Preschool FAQ

What’s a co-op?

A “co-op” is short for a parent cooperative. Co-op schools are owned and operated by the parents and employ professional teaching staff. In general, parents take on classroom and administrative roles which help with the day-to-day running of the school. The schedules and specific duties, as well as who can participate (parents, other family members, or other care-givers) depends on the school. Parent participation keeps the paid staff to a minimum and tuition is often lower than at non-coop schools. Co-ops provide parents with an opportunity to participate in their child’s preschool experience, and for many, a greater sense of community.

What do the different curriculum options mean?

There are several common curricula and educational philosophies. The most basic distinction is academic versus play-based. PBS offers an explanation here. In 2015, this New York Times opinion looked at the research on play-based vs academic preschool programs.

Links to more info specific preschool curricula and philosophies can be found below.


When should my child start preschool?

This one is mostly up to you! Some schools require students to be potty trained before starting, while others do not. There are often age cut-offs for class placement.
Many schools require students to be 2 by Sept 1 in order to start in a 2s class–this depends on their license with the State of Maryland, so is generally not flexible. Other schools may offer a young 2s program, a “rolling 2s” class which children can join around their 2nd birthday, or a parent-child class for those that don’t make the cut-off.
Similarly, Montgomery County Public Schools require children to be 5 by Sept 1 to start Kindergarten. It is helpful to consider this when choosing a class level for you child and planning for how many years they will attend preschool.

What’s the differences between nursery school or preschool and day-care?

The state of Maryland licenses both child care centers and nursery schools. Highlights from their Childcare 101 website:

“Licensed Child Care Centers are professionally staffed facilities which generally serve large groups of children… Some centers primarily provide care for infants and toddlers. Other centers care only for preschool or school-age children. Most centers provide care for a range of ages.”

“Nursery schools are educational programs for children two years through four years old. These programs are approved by the Maryland State Department of Education. Most are also licensed by Office of Child Care as child care programs.”

“Registered Family Child Care Homes are also operated by professional caregivers, but within private residences.”