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Full Or Half-Time Preschools: What's Right For You?

Updated on August 31, 2015

When it comes to preschools, there’s never a shortage of options to decide between. Whether it is a choice between private and public, Montessori and traditional, or even something as simple as the location, a handful of questions will plague you when deciding upon the place that’s best suited for your toddler. Though it was at one point in history not even a question, now the options are endless, suiting both parents and potential school children alike. Now, the decision is blurred, focusing more on what is best for the individual needs as opposed to the whole. As such, when debating between the two, it’s important to take several things into account.

Schedules

Unsurprisingly, time is at the top of the list for how to decide between full or half-time preschool programs. More than anything, time will depend on the parent’s schedule more than anything else. For those parents working full-time jobs of their own, it may be easiest for their preschoolers to be in school from the time they leave in the morning until they’re done at the end of the day. This allows parents to breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, parents who work full-time that would otherwise be unable to find care for their preschoolers at the halfway point are able to pick their child up on his/her own at the end of the day. Likewise, parents in the reverse are capable of picking up their children at midday if they so prefer. Parents, that themselves have half-days or work part-time jobs, are capable of putting their preschooler in a program that suits their needs. Instead of spending all day away from each other, parent and child can meet half way, giving them extra time together.

What Would You Rather Send Your Toddler To: Half or Full Time Preschool?

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Academia

Some experts believe that there is a difference between full and half-time preschools in terms of the level of academics. This mostly has to do with the split time spent in a classroom. Preschool teachers have to fill up more of the day with activities and projects to keep children busy in full-time classrooms. Because of this, many full-time programs begin teaching more complicated information earlier on than would be normal. Even when there is not a great difference between the levels of information given to toddlers, the extra amount of time alone makes for a markedly different academic experience. While doing more of the same, they are likely to hone abilities early on that would otherwise not be sharpened for a year or two more. Of course, many parents argue that the amount of information is too much too quickly. For this reason, many parents keep their children on the half-day preschool regime, letting them keep pace with many of their peers while allowing them to enter kindergarten on target. Additionally, part time preschools are more in line with preschoolers’ limited attention spans, potentially allowing them to retain information more fully.

Experience

Despite parents’ views on the academic side of things, there is something to be said about the in-depth experience provided by full-time preschools. Where part-time preschools begin their days as quickly as they are ended, full-time are able to enter into it slowly. More time is able to be spent on arts, crafts, music, story-time, and play time. This allows teachers to take their time over the course of the day. Instead of rushing from subject to subject, full-time programs allow teachers to see that each activity is filled to fruition before moving forward. Similarly, it allows teachers more time on individual students, helping them where it’s needed, which in turn can help with fine and large motors kills. More importantly, the increased amount of time and slowed down classroom setting, lets teachers notice and help diagnose potential disorders—such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism—earlier on in the child’s academic career.

Socialization

Much like academics, more time spent in a classroom means more time spent with peers. This is particularly important in the younger years of developing. It’s no surprise that as technology has advanced social skills have declined. Where children were once expected to read, spend time outside, or play with friends, they now are frequently too preoccupied with video games, cellphones, and video games to consider anything else. This is remedied greatly by full-time preschools, as they require students to spend more time with their peers and less time on electronics. When children are forced to interact with their surroundings, they become more likely to shy away from spending too much time alone. This translates then into less time spent in front of the TV, computer, or IPad and more time spent outdoors or with their friends. Socialization, when began at a young age, is more likely to take root in the child’s mentality, giving them back their social development skills as they enter into kindergarten and finally elementary school.

First Day of School Can Be Emotional

Temperament

Heading to preschool is often stressful and confusing for the first few months regardless of the amount of hours spent there. Particularly in homes where toddlers have always been with their mother or father, it can be a shock to suddenly be separated for hours at a time. For many parents, they too are not ready to see their children vanish into a classroom for multiple hours of the day. Depending on the emotional levels of distress put upon the child, the family should decide what the best route is. While preschoolers will likely grow out of any excessive panic, it should be noted that it might, for a time, carry over into an increased level of anxiety within the home. If a parent understands their child to be emotionally disheveled, it may be in the family’s best interest to go with half-time preschools for the time being.

Mirroring Reality

Full-time preschools, unlike half-time, mirror reality in a way that will help prepare students for kindergarten and beyond. Rather than expecting to come home at midday all the time, they will be taught to be away from their parents for the entire day. This will help with tantrums that may otherwise occur during the beginning of kindergarten. It also helps preschoolers learn to use their brain for the entire day, rather than shutting it off midday. When preschoolers are pulled from a program at the halfway point, they are frequently taught to move along and that the time for learning is over.

Finances

There is an argument that full-time preschools cost more for the parent than the traditional half-time. This is because funds must be allocated to paying teachers for longer periods of time and keeping extra supplies handy. When deciding between the two programs, it is important to consider the costs. Because full-time is in session for approximately three to four more hours than half-time, you’ll be looking at more potential for a financial burden. However, full-time preschools allow parents to potentially forego any type of after school care since they will be taken care of until the time the parent is ready to return home from work.

As mentioned, choosing between half and full-time preschools is only the beginning. Because preschool is the stepping-stone before higher education, it’s important to take the programs fully into account. Consider what is best for your situation, finances, and your family before jumping into any program. The key to any successful education is stability and that can only be found with the proper research on the available options for your child.

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    • Kelsey Farrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 

      3 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Larry, I definitely see the benefits in the half day over the full day. In an effort to remain unbiased, however, I do see the benefit in the full as well. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Personally I'd much rather only have to send my child for a half day.

      Interesting read.

    • Kelsey Farrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 

      3 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Kimberly, I think the best thing about full-time preschools is the not having to worry about the midday pickup. Not only that, but it definitely saves on the stress of finding a family member to pick up the preschooler or having to send them to a daycare for the remainder of the day. Really it saves on time, stress, and money. Thanks for posting!

    • profile image

      KimberlyChen# 

      3 years ago

      Great article! Thanks for sharing this. I know when my kids were getting of age, my schedule was a huge factor in deciding between full and part time. Having a full-time job made it difficult to pick them up during the middle of the day. Overall, I'd highly recommend full-time for the other aspects you mentioned as well!

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