Preschool survivor

It’s freak-out time for well-off urban parents hoping to get their child into the perfect preschool, writes Emily Bazelon on Slate.

The preschool wars have adopted the weapons and lingo of the college wars: consultants, résumés, essays, safety schools, and early decision($). This year, a film crew is coming to New York to document the preschool version of Survivor.

Bazelon, who’s been there with her own sons, urges parents to chill out.

In most cities, the demand for good — or good enough — preschools doesn’t far outstrip the supply for people who can afford the tuition, at least for 3- and 4-year-olds. There’s an “it” choice, but if you rationally compare it with the less “it” alternatives, you’ll usually find they’re on par. And the main thing those less “it” schools want from you is not a perfect child or a secret handshake but a $500 deposit.

Parents can trade preschool tips at Savvy Source, which bills itself as “a combination of Zagat’s and Craigslist” for parents of young kids.

About Joanne


  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Why all this fuss about preschool? Just hire a nanny with an advanced degree in education.

  2. Indigo Warrior says:

    Or just spend more personal time with your kids.

  3. if anyone has ever had to go through the nanny hiring process, they would know that “hiring a nanny” is not as easy as it sounds. There is not a vast army of highly qualified nannies that sit around waiting for me to call them – they are in high demand. And the laws of demand/supply goes, it’s difficult to get a “good” one.

    Heck even finding a baby sitter who will show up and let them watch tv while I go out on a date with my husband is hard to find!

    Usually, finding someone with a pulse, who will just show up is hard enough.

  4. Walter,

    The nanny can’t be the one writing a credible letter of recommendation for getting the kid into the exclusive K that the parents want the kid to attend.

    Don’t ask me how I know this.

    K tuition = $6000, kid must pass academic screening, three written letters from feeder preschools, and children with parents who are an alumnus get preferential consideration for admission.

    If the kid doesn’t get accepted into kindergarten at the right school you just won’t get your kid in at that school ever. Waiting list for openings at other grades level is too long. There are waiting lists for getting into the feeder preschools as well. You have to sign up when you find out you are pregnant.

    It’s not that there aren’t other private schools that are cheaper, it’s that there is a shortage of good teachers. The good private schools are paying college professors and instructors to come teach their classes. If they can find an ABD student in Classics to come teach their Latin classes they could give a flip about if he has teaching credentials or not. But to get your kid into these kinds of high schools you have to start in kindergarten…preschool….in utero.

  5. GradSchoolMom says:

    I still believe that by staying home with my pre-school children and teaching them values, playing games and listening to their complaints, they will be more successful than anyone who has attended the top notch schools. But I believe that successful is defined as healthy, content and secure not rich, powerful and driving a Hummer.

  6. GradSchoolMom:

    Not everyone can afford to stay home with their children. And not everyone is capable (even if they can afford to) of staying home with their children. So those of us that are the lesser of parents have to resort to the next best thing, make sure our kids associate with their true peers and with highly qualified teachers.

    This may sound snooty and stupid (like keeping up with the Jones’) , but it is true. It just so happens that most times, the most exclusive schools really ARE the best. How many of us willing to put up with their crap admissions policies is another story. (I, myself, am not).