educating your daughter to them. You know you wouldn’t. So find a place you like and trust, and do the rest yourself…you know you would anyway, right?

    Both our sons did day care — not preschool — not because we didn’t want them to get that quality early childhood education but because of the kind of stuff you’re talking about (that, and we were flat broke). They did day care because my husband and I both worked full time, but we supplemented with stuff at home. We cooked together (the oldest only initially ate spinach because when he was two, he and I made spinach pasta together). We did library runs and read with them (both read by the time they were four). We did math (both knew how to figure out tips by the time they were in first grade, which is more than a lot of folks I’ve seen at restaurants). And they’re both science-geeks because we did mini experiments at home (mea culpa, but that “do-not-try-this-at-home” Mythbusters’ rule? We did the soda mentos thing! Oh, well…maybe that’s where they learned to be rebellious and question authority?).

    Both are now honors students, with GIEPs (gifted individual education plans), and are relatively together kids (as “together” as you can be at 13 and 11, anyway).

    When push comes to shove, YOU’RE her preschool teacher, and main educator. No pressure, but in the end, it’s all on you, and you know if you’re putting this much into it, you’re not going to let yourself mess things up.

  79. i love how people who homeschool say it was fine but since i have friends who were homeschooled I can say it doesn’t look nearly as adequate from the outside. That being said as a professional in the field of child dvelopment don’t stress the spcifics of preschool a good day care is better than a bad pre-school focus on finding a day time experience that reinforces social interaction and opportunities to learn we’re talking about an age where fostering individual talents is more productive than trying to teach specific skills.

  80. Hey Kari 🙂

    Our entire family just loves MythBusters.

    I have one daughter (10) and three sons (6, 4/12, 3), all of whom love to pretend they are you and your gang experimenting to their hearts’ content. My daughter has been inspired by your example on the show and has exceeded our expectations in science.

    We are a homeschooling family, so she never went to preschool. I worked for a while while she was very young so that was a challenge, but my husband was a great support. While I read books to her while she gummed her fingers, my husband would sit her in his lap while he played video games and she gummed her pretend controller.

    By the time she was two, she was chanting the colors of the rainbow and exploring the world of Reader Rabbit on my computer. Fast-forward to the present, where she is enrolled in a free virtual academy that allows her to study at her own pace and focus on the subjects that she excels at.

    No matter what choices you make for your daughter, they will be the best choices, because you are her best teacher 🙂

  81. Kari,

    I’ve got a master’s in Early Childhood Ed. as well as a CA K-12 Teaching Credential and I can tell you, preschool is not worth the stress. Sure, socialization is good, but the fancy schools are not. Kids need to play, play, and play some more because that is what builds the foundation for later academic learning. Push the academics too early, and it backfires, making later learning difficult. If you need daycare, find a good play-based center. Otherwise, just let them play at home.

  82. I don’t have any kids, but my husband and I are in the planning stage (if that makes any sense whatsoever)… I’m worried about the whole preschool and daycare thing… Yea, I want to get them in to a place that is not gonna cost me an arm and a leg to have them attend, and be safe, but all I want is for them to interact with kids their own age away from mommy and daddy And hopefully learn the things we can’t teach them… My husband and I plan of making sure our kid(s) know how to count and write their name etc before they are in kindergarten, but I don’t know why people are competing to get their kids in to a really good (expensive) preschool… The kids are most likely not going to remember it anyway…

  83. Ok so we’re paying 19% sales tax overhere in Europe but at least we don’t need to worry about things like this… 😉

  84. The schooling system in USA sucks to high heaven! Quit the stupidity of paid schooling – and take your money to any of the nordic countries – the schooling there is free of charge from the ground up pre-school included – all the way through university level tuition.

  85. Not all kids do well in schools with good reputations, so if those don’t work out, look for something local where s/he gets along with the other kids. Any parents with shy/awkward toddlers (yes, it showed up that early with me), make sure the teachers actually give a darn about the kids and not just their precious, precious paychecks. Ms. Byron, if I was anything to go by, preschool and college aren’t your biggest problems. Adolescence is. Just enjoy your kid while they’re still knee-high to a grown-up.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a parent, nor do I have any clue what to do with fees and red tape.

