When I decided to put my three-year-old daughter in preschool this fall, I was at a loss at where to begin. Even though I’m a retired teacher, I had to start with the basics.

Most Expensive Isn’t Necessarily Best

Every parent wants their child in the best possibly school regardless of it being preschool or college. Unfortunately, many of these schools are very expensive. Immediately, we took those off our list. My husband works hard for me to stay at home with our children, which doesn’t leave a lot of room in the budget for fancy preschools. At first I was discouraged by this, but later realized that just because a preschool is considered one of the best schools doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for your child.

Types of Preschools

While researching preschools, I saw that some of the options would be a Waldorf or Waldorf-inspired school, Montessori school, daycare (including a preschool program), nursery school, or church-based programs. The beliefs behind the Waldorf school and the Montessori schools definitely appealed to me, but the price tag associated with these schools was out of our budget. Personally, I didn’t want to look into preschool programs that were based out of a daycare. I only wanted Katelyn in school 2 days a week with half days, and I felt like she’d be missing out on things that happened before, after, and on the days she didn’t attend school. That left us with checking out the nursery school and church programs in our area.

Visiting Schools

Our fist stop was the only true nursery school in our area. Katelyn was excited when she saw all of the new toys, paints, teachers, and activities going on, but I immediately knew this was not the right place. Even though the student-to-teacher ratio was 10:1, the tiny rooms seemed over crowded to me. There wasn’t much space to move freely without hitting into another kid or the wall. It was very clean, and the staff was welcoming, but it just didn’t feel right for any of us. This was discouraging, and I really thought I was going to have to refinance my house in order to send my child to preschool.

If At First You Don’t Succeed …

The next step was the church programs. We aren’t by any means Church-y people, but thought we’d give it a go even though it made me a little nervous. After conducting more research, I came across a church program that was also a co-op. A co-op program asks for parental involvement in the classroom. This appealed to me, and I appreciated that parents would be going in and out of the classroom all day every day. I also liked that you didn’t need an appointment to tour the school. The website said you could just show up during school hours and they’d be more then happy to show you around. I felt like they weren’t hiding anything that way, which made me feel very welcomed without ever having stepped foot inside the building.

The director greeted us with open arms, and Katelyn slowly eased out of my arms. I liked many details of the building, but the greetings by staff and students was the most important. When we got to the tour of the playground, my sweet girl was gone. She ran to play, dig, climb, and swing with the other kids. I knew then that we’d found the right place.

Children have their whole lives to be in school.For us, this program was perfect for us as it was close to home, allowed for 2 days a week, and included the co-op facility. Every family has different needs, and there’s definitely a place for your child – you just need to take the time to research it, visit the facilities, and see what works bets for your family.