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PreSchool Alternative in NYC?

I am firmly in denial that I have to start thinking of preschool in solid terms.  I mean, I *think* about it.  I practically obsess about it in my head; running the numbers and thinking of the gains and what does it all really mean for what price.  Oh, I think about it a lot.
But I haven’t actually done anything about it.  Like, put my name on a list anywhere.  


Forget about preschool for a moment–what I should have done is put my kid’s names down on a list for PreK.  I should have done that when they were born.  You know, for PreK. 
PreK is when the free stuff starts in NYC.  But only some elementary schools have PreK and not all are good.  So, you can imagine the competition (actually you probably can’t imagine unless you are living here with kids.  It’s freeking insane and besides rent, it’s pretty much all people talk about).


However, we are lesbians with twins.  No one would ever, ever, ever admit it–but I know for a fact that we will get bumped up those lists because of the ‘diversity’ factor.  True story.
That doesn’t mean I should keep procrastinating, but it does make me feel a teensy bit better knowing that finally I’ve got the edge on the straight white couple.


OK, back to preschool.  The cost is insane.  I don’t know how much preschool costs average around the country and beyond (do tell!) but here in NYC, the average cost is roughly $1500-$2000 per MONTH.
Ahem, times two for twins.  Although some are generous with a 5% sibling discount.  Five percent, yee haw.
The highest priced preschool in NYC is $30K.  For a 3 year old to finger paint? Seriously??


Let’s assume we get a spot for two kids in a (cough) reasonably priced preschool in our neighborhood.  Just your average 1/2 day program.  
I still can’t go back to work full time because of the drop off and pick up times.  Or, if I did go back to work full time, I would still have to pay for a nanny.
It kills me either way because for ‘what’ I do workwise (for those of you who have been reading awhile I am most decidedly NOT the career-driven one of this couple) does not make me much money.
Going back into the workforce gives me a lot of anxiety.  I don’t even know what I’m going to do next. But that bit of panic is all for another post.


We could keep them out of preschool until they turn 4 and can go to (free) PreK.  There are plenty of classes and activities to keep them busy and happy.  This city is full of possibilities and learning opportunities–many of them for free.  It would be a lot of work and I would really have to buckle down with my planning and scheduling, but a homeschool preschool could be a possibility.


The other option–one which we will know more about in April–is living abroad for a year and renting out our (furnished) apartment.  Chicken has the strong possibility of being able to work remotely and so we would keep her income, plus the rent from our apartment and we would live in a moderately priced country (Costa Rica?  Argentina? Thailand? Malaysia?) with a great alternative preschool.
This is one of the reasons we choose where we are going in Costa Rica this winter–the awesome Waldorf preschool ($160/month) and the low cost of living.  The ability for the boys (and us) to learn another language is also HIGH on my list.  
I would prefer that language be Spanish as it’s the most beneficial (or maybe Chinese) but I also wouldn’t pass up a year in Thailand if that presented itself.


So that’s where we are.  Homeschooling or leaving the country.
How did this happen?

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18 Comments

  • Reply shroomie November 16, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    don’t get me started on the cost of child care. my partner and I both work full-time and are currently spending more in child care than we are in our mortgage. Seriously. And that isn’t even for the choice, top-of-the-line child care. If you can work remotely – i say go for it. what they are learning at this point is social skills – learning to positively interact with others. If you can provide that in other setting s- i say do it.

  • Reply Next in Line November 17, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Those preschool prices are crazy!! I dont know what preschool costs here and we are skipping it. There are lots of free programs and i really dont think they need preschool at 2 or 3. I have a lot of unschooling/alternate schooling in me. I think having a nanny speak spanish to them is better than really expensive finger painting anyday.

  • Reply Casey November 17, 2011 at 12:59 am

    We pay a lot for Roozle’s school. $1,600 a month, since you asked. But we don’t for a second think it is just expensive fingerpainting. She really loves school and is thriving there. It is a wonderful Montessori environment where she is free to explore learning at her own pace and is self-challenged.

    All that to say, we have ONE kid, and we found a preschool that is the perfect fit for our family, so the money is worth it for us. If we had twins, we wouldn’t choose the same path as it would make a lot more sense to have a nanny. Which is also an awesome choice. I was a nanny in college and the two kids weren’t missing out on anything when they were with me. We had an awesome time and both were totally prepared for school when it started.

    I think that you guys are doing such a great job and no matter what you choose it will be a great experience for the boys!

  • Reply Rachel November 17, 2011 at 1:55 am

    I actually think that your first commenter is exactly on point: people do preschool in most of the U.S. because they need childcare. If you don’t need to work for another year, what exactly do you think the boys will be missing by another year of parks/playing at home/maybe the occasional class?

    It seems like just recently you were posting about Waldorf/Montessori teaching philosophies, and both believe that children learn best by modeling their parents. At home.

    The question for us was not as much can we pay for preschool (given that we are paying for part-time daycare already), but would it make more sense to put the savings into a fund for college (or private high school if we get really unlucky)? I know so many families in the city who are scrimping for $15,000 preschools and not saving at all for college.

    As for universal pre-K, my understanding is that there are absolutely no wait lists that start before September 1st. If you’ve heard otherwise, do write about it. We’re exploring that option because it’s cheaper than daycare, but also very seriously considering just leaving the fusspot in her part-time daycare and letting her do parks/art at home/a music class until the big Kindergarten. I just feel like kids are pushed so much already – what does she really need to learn in preschool? And if it’s “play-based,” then I can certainly arrange that sans tuition.

  • Reply anofferingoflove November 17, 2011 at 3:43 am

    I just threw up a little at those prices, omg. We aren’t doing preschool yet, but the one we will go to eventually is $895/mo for the 5-year old full day m-f program (that is the most expensive). The 2-year old program, 2 half days per week, is $245/mo.