  86. The set of Mythbusters would surely be the perfect educational institution for your daughter!

  87. I thought it was illegal in California to pay for an audition? Or is that only in LA?

  88. After the first 2 of my 5 children, I found preschool to be sub par to what I could teach my children at home with basic daily life routines.

    Numbers, letters and colors surround us in everyday life so I use those to teach, while at the same time the children are learning how to apply each skill to the daily life in which we use them.

  89. My kid just graduated from preschool – where we had had a space on a waiting list for a year prior to his starting with them. See, he was an international adoptee and at the time we toured them, signed the paperwork (and my check was $100, cha-CHING), there was no kid yet. Did not even know gender or age yet.

    You want nerve wracking.

    And finding a kindergarten was WORSE.

    I have preschools all around me – good ones. A ton of them. TRY to find a kindergarten – grade school is a gimme, but that kindergarten thing? I found one. Period. Public has one for every district, that’s also a gimme – but they don’t go a full day, don’t have before or after care available and the latest round of budget cuts makes one wonder if the place is a barely carpeted warehouse or not.

    I also know my limits. If I was an appropriate resource for teaching, I’d be in a classroom. I know my kid would not benefit from homeschooling over the experience with trained, experienced individuals who had taught more than one kid.

    I found ONE school that handled kindergarten in addition to grade school up to grade 6. With before and aftercare – and a program that will ensure he’s a grade level ahead of his peers when he finishes with them. If we can manage to keep him there – we’re getting strong messages that we’d better keep up – or else. A kid that hadn’t been speaking English for a year (kid was placed at 3.5 years of age) was expected to be able to count to 100, write same – read simple sight words, let alone be able to write all 26 letters, both upper and lower. To ENTER kindergarten.

    He made it. I just hope we keep making it.

    My alternative is a school that only goes half a day, three times the ratio and 80% Spanish speaking (80% *anything* in our world isn’t good, and we already have five other languages onboard at home).

    Come sit to me. Bring scotch.

  90. Kari I can only give you one bit of good news. This should be a one-time experience. After you get your little one into a great preschool, when you have a second they will get in automatically.

  91. Preschool… the great debate I never understood. My daughter survived to the age of 5 without it, and all of her kindergarten screening puts her in the top of her class as far as educational advancement goes. Can’t ask for more. But, to be fair, the top of her class includes more preschool-educated kids than non-preschool-educated kids. So there must be something to it. Just nothing my daughter needed.

  92. Kari,

    Relax. Let your kid be a kid for a while. You will NOT be dooming her to a life of “you want fries with that?” Chances are, even if you do put her into an academically-oriented preschool, she might not be suited for that type of school. My daughter would not have been a good fit at all-we suspect she has ADD/ADHD, and we’re in the process of getting her tested-so it would have been a waste of a lot of money and time had we decided to enroll her in someplace like The Goddard School or Bright Beginnings, plus she would have learned to hate academia before she even got to elementary school. We put her in a partially academic/part play daycare that included pre-K, and she initially rebelled against the increasing structure as she moved up to preschool and pre-K, and then K. But she just finished kindergarten, and she can now read and write, count to 100, do simple addition and subtraction, ID money, etc. Kids learn lots of stuff by playing-go check out the 100’s of studies on that subject.

    I promise you, she’ll be fine. She has plenty of time to learn all she needs to know to deal with the world when she grows up. Harvard is still a possibility!

    Yours in motherhood,

  93. Sounds like the makings of a Mythbuster’s segment. Do pre-schools actually exist or are they just urban legends? If they do exist, do they actually admit kids? What characteristics improve the odds of admission (assuming they really exist)?

    Perhaps you could start with a small scale test before going full scale in the real world. (Tory might be a good ananlog for a pre-schooler.)

  94. OMG! Our local school system holds a lottery for preschool. We were among the first to sign our daughter up for the lottery system, designed to fill two classrooms with 15 students apiece. Not only did our daughter NOT get selected for either class, she is ranked fourteenth on the waiting list, with at least another fifteen children behind her. We have enough kids in our town to fill FOUR preschool classes, but our town will only allow for two. The irony? We’ve been working with her so much on her reading and social skills, that she really doesn’t even need pre-K anyway.

