In North Carolina, a preschool is defined as a part-time (fewer than four hours/day) child care provider that offers a preschool curriculum. A half-day preschool is not required by law to obtain a child care license from the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education, although they are welcome to do so if they so choose. They are also eligible to apply for national accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Part-day preschools are present in our communities in many places: Churches sometimes offer preschool, as do private and community providers. The different approaches they may have to educate children may include the Montessori method, a religious curriculum, Reggio Emilio, Waldorf, Developmental/Play-Based or even a Parent Cooperative, as discussed in this Mom Loves Best article.
Most preschools begin accepting applications for the next year’s classes by December and January. They often hold open houses to introduce parents to their facility, their curriculum, and the teachers and administrators. They should be able to answer whatever questions parents would have at the open house, or by either phone or email. They usually offer services to 3- and 4-year-olds, as noted in this article from the Berkely Parents Network, and they will generally have an age cut-off date of around August 31 of the coming school year, to align with the public schools’ calendars. Some may have different cutoff dates, however, so if your child’s birthday falls after the cutoff date in your area, that is a good question to ask. Some preschools may also offer services for younger children, as young as 1 or 2 years old.
Many families choose a part-day program to help their younger children become acclimated to being away from home for short periods of time, learning to cooperate and make friends with other children, and taking short, informative lessons and instructions from a teacher. Part-day programs can help children feel part of a group. They also build upon the self-help skills children have been learning at home, such as dressing themselves (putting on coats and hats to go outside and play), and feeding themselves. Preschools are good places for children to learn about sharing with others, and to improve their literacy, mathematics, and science skills. The part-day schedule gives ample time for a lesson to be taught from the curriculum, with time for free-play and opportunities to enhance social-emotional growth.
The article from Mom Loves Best, mentioned above, shares a comprehensive overview of what a preschool can offer a child, which types of curriculum might be offered in various preschool programs, and other details. They also share a list of benefits your child will enjoy when enrolled in a high-quality preschool program:
- Social Interactions with Peers
- Exposure to Diversity
- Learning Responsibility and Self-Sufficiency
- Learning to Follow Directions from Other Adults
- Playtime / Physical Activity
- Learning Manners
- Instilling a Love of Learning
- Improving Concentration and Fostering Imagination
- Enhancing Fine Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination
If your family is looking for a part-day preschool that can later transition your child(ren) to a full-day schedule, Child Care Referral Central (1-855-327-5933) can help you locate licensed child care providers that offer both part- and full-day schedules.
If you should need a good reference for finding part-time preschools that are open half-days, you may wish to search in the Carolina Parent’s Schools & Education directory. Their comprehensive information on part-day preschool offerings in our area is very helpful.
To sum up, a part-day preschool can be a good way to introduce a child to a classroom setting without being away from them for the whole day. They can help the child(ren) to develop independence and learn to detach from the parents with greater ease when it is time for them to attend a full-day program, such as pre-K or kindergarten, as well. They can be a great support to parents in helping teach their children social skills, self-regulation and self-care skills.
If you are considering a part-time preschool, start looking as soon as possible, because registrations fill up fast!