Preschool, Young 5s, or Kindergarten?

The process of choosing a starting point for your child’s formal education can be confusing, with so many choices available. Having a variety of choices is actually a good thing, though, because it gives parents the ability to pick the educational setting that will work best for their child.

Kindergarten

In the State of Michigan, children can enter kindergarten if they are 5 or older on September 1st of that school year. Parents can sign a waiver to enroll younger children into kindergarten if they will be 5 before December 1st of that school year. In the public school system, kindergarten is full day, five days a week, and is free for all eligible children.

Michigan families can utilize resources from Build Up Michigan and Michigan Department of Education for transition information and to learn more about determining whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Many schools also hold a kindergarten round-up event in March that allows you to visit the school, meet the teachers, and register.

Young 5s

In the State of Michigan, children have the option of going to a Young 5s program if they turn 5 between June 1st and September 1st of that school year. Parents can sign a waiver to enroll children if they will be 5 before December 1st of that school year. This program is free through the public school system and, depending on the district, may be full or half day, four or five days a week. Deadlines to register vary but usually occur in March. These programs often fill up quickly so contact your local school district or visit its website to find out about deadlines and applications.

Preschool

Preschool can start as young as 2 years and 9 months and goes through when a child enters kindergarten. There are many choices available. Preschool is different from daycare. In preschool, the goal is to allow for the growth of children academically, socially and emotionally in preparation for their future schooling. There are many different thoughts on what this should look like so there are many different options.

  • Free preschool – There are a few different options for preschool that do not require a family to pay tuition. These have specific applications and birthdate requirements.
    • Head Start – Children in families with income 0 – 100 percent of the federal poverty level and are at least 3 years old by September 2nd may qualify for Head Start. To find your local Head Start, visit the Michigan Head Start Association.
    • Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) – Children in families with income 0 – 250 percent of the federal poverty level and are at least 4 years old by September 2nd may qualify for a GSRP. To find your local GSRP, visit the Michigan Department of Education.
    • Special Education Preschool – If you have a 3–5 year old who is struggling to learn or is developmentally delayed, he or she may be entitled to free preschool through your local district. Visit Build Up Michigan and talk to your child’s pediatrician to learn more.
  • Tuition preschool – There are many options so each family can pick what works well for them. In Michigan, kindergarten is a full day, five days a week with 20–30 children in each classroom. Children do much better with their kindergarten education if they have exposure to preschool. For more information and/or to find programs, visit:

It’s important to note that enrollment for the start of the school year typically begins months before the start of the academic year, in February and March. This means that depending on what month your child was born, parents may need to start applying for school before their child’s 3rd birthday. 

If you have questions, remember to ask your pediatrician. He or she can be very helpful in thinking through all these options.

Additional resources:

 

Written by Gwen Zirngibl, MD

Updated September 2018