  95. First of all, breathe. No, it won’t be the end of the world if your little one doesn’t get into the top preschool. In fact, it probably won’t matter that much in the long run.

    Second, I highly recommend picking up the book “Free Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy. One of the things she addresses is the whole “baby Harvard” fad, as well as the fact that kids learn through play.

    Like Kathleen said, let your kid be a kid for a while.

  96. I teach preschool in the Midwest, and I hear horror stories about getting children in to preschool in the ‘big cities’. Preschool is great for kids who need to experience being with other kids, who might have some issues with leaving mom and dad, and to get ready for kindergarten. I have a small center, and my half day program does tend to fill up quickly, but we take any child and we do our best for all of them. I love my job and I love giving children the best foundation I can to love learning! Good luck to you and your darling little girl!

  97. Kari ,
    All of these school oriented day cares drive me crazy
    Let her be a kid, preschoolers learn best by play and exploration. These “preschools” today are taking the imagination out of our kids. Let her be a kid. Let her play and be crazy and do what she wants to do. There is no advantage to these crazy educational preschools. In these things kid get punished for being toddlers. Um she is a toddler , she’ supposed to run around all day discovering new things on her own. That’s the best way for her to learn. And definitely don’t fall into the ” your baby can read ” trap. I know kindergarten teacher that HATE that program because they have to reteach your child to read. Because it’s not actually reading it’s memorization. Anyway my oldest went to daycare a couple of days a week at 4 yrs old then pre-k there. She’s now 9 and is twice exceptional ( ADHD and Gifted) . It was nothing I did, it’s all her. I let her be a child and it has come back in spades. She is brilliant in her own way. My 6 yr old never went to daycare/preschool, and he’s studying, on his own, black holes.
    The moral of the story is LET HER BE A CHILD.

  98. I think we need to step back and think about Geek Mom Byron’s perspective as a resident of San Francisco. The circumstances there, and a few other major urban areas in this country, are so far afield from what we experience in the rest of the country that they’re largely inapplicable. Whether or not pre-school is necessary, it’s essentially the only ticket into the private kindergartens in SF. There are a smattering of decent public schools in the city, but the lottery to get into them makes relying on them bad planning for one’s kid’s future. So, you either play the game described above, take your chances on the lottery (with the less lucky sent to schools that many consider inadequate), or pick up stakes and move to the suburbs. I know many who despaired of choices one and two and ended up moving (and now need cars and an extra hour or so each day to get to their jobs).

    Until urban districts can resume putting up widespread decent education, something I’m not holding my breath about in today’s environment, we’re going to see more of these stories as well as more flight to the burbs (with the consequential impact on our lives and the environment).

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  100. My folks sent me to a preschool attached to a private school. From what I recall, they paid the money, dropped me off, and that was that.

    I’m not sure what it is with people nowadays, that boutique preschools have become a “thing.” But I suspect it’s a sign of some sort of apocalypse.

    I imagine you are awesome a mom as everything else; and in the end, speaking as someone with a divorce and a teenager, all we can do is the best we’re able.

    We do everything we can for out children, send them out into the world, and hope they outstrip us.
    The best inheritance we can give them, the best preparation, is to teach them how to love and be loved.

    1. What a fabulous comment!! I agree completely… and the last sentence speaks volumes.

  101. Let the kid be a kid, remember what counts in life family first…
    I think she needs time with Mom and Dad

    Believe me i know I am a stroke survivor…

  102. I went through this with my daughter back when she was ready for preschool and did manage to secure a spot for her at an excellent private school but it was a headache and it still is every year when I jump through all of the hoops for financial aid to keep her there. But when I see how happy she is and how much she is learning, it makes every late-night session with an application the size of a textbook worth it.

    Good luck and stick with it, you’ll find the right place eventually.

    You will still want to choke out the ubermoms from time to time – they don’t get any better after the application process – but they’re a minor annoyance if your child is happy and getting a good education.

  103. My youngest child just started college. She’s the only one of my children who went to preschool, and it wasn’t a competitive entrance process at all. Your child is going to learn and develop anywhere he or she is. To put pressure on your child is to do a disservice to him or her. My daughter got into a lot of impressive colleges, and was offered scholarships at every one– although she was only offered three full rides. She went to public schools that weren’t the best. But she was intelligent and serious about her studies. When it was time to apply to colleges, I know she was up against kids who’d gone to the best schools their whole lives. But you know what? When a child has every advantage, an awful lot is expected of him or her. When a child has had to adapt to less-than-perfect circumstances, college admittance committees see that, and they count it as a plus, especially when the child has earned good grades.

