Public vs. Private Kindergarten: Making the Right Decision

Public vs. Private Kindergarten - Things to ConsiderKindergarten. For most children, it’s the foundation of their education. A time for both play and learning (much of which overlap), kindergarten is a big step for children. And it’s a big decision for parents. If you’re debating between public or private school, here’s a list of factors to consider. Keep in mind that every public school system, and every private or independent school is different, and the factors below will vary in importance and relevance for each.

Teaching and special attention

Teachers at public schools are required to hold valid state licenses, as well as meet certain criteria to serve students with special learning considerations. Private school teachPublic vs. Private Kindergarteners don’t have the same requirements. This means that if you know your child requires special guidance or attention, or has a diagnosed learning concern, inquire as to whether a private school is properly equipped to meet his needs.

On the flip side, private schools may be more able to challenge students with advanced abilities. Thanks in part to smaller class sizes and lower student/teacher ratios, private schools are able to avoid “teaching to the middle,” providing more resources and challenges for academically strong students. 

The intangibles: values and character

Many private schools place a deliberate focus on specific values, including honesty, friendship, respect, and integrity. Together, these values inform what a number of schools refer to as “character education.” Private schools often craft units and lessons designed to demonstrate and exemplify these values. The schools purposely focus not just on a child’s intellectual development and academic learning, but on his moral, civic, and behavioral development.  

Resources and “specials”

compressed_pre-k-grp-techWhen it comes to classroom resources (everything from technology to supplies) and special areas of study (art, music, foreign language), private schools usually have the advantage. Funded by tuition and endowments, private schools don’t rely on taxpayers for vital funds. Many incorporate a foreign language, such as Spanish, into the curriculum as early as Pre-Kindergarten–something that many public schools are not able to include until later grades. (Pre-K tech photo)

Student population

Depending on the city or town, a public school may have the advantage if you want your child to be exposed to students from a range of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. But this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Some public schools are situated in very homogeneous towns or neighborhoods and therefore offer lcompressed_flags-with-boy-looking-at-them (1)ittle diversity. Many private schools make purposeful efforts to enroll students from different backgrounds, including varying socioeconomic levels (via financial aid packages). If this is important to you, be sure to visit the school and observe the population, and ask admissions staff about it.

Additionally, some private or independent schools serve just one gender: all-boys or all-girls. This approach has some inherent advantages. There are some differences in the way boys and girls learn and behave–and these differences come into play as early as kindergarten.

Teachers are able to tailor their methods and techniques to the learning preferences of given gender, allowing boys (or girls) to explore, learn, and grow in the manner most fitting and natural to them.


For moms and dads juggling careers and other children, scheduling is important. Each public and private school will vary in the options it offers for kindergarten scheduling, including full- or half-day options, days of week, and before- or after-school care.


It’s a given: tuition is one of the main differences between public and private school, and a factor for many families. Public school is free; private school comes with a price tag. A year’s tuition at most private schools typically runs in the thousands, even for kindergarten–though some schools offer financial aid. Of course, the cost and value of a private education includes more than just dollar figures. (And that’s why it’s important to consider the other elements on this list–especially if tuition is affordable for your family.)

So where does this leave you as a parent? Each family must weigh the decision carefully and consider the best choice for them and their child. In any case, it’s almost always beneficial to visit the schools you’re considering and talk to teachers and administrators. Talk to other parents and get their perspectives. Know your child and know what you want for your child. Most importantly, trust your instincts.

Download the Pre-K & Kindergarten Private School Visit Checklist

9 Responses to “Public vs. Private Kindergarten: Making the Right Decision”

  1. Tara Jones

    I like that private schools have the ability to focus on special subjects, like foreign languages. I’ve always regretted not learning a second language and want that for my daughter. And the sooner she can start, the better! I know that there are public as well as private schools that do that, but I think when you’re that young it’s also important to have small class sizes, and those two ideals are going to be my main criteria for choosing a place for my daughter to attend kindergarten.

  2. Jane Torphy

    Thank you for your comments, Tara.

    We know that the early years of a child’s life is the ideal time for exposure to foreign languages, so yes, the sooner, the better! As both a parent raising a bilingual child and the FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary School) teacher here at Fessenden, I am able to witness the openness with which children embrace learning a new language. They are quick to absorb what they have learned and are unselfconscious when speaking, thus they take amazing “risks” to emulate accents and are not fearful of making grammar mistakes. In fact, our goal is to have students be comfortable, be exposed to and speak Spanish naturally and in an immersive environment. Introducing children to other cultures is an essential part of their language-learning experience, as they need to be able to put the language into context, so part of the curriculum here is learning about Spanish-speaking countries.

  3. Emma Wilson

    It is an informative article. And i m happy to share that my daughter goes to a private school . The school’s kindergarten facilities are very good and they include a lot of a variety of extra curricular activities that helps your child learn new skills happy and they become more confident. The school where my daughter goes is Beacon Private School – The thing i appreciate the most about this school they involve the parents into their child development process regularly and answer all our queries with responsibly.

  4. Dylan Peterson

    It’s good to know that private schools usually have the upper hand when it comes to special areas of study like the arts. My daughter is interested in music, and I want to make sure that she can get the best education possible for it. I’ll pass this information along to her so that she can look further into her options for attending private school.

  5. Elisabeth Southgate

    Thank you for helping me learn more about private versus public kindergarten. My husband and I are considering putting our child in a private school when he turns five. I like how you said that private school make efforts to enroll students of all kinds.

  6. Henry Killingsworth

    I thought it was interesting when you explained that private schools are able to provide more resources for their students. My wife and I believe that getting an education is key to being successful in life. We want our son to do well in his schooling, so it would probably be a good idea for us to find a private kindergarten to enroll him in.

  7. Derek McDoogle

    I like how you said that many private schools help children learn values like honesty and respect. My sister is a single mother and now that her kid is growing, she needs to know where she will leave him instead of daycare. I will suggest to her to think about taking him to pre k school so that he can develop personal skills and values as well.

  8. Braden Bills

    I want to make sure that I find the right kindergarten for my son to attend. It makes sense that I would want to find one that has some high quality teachers! That way, I can ensure that my son actually learns something.

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