Oh, You Thought It Would Be Easier {and Cheaper} Once They Started Public School?


You might think this post is a bit premature.  “School just got out!” you say.  “My child isn’t anywhere near old enough for school!” you say.  “I have no need for this right now!” you say.

And that, dear friend, is exactly why I’m writing.  Because you have absolutely no idea what is coming.  Trust me, it’s not too early to take these little nuggets of information and tuck them away.  Personally, I never got these nuggets.  I wish I would have.  Which is why I’m sharing them with you.

Or maybe you already have a school-aged kiddo.  And if you do, you can just read through, shake your head at my naivete, and say “HAHAHAHAHA I remember when I thought that, too!”

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely do not view school as “free babysitting.”  I expect that as a working mom, things like breaks, inservice days, early release days, and snow days will pose additional scheduling challenges, yes.  But I’m not going to complain about extra time with my kids or view these things as significant inconveniences that are somehow the school’s fault.  The reality is that school is an incredibly valuable resource and teachers are highly trained professionals well-versed in instructional pedagogies, and their job is to teach my child academics.  It so happens that this takes place during hours that I happen to be at work which means that I don’t have to arrange care during those particular hours of instruction, but that doesn’t mean that it’s free childcare.

With that said, let’s go back to February.

February 3rd, to be exact.  It was a Monday afternoon, and as I was looking at my son’s picture on my office wall it struck me – he’d be starting Kindergarten in the fall.  I began counting the months backward…hmmm…Kindergarten will start in September, but the kids let out in June, so open houses will probably be sometime in May and registration will be March/April timeframe.  Incredibly proud of myself, I picked up the phone to get the exact date in March that I’d need to register Conlan for Kindergarten.  I was more than a month early.  They probably give out awards for parents as organized as myself.

“Hello, <school name>, how can I help you?”

“Yes, my son will be starting Kindergarten in the fall.  I just wanted to know when registration will begin so I can be prepared.”

“Oh, Kindergarten registration started two weeks ago.”

That’s right, folks.  Mid-January.  I was already late.

Long story short, Conlan got registered, got chosen for full-day Kindergarten (there is a lottery), and all was right with the world.

But wait!  There’s more!

Once we received the notice for full-day Kindergarten, we could finally start making arrangements for his care before and after school.  There is an on-site program at the school – which I looked into, as it came highly recommended.  I also looked into some other care options.

And I nearly hit the floor.

Choosing full-day kindergarten over half-day kindergarten costs additional tuition (this I was prepared for).  What I wasn’t prepared for was the cost of before and after school care.

Let me tell you about the situation I’m coming from.  For the past two years Conlan has been attending a private Christian PS-6 school for his preschool/pre-K education.  In addition to the three hours of preschool instruction per day, he receives childcare on-site so we pay an amount of tuition that I have felt was reasonable for the exceptional {private} teaching and care.  But I’m not gonna lie – I was kind of looking forward to {free} public school and having a smaller childcare bill.


Here’s what I discovered when I started digging into the details.  Between full-day Kindergarten tuition and before/after school care we would be paying about a thousand dollars a month.  ONE. THOUSAND. DOLLARS.  That is more than I pay right now for full-time private preschool.

{And that doesn’t even include non-instructional days, breaks, or early release days.}

And so, since we’re not thrilled about the idea of paying infant childcare rates for our five-year-old Kindergartener in public school, we’re looking at all of our options.  I have a couple of ideas floating around in my mind but a few other things need to sort themselves out first before we can nail down some real plans.

Please be assured, I’m not complaining.  Like I said, I don’t expect free childcare.  I don’t view school as free childcare.  I was just completely shocked at how the numbers added up.  For the last five years I’ve been walking around with this thought in my head that once Conlan was ready for kindergarten we’d sign him up, send him off, save some money, and worry less about scheduling.

Now that I’ve been looking at it more realistically – neither of those things are true.  And so mama, though your little one isn’t quite ready yet, I just wanted you to be prepared.

Take that little nugget and tuck it away for another year.  I’m sorry to be the one to bring you the bad news.

Maybe first grade is better?


11 thoughts on “Oh, You Thought It Would Be Easier {and Cheaper} Once They Started Public School?

  1. What state are you in? $1000 a month for before and after school care seems a bit high to me. We paid much, much less for my daughter, but we have lived in small towns the entire time.

    1. I’ve got thoughts… like shifting my work schedule later and then seeing if there might be a SAHM with a similarly aged kiddo in the service area that would be interested in having him hang out at their house for an hour or so and make some extra $… But before I can make concrete plans some other personal unknowns need to fall into place. It’s crazy!

  2. Eek – I didn’t know people paid for full day kindergarten in public schools in the US! That just sounds wrong.
    I pay before and after care – I’m in Canada – and we have full day kindergarten – so I think my reality us more what you imagined. I’m looking forward – financially speaking to my youngest also starting school so costs on that front go down.
    So wow! Just wow.

    1. Kindergarten isn’t a legal requirement in many states. Most places offer half-day for free, but full-day is tuition based. My district made full-day free this last year! But, of course, that comes at the expense of other programs.

  3. Last year, I was in the same boat. Our public schools do not offer full day kindergarten in NJ. WTH it is 2014! Anyways, we ended up sending our son to a private kindergarten because it was cheaper than splitting his day between the public school and a private daycare. We paid around $5000 for the 10months, but had to juggle days with family/friends when he was off. Now that he is in this school I love it so much and we made the decision to keep him there. What an expense just for school and I swore my child was going to attend public.
    I also do not want to forget the summer camp which he is only attending 2x/wk at about $2500.

  4. This is one of my most favorite (and hated) conversations… WHAT.
    In Los Angeles, a private kindergarten is in the $30,000K/year range. SERIOUSLY. It’s KINDERGARTEN!!! THEY STILL TAKE NAPS!!!! Plus, they expect you to be a contributor, and you have to go to a “feeder school” for preschool… and of course, our public system is crap (unless you live in Beverly Hills, Malibu, or another “premium” neighborhood. We live in a great location (West Hollywood), but the schools close by are like a 6/10 rating, so not too great.
    We currently pay $1200/mo for private daycare/preschool from 9-5 right now, but the place down the street from our house is $350/week, 52 weeks a year, and they take off EVERY jewish holiday, Christian holiday and 2, 2 week breaks (1 for summer vacation, 1 for winter vacation) AND they charge an extra $800 for “summer camp” which is not voluntary if you’re enrolled. SO, you end up spending almost $20K/year for 10 months of actual care, plus whatever your nanny charges for their “off time” (so, it’s still 3 billion a year).
    Oh yeah, AND they close at 3:30 M-Th, 2:30 on F… so you have to have either a job that doesn’t care, or another form of care after 3:30PM everyday (another 6 billion/year).
    Good thing my husband’s in law school… all the money he ends up making is gonna go straight to schools. Blah.

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