by Kelly Youngblood
We all know why preschool can be beneficial to early childhood development.
In a preschool environment, children begin to learn about shapes, letters and numbers. Perhaps more important, children learn about socialization and what it means to be in a classroom- an experience that will help prepare them for that big leap to kindergarten.
Emily Arbuckle of Mahomet, a mom of three including one preschooler, believes even 3-5 year olds who already show signs of academic excellence could benefit from a formal preschool experience.
“Regardless (of whether a) child is the next Einstein, there is the whole socialization aspect of interacting with other children, following directions from someone besides a parent, having a routine of getting up in the morning/getting ready for school, etc. that I think is very important for kids,” Arbuckle said.
Despite knowing the benefits that preschool can offer, some parents may feel that it’s just not an option for them due to financial reasons. But preschool doesn’t have to be out of reach for any family, even those on a very tight budget.
If you are a parent who is “preschool shopping” for your little learner, consider asking these questions to determine if the school is or could be in your budget.
1. Does the school offer scholarships?
2. Does the school accept the Child Care Assistance Program? (This only applies if you qualify for the assistance. See link below to find out if you qualify.)
3. Does the school offer a co-op option where parents can volunteer to help in exchange for reduced tuition rates?
Some private schools in the Champaign-Urbana area like Montessori School of Champaign and Cooperative Nursery School in Urbana offer partial scholarships to students based on financial needs.
Out of 120 children a year, six to eight are typically awarded a scholarship at Montessori School of Champaign according to director Deborah Balsbaugh.
Balsbaugh said students who have a scholarship and qualify for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) could attend for “a very small amount” of money.
The Child Care Assistance Program assists parents with child-care payments in six different counties including Champaign, Douglas, Macon, Piatt, Iroquois, and Vermillion. To find out if you qualify for the CCAP, go to http://ccrs.illinois.edu/parents/helppayingforchildcare.html.
Some schools in the area offer a co-op option where parents are allowed to volunteer at the school in exchange for discounted tuition.
At the Cooperative Nursery School located in Urbana, parents are encouraged to work alongside teachers in the classroom on a fairly regular basis. In exchange for volunteering two to three mornings a month, parents get discounted tuition.
In addition, the Campus Cooperative Preschool, also located in Urbana, utilizes parental support in keeping the facilities clean and offers reduced rates in return.
Another option for parents is a public preschool that is offered within a school district. The Champaign Early Childhood Center and Washington Early Childhood Center in Urbana both offer preschool services for those students who qualify. In most cases, a screening process will determine whether your child is considered “at-risk” or in need of preschool services so these spots are limited.
However, some preschools such as the one at Schneider Elementary in Farmer City can accept more than just at-risk students depending on the amount of grant money the district receives each year. Check with your local school district to find out more about their preschool policy.
The Champaign County Head Start/Early Head Start Program offers preschool services to low-income families. Typically, the services for 3 to 5 year olds are free or based on family size and income. Currently, there are locations in Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul and Savoy.
Head Start is a federal program for child and family development and not a part of any public school district. However, the Champaign Head Start is located in the Champaign Early Childhood Center. For more information about Head Start, go to http://www.ccrpc.org/headstart/programinfo.php.