One of the most critical decisions we will make as a parent is determining when and where to begin our child’s formal education. Having had two fall babies, both who just missed the school cut-off date, I understand parent’s difficulties deciding the most appropriate path to Kindergarten for their kids. Whatever you call it…Pre-K, Optional, or Transitional Kindergarten…these programs are for those in-between kids who either missed Kindergarten start dates or met the age requirement, but just aren’t quite ready for Kindergarten.
What is a Pre-K Program?
Pre-Kindergarten programs are distinctive programs designed to make sure that preschoolers are ready for Kindergarten. Pre-K programs may have a specific set of standards or curriculum that they follow, typically serve four and five year olds and focus on school readiness. Many also consider these programs as an alternative for kids, for whatever reason, who are not yet ready for the full-day Kindergarten experience.
Pre-Kindergarten programs are usually taught by certified teachers and are intended to give young students an opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is tailored to meet their academic and social needs. Pre-K programs focus on building many of the same skills as in Kindergarten, but at a slower pace. This gives students extra time to develop intellectually and emotionally. Pre- Kindergartners have options to attend class all day, every other day, and half day, instead of all day five days a week as in regular Kindergarten. Pre-Kindergarten students move on to attend regular Kindergarten the next fall.
Various schools of thought exist on early childhood education ranging from beginning a traditional academic curriculum once a child is potty trained to keeping the child at home so the parent can home school. Opponents of kids attending preschool, of any sort, claim that introducing them to a teacher-directed classroom can limit their range of learning and ability to think creatively. Even if you are interested in a Pre-K program for your child, they are not that easy to find in Des Moines. And, unfortunately, when you do find a great Pre-K program, don’t be surprised if it has a waiting list.
You as a parent are the expert on deciding when your child is ready for Kindergarten and whether or not they would benefit from participating in a Pre-K program. Age is not the only determining factor. Make sure you know your child and the type of educational program that they would benefit from the most. This sounds simple, but some programs focus on social growth while others stress academic gains.
During your search, evaluate programs based on cost, transportation availability, accreditation, and any other factors you find important in a Pre-K program. If the program you are considering does not seem to fit your child’s needs, keep searching until you find one that does.
Pre-Kindergarten Programs in Des Moines
There are a few Pre-K programs scattered across the metro. A handful are listed below. Public and private schools, daycares and churches are all great places to look for Pre-,Optional or Transitional Kindergarten programs.
Childtime Learning Center in Ankeny – Pre K/K Prep
Des Moines Public Schools – Universal Preschool
Dallas Center Grimes Community School District – Optional Kindergarten
Johnston Community School District – Developmental Kindergarten
Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Indianola – Pre-Kindergarten
Shepard of the Valley in West Des Moines – Half Day Kindergarten
Wakonda Preschool – Transitional Kindergarten
Has your child participated in a Pre-K program? Share your experience in the Comment section below.