    I recommend you read this recent article, which doesn’t take very long to finish. Let your child have some struggle in his or her life, or you’re not letting them develop. Think back: your life wasn’t easy, and that’s why you’ve become so capable.


  104. P.S. All four of my “children” (it’s hard to call them that now that they’re grown) are HUGE Mythbuster fans.

  105. Stress not. You’re a smart, capable person who works with smart, capable people and Tory, and are quite capable of creating an instructional environment for your children that will be better than any private school experience. Homeschooling is legal even in SF, and it’s not just for crazy people anymore.

  106. I had to go through this for preschool, kindergarten and first grade, which my son starts next week. Hopefully it will be the last time! And he is going to a public school in Chicago! Our hoop jumping included applying to 20 different schools for first grade and having to wait and wait and WAIT for the acceptance/rejection letters. There wasn’t even an interview, just a “random” lottery based on some nebulous geographic/economic factors that even the people who administer the lottery don’t understand.

    We invest a lot in our kids because we want them to have better than we did. I sometimes wonder if we do them a disservice. Maybe we should teach them about “good enough” too.

  107. Take a listen to the Planet Money podcasts where they discuss preschools. It turns out that there has been a LOT of research on this and the most important things a kid can learn in a preschool are “soft skills” – the ability to get along with their peers, negotiate for what they need and want, etc. Turns out that what preschool is really good for is keeping your kids out of jail!

    I send my 3 year old daughter 3 days a week to a good, play-oriented preschool. Of course we read to her at home, play with her, stimulate her, but there are social skills that I can’t teach her, that she must learn in a setting of her peers.

  108. Don’t sweat it too hard, Kari. I never went to pre-school, and at Kindergarten Round-up I tested so far above my peers the school wanted to put me in second grade – my mom just refused to have her five-year-old in with a classroom of seven-year-olds. I was a 4.0 student from K-12, graduated Valedictorian, and I have three college degrees, one of which is a Master’s Degree.

    In this economy, my job options right now are stocking shelves at Target or “do you want fries with that” – provided I’m not rejected again for being “overqualified.”

    You have all the skills and talents you need to make sure your daughter can succeed academically – the most important of which are that you’re motivated, you’re educated yourself, and you’re already interested in her education. Those things go a lot further than expensive pre-schools that teach kids how to not throw blocks at each other.

  109. As a foster parent, I can tell you that kids are extremely resilient when it comes to development and education. We’ve taken in kids that were truant and had a D average, and within months they are B average students with perfect attendance; not because we are awesome, but just because they got the attention they needed and felt secure in their home environment.

    Even with the worst pre-school around…even with none at all, kids can do alright if they get the after-school attention and help they need throughout their school years. Their parent’s relationship and their home environment is 100 times more important than what their school is like.

    I had no preschool, no “educational playthings,” no after-school specials, and was picked on throughout school. Yet I graduated as an “A” student from high school, paid my own way to a Bachelor’s Degree, and started a successful career in real estate. It has everything to do with home environment and little to do with which school you get into.

  110. Kari,

    You sound like all first time mommies sound. We had 5 kids and our youngest (5 years old) just went into kindergarden. I can promise you that time you spend with your little one reading books and doing puzzles, etc. is much more beneficial to her than going to a pre-school. We tried different things with our 5, out of all of them, the one who did best at most things (speaking, reading, writing, math) was the one that “we” spent time with him on, not that one who went to the best pre-school. Pre-school was convenient for the other ones, and we chose a great one, but it was the one who stayed home and got more time with us who did best.


  111. My daughter never went to preschool, I just read to her whenever she would sit still to listen. She didn’t start school until kindergarten other than regular old day care while I worked. Now she is a freshman in college in the honors program at a top university. I don’t think preschool would have made the slightest difference.

