Preschool is definitely a luxury, but I’m not the only one who believes in the power of a few hours of school for little kids. In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called for an expansion of preschool programs across the United States, proposing government programs that would subsidize the cost of preschool for families 200% or more below the poverty line.
I’m a firm believer in the institution of preschool. Both of my kids have had the opportunity to go to great preschools, and it has helped them develop socially and prepare for kindergarten. However, despite its benefits, preschool can also be painfully expensive. When you add preschool tuition on top of all of the other activities your kids participate in each month, it can get seriously pricey.
Instead of raiding your child’s college savings account, consider the various options to cut the costs of preschool while still ensuring that your child gains all the wonderful benefits.
How to Lower the Cost of Preschool
1. Compare a Variety of Preschools
While it might not be as causal as shopping for a pair of shoes, it’s a good idea to do some comparison shopping when you’re looking for a suitable preschool. Not only will you find a wide variety of preschools, you can also get a better idea of how much preschool tuition costs in your area. Don’t be afraid to let schools know you’re shopping around – they may be able to offer discounts for multiple siblings or other affordable tuition options. While you shouldn’t choose a school solely based on cost, it’s something you should consider, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
2. Go Outside of Your Area
Certain areas practically breed high-priced preschools, and if you live in one of these towns or cities, you can expect to pay a fortune for a couple hours of school each day. Don’t be afraid to go out of your way to find more affordable preschool options. Going just one town over might net you significant savings – just be sure to also calculate the cost of gas for the lengthier drive. Carpooling can be a great option if you can find other children in your area attending the same school.
3. Consider Home-Based Preschools
Large preschools with multiple teachers and a large dedicated facility often have sky-high overhead, which is passed onto you in the form of tuition. For a cheaper option, look for a home-based preschool that you trust. My son’s preschool teacher is a retired kindergarten teacher who has a preschool center in her home. It’s much cheaper than a commercial preschool center, and she provides the same level of education. In fact, because her center is smaller, she enrolls fewer children and my son gets lots of special attention. Check out home-based options to see if they’re a better financial fit for your family.
4. Look Into Government Subsidies and Programs
Most states have some type of head-start program for low-income families. If you can’t afford preschool on your own, contact your state department of education and ask about programs or subsidies to ensure that your little one gets a chance to attend preschool. Some programs offer free preschool on a school district level, while other programs provide stipends to reduce the burden of paying preschool expenses.
5. Start a Joy School
If you’re on a seriously tight budget and preschool doesn’t seem like an option at all, consider starting a “joy school” with your friends. Created by parenting and family experts Linda and Richard Eyre, joy school is an at-home, DIY option where you trade off lessons and school days with the parents of enrolled children. For instance, say you have six kids in a joy school and want to run the school three times per week. Each parent would take two days per month and commit to teaching a short lesson, planning a game, and offering snack each time they serve as host.
The actual trademarked “joy school” is a program that offers curriculum and lesson plans to DIY preschool parents, but following the curriculum isn’t necessary. You can order lesson plans for a membership fee, download free lesson plans online (homeschooling websites have tons of resources), or come up with your own unique curriculum when it’s your turn to teach. The idea is to give your child the benefits of preschool in a free, community setting where all the parents take a turn.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and that’s definitely true when it comes to sending your child to preschool. It can be a major challenge, but there are ways to lower the costs so that a tight budget doesn’t prevent you from registering your child. Your little one learns socialization skills and gets a basic education, and you score a few free hours to yourself – it’s a win-win situation.
Do you send your child to preschool? How do you balance the costs?