    I’m with the others on not enrolling them if you don’t need it for the daycare aspect. At least not yet. Sounds luke you have the ability to give them social, educational days on your own.

    And living abroad for a year? Awesome!!

  • Reply Inlocoparentis November 17, 2011 at 4:30 am

    I may be in the minority here, but I think preschool is important. I didn’t used to – until I saw how good it has been for C. We don’t need daycare – my wife is a SAHM – but we are sending him to Montessori half-days because he learns so much there. That said, our program is one of the most expensive in our city, and it’s $1000/mo for 5 half days. Clearly not NYC prices by any means.

    I vote for going abroad. Because that’s even better than preschool.

  • Reply twohotmamas November 17, 2011 at 4:30 am

    N will be going to “school” next year, but only because it’s a)where I work, b)I’ll be able to work full time, and my net income will be going up by about $400/mo, dreadfully needed, and that’s only because c)childcare is so expensive to start with, and since it’s where I work, I’ll be getting a discount on the discounted rate.

    Costs in this area are very similar to what you quoted; perhaps I’d say $1300 to $1800 rather than $1500 to $2k, though god knows infant care was $1500 to $2500. It makes me puke.

    We really truly amazingly lucked out with my current work situation and that there’s an “early childhood center” downstairs, and that there’s enough work for me to be made full-time eventually. In your situation, I’d totally be keeping them home until pre-k (I’m not brave enough to do the year abroad, I fear. *g*)

  • Reply allthingslucky November 17, 2011 at 6:06 am

    I have no idea what the cost of pre-k is here, as I sent my oldest to VPK (free pre-k). It was a great program at one of the best schools, it worked for us then. Since then I have decided to homeschool both my girls so my youngest is doing prek at home. I love it! She’s learning the same things as her sister did in pre-k and I’m the one teaching her! If I could afford to bring in a nanny to help, I would consider that and even better if I could afford to go abroad that would be my number 1 pick! I wouldn’t send them at 3 though, thats too young and too expensive for something you can do at home for a fraction of the cost. Also, the advantage that kids that go to pre-k over kids that don’t wears off by like 2nd grade or something like that.

  • Reply Pomegranate November 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    the prices are the same in chicago. home day cares are less expensive.

    you might look into what my SAHM friend in LA does. she tskes her daughter to a co-op pre-school. i think they have 1 or 2 teachers, but the parents do a lot of the work.

    also, at least in chicago, you don’t actually have to sign up at birth for the public school programs. they are lotteries with sign up the year before enrollment. look into it.

  • Reply Pomegranate November 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    i meant to say, even though people think you have to sign up at birth for public programs, you don’t. persistent urban legend.

    i did, however, put bunny on the waiting list for a reasonably priced private early childhood program in our neighborhood before he was born. still waiting!

  • Reply Marcia (123 blog) November 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    well, you know my feelings.

    I can’t fathom spending that kind of money for arts and crafts.

    We’re sending ours at 3.5 and if I get more granola, I may keep them out longer :)

    i’m in the minority here in SA… our pre-schools range from R1600 all the way to R3500/ R4000 (and I’m sure higher), depending on half day/ full day/ affiliated with private schools, etc.

    If I were you, I’d totally do the year overseas. I would LOVE to do that!

  • Reply The Mrs/Mommy November 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I say living abroad. If they are going to learn a second language now would be ideal (says the linguistic anthropoligist :) we live in France and my 4 year old is now fluent in 3 (going on 4) languages its a great thing. But, i am biased of course :)

  • Reply Strawberry November 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I agree with inloco that “school” has been important, even at Curly’s young age. He learns a lot there and the structure is great for him (although there’s lots of unstructured time as well). Right now we pay $1200 a month (including all food). Preschool in the same place I think goes down to below $1000. I really can’t wait to stop paying that, but for now it works since we have one kid and can afford it.

  • Reply Ainsley November 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I’ve seen several documentaries about pre-school competition in NYC, and it makes me anxious from 100 miles away!

    O’s current daycare goes up through the preschool age, and we pay just $900 a month, no matter the age. (We realize how affordable this is compared to other areas.) However, the preschool programming isn’t as strong as we might like it to be, and we debate whether O would benefit from being in a Montessori environment. However, that would at least double the monthly cost…and would it be worth the move? So, I think you’re thinking all the right things, and your international opportunities sound AWESOME. Your boys are going to be just fine.

  • Reply Candi November 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I would go abroad for a year if i had the chance. Costa rica is beautiful.

    You could also try sharing babysitting with someone else, every 2 or 3 days, you could get a couple days work in if you did it that way. beneficial for 2 moms.

  • Reply Jen November 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I live in the low-cost-of-living-midwest and I pay almost $1000 a mo for childcare. I consider it a second mortgage and a huge part of my paycheck. But, I also work fulltime and need the care. I think that you guys should do what works for you–living aboard and experiencing life cannot have a price tag. Your boys are bound to be children-of-the-world so a second language makes perfect sense!

  • Reply Adam Thomas November 22, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Happy Hands Montessori Nursery provide a carefully prepared program of education, in a happy, relaxed and caring environment where your child can grow and learn through a positive, creative and progressive experience.

    Montessori Nursery London

  • Reply Anonymous December 5, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Nursery school is so much more than fingerprinting. It’s about socialization and separation; following directions and developing independence. I am a lesbian mom of twins formerly of NYC and am thrilled with the growth I have seen in my kids. Try a co- op for lower cost and parental involvement. In my former NYC neighborhood, we were not so unusual that our diversity would have bumped us up a list…..

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