  112. This is an urban thing….same on the east coast as well…in NYC it’s just as hard, I gave up, my daughter is two, she’s smart and healthy…I dismissed the jones’ race with material items years ago, and I refuse to get flustered because my daughter can’t go to school with the cast of mob wives kids…

    Don’t care….you shouldn’t either, They didn’t have this stress 100 years ago, and the two year old children grew up to do some pretty amazing things….as i sit on my mac book pro, in amsterdam, via WI-FI, after getting here in 7 hours at 600 miles an hour, 7 miles over the earth’s surface propelled by a turbine that is made from metal combinations alchemists can only dream of…

    let them play, scrape their knees, and let them explore they will make it just like we did….

  113. Try Brownstone Brooklyn! We camp out the night before to get on line, not for an iPhone, but for a good morning program spot.

  114. Amen to living in England… You wouldn’t pay to look at a non existent place and with our pre schools, although you may have to pay a little bit of money between the ages of 2-3 years normally around £50 per week, by the time they are 3 every child has the right to a free place in school. In fact they don’t pay for schooling again until they are 18 and going to university. We do have private nurseries which will take babies as young as three months and they have hefty fees but that’s more daycare for people that work and need childcare.
    Good luck with your pre school place Kari xx

  115. I was a preschool teacher and a nanny for years and I have to say that its a big city thing. I live in Rockin Ca and we have a hard time getting class to fill up. When moms and dads didn’t have jobs anymore the first thing they did was to drop child care.
    Get a nanny with preschool teaching experience and your little girl will know more than any of the other kids thanks to the one on one attention. Just be sure the nanny takes her to play with other kids so that she knows how to be social when she starts school.
    PS I’m available for nannying … just a though

  116. I was a preschool teacher and a nanny for years and I have to say that its a big city thing. I live in Rockin, Ca and we have a hard time getting class to fill up. When moms and dads didn’t have jobs anymore the first thing they did was drop child care.

    Get a nanny with preschool teaching experience and your little girl will know more than any of the other kids thanks to the one on one attention. Just be sure the nanny takes her to play with other kids so that she knows how to be social when she starts school.

    PS I’m available for nannying … just a though

  117. Kari,
    I totally agree with Meg. I’m a teacher’s aide at a grade school in the Midwest. The 4 year old Pre-Kindergarten classes have some learning of A, B, C’s and numbers, but is more for learning to be around other children the same age. We have kids coming in knowing the alphabet and to count, but have trouble playing with others their own age. Don’t sweat the pre-school thing. Check into community center/park district programs that may be just as good, or better, then the “college prep” pre-schools. As for getting into college, if she’s anything like you, colleges will be begging HER to go there! Good Luck!

  118. Kari, you need to come down to SouthBay! We’ve got TONS of preschools, good ones that are developmental, play based, co-op or not, with room.

    Seriously, I know you don’t need to drive an hour or so down to Palo Alto or San Jose, but you do have options.

    From what I hear, Reggio based or Developmental Play based preschools that are co-op fill up fast in S.F., so you can always put your kid down for NEXT year! In the meantime, depending on the schedules you and your husband have, partner up with the other families who are in the same situation you are (waiting for Preschool Godot so to speak) and do play dates, parent and child classes (Music Together rocks if you haven’t tried them) and other outings together.

    You can also do a nanny share, almost a mini-class with four to six kids and rotate it between different parent’s homes so that way it’s not all one parent’s shoulders. I did that with some friends when our preschool closed down three months early! We all paid for the nanny (one of the former teachers) and chipped in for snack. It won’t be preschool with a full time teacher, but it will be something for you all to do in the meantime.

  119. I am giving you a very important link here:


    Vital points to note:

    — Finland’s schools — best *in the entire world*. Above France and Germany but make the USA look sick — at a much lower cost. And yes they do have imirants, poverty, etc.

    — NO formal education before age 7. Many kids learn to read and write a little in kindergarten before that, but they do not stress the young kids.

    — NO stress on testing, grades, NO standardized tests. As a long-term professional teacher I can tell you tht there is a paradox: the more you teach to the test, the worse the kids do on it.

    – They DO however put a high stress on learning and mastery of skills. Teachers and students are rated on whether or not they can actually perform arious tasks. Academic standards are extremely high.

