Once children start walking and talking parents minds start to think about education and the future. As much fun as Mum and dad time is there is a need to start planning for your children’s future. One of these decisions is whether to use the services of a preschool or pre-kindergarten. However, sometimes working out the difference between a preschool and Pre-kindergarten can be difficult.
The major differences between preschool and prekindergarten include age of admission, curriculum level, and cost. Preschools usually cater for 2- to 4-year-olds and PreK targets 4–5-year-olds. Pre-K has a more challenging curriculum, while the costs of between 4-13000 a year make Preschool a more expensive choice.
We will take a look at the major differences between the two early years education options to help you choose if they are needed for your children. We will also link into some resources to help you teach these common core skills that students will need prior to their start at kindergarten if you decide to homeschool or supplement their learning as well.
We have also put the differences between the preschool and Pre K into a table forst for easy reference and we go into more detail below that.
What Are The Differences Between Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten
We highlight the main differences (and similarities) between preschools and Pre-kindergarten in the table below.
|Factor to Consider||Preschool||Pre-Kindergarten|
|Age Range||6 months to 4 years old||4-5 years old|
|Cost||Depends where in the world but in USA can be from abound $4000 a year up to $50,000. ( the average is around $9000 it seems)||governmental Pre-K can be free, or at nominal cost. However private Pre-K can follow Preschool pricing structures.|
|Curriculum focus||Holistic development of the child. Some basic numeracy/literacy, focus on learning through play.||More advanced than preschool, more formal educational goals around numeracy and literacy, however still focus on learning through play|
|Objectives||To prepare children for kindergarten slowly and methodically over a couple of years||To provide the skills needed to children who perhaps need a boost before kindergarten.|
What is a Preschool?
Preschools are less formal versions of kindergarten. There are no requirements to enter, except perhaps the size of your wallet and availability of spaces. The curriculum is likely to be simpler than a pre-kindergarten and definitely simpler than a kindergarten but will still focus on learning through play, motor skills and working with others. The skills that children will need before entering more mainstream education.
What Will Children Learn at a Preschool?
Seeing as preschool is everything before school actually starts children will learn a lot! However we will focus on the paid options and what you can expect your children to learn and experience.
Most preschools aim to develop the pastoral skills of children rather than concentrate on the academic side, which they will be exposed to when they enter formal education. Although there will be some numeracy, language and literacy included as well. These skills can include the following:
- Language, numeracy and literacy development.
- Learning through play
- Working, sharing and playing with other children
- Music and song
- Routines and procedures
- Arts and crafts
- Gross and fine motor skills (pencil holding, block building etc)
- Following rules and communicating feelings
- Self awareness and dealing with emotions.
THe list is not exhaustive as these groups often have much higher teacher to student ratios there is opportunity to address individuals needs much more effectively at this stage as opposed to when they enter elementary school for example with 30 or more in a class.
How Much Do Preschools Cost?
Preschools are more often private enterprises and will charge whatever the market rates in your area are. This can vary due to, location number of preschools, reputation and facilities. However the average price per student per year of a midrange preschool in the USA can be around $9000. The difference between this and a state Pre-K cost is staggering.
This is approaching the same amount as college fees in some states. Preschools in rural locations can be lower at around $4000 per month, but closer you get to urban, more expensive areas and these fees can hit an astronomical $50000 a year according to an Economic policy institute report here and research done here .
What Makes a Good Preschool
In our opinion a good preschool will be be able to focus on developing the child’s social skills. it is quite a transition to go from the centre of attention with parents to a small group and it takes a period of adjustment, the difference with Pre-K is a lesser focus on hard skills like maths and science.
Good preschools will have procedures in place to teach and model skills of communication, sharing and playing with others in a safe and progressive way. They will also focus on learning through play, to keep children motivated during the day and to learn the enjoyment of sharing experiences with others.
What is a Pre-Kindergarten?
Prekindergarten usually follows preschool, hence the difference in age requirements between this and preschool. It is often used as a year or two of preparatory activities to get children ready for the more formalized kindergarten curriculums.
This may be because the child is not quite ready for Kindergarten, may be a new arrival to the country or needs to develop some skills to make sure that their kindergarten experience is not hit by problems or setbacks from the beginning.
What will children learn in Pre-Kindergarten?
I use the analogy of a foundation degree, or the first year of university or college. Although there is some subject specific learning taking place a lot of it is learning the skills to progress. The same can be said of Pre-K. There will be literacy , numeracy, basic science and maths tasks and lessons, but the main focus will be on the other, interpersonal skills needed for kindergarten. These include:
- Literacy ( usually ABC or basic phonics)
- Numeracy, number recognition and possibly basic calculus
- Working alone and with others
- Routines and managing time ( at a VERY basic level)
- Self confidence and ability to speak up in groups
- Arts and Craft work as appropriate.
- Learning through play ( in our opinion this should contine all through university level as well)
It is more formalized as there a time limit on teaching these core skills, so there will be the first introduction of pressure very different to a preschool, albeit very mild, to make sure children are ready for that first day of kindergarten.
How much does Pre-Kindergarten Cost?
There Is some good news here. In a lot of states there are free programs to help children develop the skills necessary to enter kindergarten, checking with your local education department will help you find out if they exist where you are. Private Pre-Kindergartens can vary in cost as much as both preschool and full kindergartens.
In some states there may be funding accessible to help pay the tuition fees of there is not a full free Pre-kindergarten program on offer. The difference here is that preschools are nearly all privately run and so their fees can be much higher.
What Makes a Good Pre-Kindergarten?
SImply put all the aspects that make a good preschool will make a good Pre-K. Great teachers, great location, great curriculum etc. However, as it is designed to get children ready for kindergarten there are a few more elements to look for as well.
- Success Rate of the Pre-K
- How they plan of teaching the literacy and language skills needed
- Same with the numeracy skills
- How they will develop students confidence working in groups. – kindergartens will put them in even larger groups of children.
Does My Child Need To Go to Preschool or Pre-Kindergarten?
This is hard to answer as it depends very much on individual children and the individual circumstances. Some children may need a little boost to get them ready for standardized education, some may actually learn better away from parents in groups of other children.
However, despite the fees charged by preschools, they are not as vital as they seems. there seems to be a rush to cram our children’s minds with information they are not ready for, and bragging rights about which preschool we did or did not get into.
The skills a child needs to learn are not rocket science, if you don’t have the money, hopefully you have something even more valuable your time. If you can give your children time to learn to share, to play, to communicate ,to wait their turn, and organise playdates to play nicely with others. then you can do the job of a preschool in your own home.
Resources to help.
Of course some aspect of preschool curriculums may need a more professional touch, so if you you are unsure of the literacy aspects we have a section on resources to help you and there are hundreds of well priced toys you can use to help as well. You can check out our resources here and advice on teaching the alphabet here and you can check out our recommendations for kindergarten toys here.
We have given 3 examples below for you to check out as well to give you a taste of our preschool and Pre-K resources.
W ehave selections of resources here
The main differences between preschool and Pre-Kindergarten are cost, curriculum and age requirements. as we have highlighted:
- Costs can go into the tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees for Preschool, State Pre-Kindergartens are often much much less.
- Pre-kindergarten curriculum have a greater emphasis on both the hard and soft skills needed for full kindergarten, where focus for Preschool is more holistic and person centred.
- Preschools can be for almost any age up to about 4 years old, where as pre-K is aimed more 4-5 year olds.
However both aim to impart the skills to enable children to get of to a flying start when they enter kindergarten and to make the transition into formal education as smooth as possible.