Getting Ready
For School

Stressing out about kindergarten choice? Join the club. Parents everywhere are in the kindergarten frenzy right now, comparing the offerings and merits of schools. So, how do you choose the right one for your child? These tips will help.

kindergarten

For a parent, kindergarten is a huge deal -- the start of a child's educational career. While your child may have gone to preschool before, kindergarten is a whole new ball game because it's part of a child's formal schooling.

If you're in the process, you probably are feeling the apprehension and worry of so many considerations. What if you make the wrong choice? What if your child isn't ready? What if the day is too short -- or too long?

Here's how to navigate the big decision.

Full time versus half day

Many parents seek out full-day kindergartens, thinking that a full day simply must be better than a half. "My daughter will be attending kindergarten next year, and our biggest criterion was that it be full day," says Tracy Hahn-Burkett, who writes UnchartedParent.com. "Public kindergarten here is only two and a half hours long, and that seemed so short as to be almost pointless for both her and for me. Once the kids have settled down, and once you build in playtime outdoors and snack time, how do they have time to learn anything?"

Private versus public

Another big decision for parents is whether to go with a private school or a public one. For parents who attended private schools, the thought of sending a child to a public school can be scary. "Even before I got married and had children, I knew I wanted to send my kids to a private/Christian school. I went to a Catholic school from kindergarten through my senior year of high school, and the thought of public school terrified me. My husband, on the other hand, knew only of public school. So when the topic of school came up, we were both adamant about which is a better school," says Jen Juvingo.

The Juvingo family ultimately chose public school. Although Jen convinced her husband that sending their kids to a school that reinforces their values is a good idea, it's expensive, and when it came down to it, they felt the family's quality of life as a whole was important. "Instead of exhausting ourselves and our finances to send them to private school, why not send them to public school, where I can continue to stay at home and focus on the things we find most important -- our family? We'll still be tired at the end of the day, but won't be overextended," says Juvingo.

If you're struggling with a similar decision, consider all the angles. How do the academics compare at the schools? What will a free education mean for your family? Will your child be able to supplement her education with more extracurriculars and trips as a result? How much does private school cost? What benefits does each offer that the other doesn't?

Next page: How should kindergarten balance play time with academics?

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