    Look for a place for you child where (a) she actually gets to be a kid, and (b) they really *teach*, they don’t play the pretend game of building up paper poundage and lists of marks. European style schools, especially those with second-language immersion programs such as many French schools, can often be good.

  120. as a mom of a Kindergartener and a 3rd grader, both of whom attended our church’s preschool, don’t worry about it. i saw preschool as an opportunity for socialization and getting used to a ‘school’ setting. preschool just re-inforced what i was already teaching them at home academically.

  121. This must be a big city thing. I totally wouldn’t worry about it. My brother and I both went to an expensive Montessori school. I had straight A’s, scholarships, etc and now have a pretty good job. My brother failed out of community college three times. It really just depends on the kid and what you do at home, anyway. Also, my three year old is in a home based daycare with a PK curriculum and one on one time and is doing really well and knows a lot more than the three year olds in our town who go to some of the pricy private PK’s. She can sound out many 3 and 4 letter words, knows many words by sight and can count to 100. Many who go to our local Carden and Montessori who are around her age can’t count to 10 or say their alphabet in order, much less sound out words. I agree with our daycare owner; at this age, it really all comes down to what the PARENTS do when they’re at home with their kids. I work with my daughter a lot when I’m at home and always have, but I always make sure it’s fun. I’m sure you’ll do a great job with or without the primo preschool.

  122. its very busy for preschools cause everybody wants their child in it. Our preschool at our church just keeps on growing every year and soon we will be busting at the seams just like how our academy is.

  123. Don’t stress about the “right” preschool. There is no such thing. Love your kids, and have fun. I am lucky enough to be a freelance illustrator, so my schedule allows me to see and play with my kids more often than a normal 9-5 would, and I am loving every minute of it. Well, maybe not EVERY minute, they can be a handful. We chose a school with lower test scores on purpose, because the average score on how the families liked the school were greater than the school with the higher test scores. I want my kids to be happy, not freaked out if they don’t get into the “right” school.

  124. Find a program where the staff will love her, and where she will love to be. A program that encourages her to explore and experiment. One that teaches compassion and teaches her to negotiate for the things she wants.

    The result will be a curious, caring and confident child who loves learning and is ready to take on the world!

  125. I am the oldest in my family, but never passed the local school board test to take AP classes. At age 45 I earned a Masters degree in Biochemistry (after earning two Bachelors degrees) while working full time. A relative has her daughter at Boston Latin School, but she said the school isn’t all that. A colleague from Auburn, Al (yes, THE Auburn) is pursuing a PhD in Microbiology from U of Louisville, not really known for Microbiology. His reasoning: it doesn’t really matter where you get your education; what really matters is what you put into it, and thus get out of it.

    Your work on MB has shown us that learning takes place no matter where we are, and only if we want to learn. The best pre-school in SF is no guarantee that your daughter will succeed. That is up to her and her parents. If you approach parenthood like you do busting myths (explosions excluded), you are already an amazing parent and your daughter will be an amazing child, no matter where she goes to school.

  126. Kari,

    I must be a really laid back mom compared to you. I recently pulled my soon to be 2 year old out of a daycare that was multi-lingual, had a structured environment where kids did crafts, sang songs, had snacks, ect. Sounds amazing right? Except my Davie was miserable, and what sounded like the perfect daycare was really just another daycare that was understaffed and over-compensated.

    So I pulled him out for the summer, since my mom’s a teacher she wanted to watch him. The change was amazing. He wasn’t in a “structured learning environment” half the time I wasn’t certain if he DIDN’T spent all day chasing bugs in my mom’s backyard. But he was sooo happy, and he started to actually speak WORDS! He was excited to see Grandma and Auntie Em every day, even if they were just going to go grocery shopping and run errands all day. He didn’t cling to me and cry like he used to every morning I dropped him off at the daycare.

    Well, August rolled around and my mom is back at school, but I found the greatest mom through my church who offered to babysit Davie for some extra cash. She has three daughters and Davie LOVES going over there every day. Plus they completely wear him out running him around everyday that he sleeps through the night every night. It’s been a real blessing.

    I think the moral of this story is that if you’re child is unhappy with wherever you put her, even if it’s the “best structured learning environment” she isn’t going to learn. Davie, the minute he was out of that daycare, started using words, understands so much more, and knows what a marker is (my tile is testament to that learning experience). He’s so much more bright and involved than what he was.

  127. Its not entirely necessary for a child to go to the most prestigious preschool ever. In fact, parents can sometimes do a better job at early education for their children. The key is to make sure the kids are in an enriched environment and to make sure they are learning something instead of sitting in front of a television.
    Another key issue is socialization. Kids should be around other kids so that they have some variety in their social exchanges. This can be addressed by going to a park or making play dates though.
    All in all I think Pre-schools are great rescources, but most definitely not required to get kids off on the right foot. After all, before we had pre-schools people managed to get along just fine.

  128. Kari,
    Do not sweat it. People have been having children for millenia, with (gasp!) no preschool, and the human race hasn’t died out yet. It will all work out. It really will. I know that with your first-born, it’s easy to freak out about the little things because this is your first time doing this and you want to do everything perfectly. Just love your kid, encourage her, and if you can’t get her into a preschool, go buy some alphabet letter and number magnets for the fridge, and after she learns those, go to a book store and pick up some BOB books, and teach her yourself. You can probably do a better job anyway. No preschool knows and loves your kid better and more than you do.She learns more from you and her dad, than anyone else in her world anyway.

  129. Kari,
    I home schooled my daughter and for us it was the best experience possible. We allowed her the chance to be a child and play. There are many home schooled children, everywhere and the dreaded how will they socialize becomes obsolete. We took her to work with us each day. What about taking her to work with you and allowing her to see you doing what you love, but of course a nanny or some such thing would have to be utilized. We wouldn’t want her to get hurt

    1. I’d love to see baby Byron on the show sometime! Just keep her away if there are going to be explosives in use! Don’t want her missing an eyebrow–or worse!

  130. Don’t bid for them, make them bid for you. Your critters are worth it, and honestly, you might be happier with a sitter. YOU screen the sitter, YOU give THEM the task list. A lady I know has a way with words. “I want a baby INTERACTOR, not just a sitter.” It’s time we started holding these overpriced places to account, and to OUR standard.

  131. Kari, I work in a Special Day Class preschool that serves children with special needs, and I was a professional nanny for 15 years. Socialization, language development, exposure to colors, shapes, numbers, letters and art mediums, routine and stability are first and foremost for ANY preschooler. The best preschools are the best not because of *where* they are, what they are named, or even how much they cost, but because of WHO is interacting with your children… Trust your instincts, visit several places, and know that the right fit for your child is out there. She already has a great example of learning in action! 🙂

  132. A superior read is “The well trained mind” by Susan Wise Bauer. Excellent text for any parent raising students of any age.

    Read through it, and come to data-informed conclusion that a couple of spoonfuls of data-informed strategic direction on your part trumps a couple thousand gallons of preschool.

  133. Wow, that sounds like a scam. Charge a $50 application fee and only select children whose parents are the most likely to promote the school as the best thing since fire.

  134. Skip the crazy preschool rat race and find a loving family child care home. I’ve been a preschool teacher and there is too much pressure put on kids. I couldn’t believe that the kids were doing test prep at age 4 so they could get admitted to a private kindergarten! A home-like environment is far superior for your precious little one while you’re at work.

  135. Hey everybody. While I myself am not a mom, just a big fan of Kari, I think all of you should move to a small country called New Zealand. Yes, think Lord of the Rings. Down here we have kindergarden and kohanga (for Maori kids whos family wants them to have a base in Maori language) Kindergarden here starts with a half day from age 3, progressing to mornings to full days before starting school at 5. And, aside from a donation to help with supplies and maybe some volunteer parents, it’s completely free. I love living in a small country. 🙂

  136. Please don’t buy in to that you have to have the ‘right’ pre-school… Or anything for your child to have success in life. The only way your child can have real and true success (besides her being responsible for her own success) is for you to teach her morals and values.. and responsibility … (Something no Preschool I’ve ever seen teach). Etc… If u need ‘space’… Get a really good education minded nanny to teach her how to read, accept ‘no’ and pick up her toys… Seriously, it’s that easy. And, once you plug her into the institution, she will value what they value, not necessarily what you value.. Unless, that doesn’t matter. I wish you the best and miss you on the show.
    Kelli Rizzuto
    (homeschool mom)

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