Mommy SOS | Breaking Down the Kindergarten Search


Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year – even though many Scottsdale and Phoenix-area kids have been back in the classroom for almost a month.

I too am thinking about a new school year today. But not this school year.

This year my four-year-old is in her second year of preschool (if you missed our Mommy SOS post discussing Preschools in Scottsdale, the comments make it a must-read). But I’m already thinking about NEXT year. The big one. KINDERGARTEN.

So here’s where I’m turning it over to you, more seasoned moms than I. I’m not looking for specific school recommendations (though if you just can’t help but sing your school’s praises, go for it).

What I want to know was HOW you went about your search.

What I’m wondering:

  • Did you default to the neighborhood school without a second thought? (does anybody do this anymore??)
  • Did you visit neighboring public schools in your district? (if so, what time of year did you visit? did you just simply call the office? tell me about the tours!)
  • Did you look at charter schools? Private schools? Consider homeschooling?
  • WHAT were your search criteria? Test scores? Class size? Just “a feeling” that it was the right school for your child?
  • Did you begin with a particular education philosophy in mind? Or with the personality of your child? Both? Neither?
  • Who was the most helpful person in your search? A teacher friend? Another mom? Your husband?
  • At what point in the prior school year had you made your decision? What deadlines should I know about?

While I’m grateful we live in a city (and a time) with many education options, I do feel a little nostalgic for a simpler day when I’d just be sending my daughter down the block to the neighborhood elementary school. While this may end up being exactly what we do, I feel pressure to “look at all my options.”

So help me, please! Give me some tips to aid in my kindergarten search!

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons user dprevite


  1. My daughter went to our neighborhood school for kindergarten and I didn’t think twice about it! I would love to send her to a private school but it’s not financially practical and I know that our school district (Deer Valley) is a good one. I have only heard good things about all the elementary schools near us and kindergarten was such a success for us. My daughter loved her teachers and her classmates! So I definitely think that your neighborhood school would be a great option. Generally, the schools like to do the next year’s registration around February or March, but check their website for more info.

  2. Although the neighborhood schools in our district, Cave Creek, are really great schools, we felt it was important to be at a school where we had a few established friends and would be able to maintain those relationships. We knew that free time would be scarce for our kids when school started, so we figured that being at the same school would at least give us opportunities to see each other (the moms, that is) at drop off/pick up time and that our girls could see each other at school, even if they weren’t in the same class. Each of our families toured the school and decided that it would be a great fit for our kids so thankfully that made it easy for us to decide where to be.

    Personally I feel like there are more things to consider than just school scores such as parental involvement (PTA) and how well the principal is involved in the day to day running of the school. Our school’s entire kindergarten class last year had over 80% open enrollment which meant that a lot of parents would be driving extra distances to bring their kids to this school, so I assumed they must care about their kids education. Obviously there are exceptions, but this turned out to be an accurate assumption for us and we loved being at a school where parents were welcomed and embraced. As far as principal involvement, I remember touring a school at their advertised “tour time” and when we went to the classroom with the principal, he didn’t really know anything about where the kids were or how their day went, and each class was gone so we didn’t get to see much of anything. It was just very apparent during our tour that this principal wasn’t very connected with the students or teachers, so that made a big impact on our decision to go outside of our neighborhood school.

    Good luck and remember that whatever choice you make isn’t forever and you can always make changes that are appropriate for your kid!

  3. we purposefully chose to join our neighborhood public school, realizing that we had many other great options if that school eventually didn’t meet the needs of a particular child. That was 8 years ago when our 6th grader started preschool there 2 mornings per week. we have been very pleased now with 3 kids there. We’ve been very involved, getting to know our amazing teachers and administrators and my husband served on the PTO as well. being involved definitely has increased our satisfaction. Big shout out to Copper Ridge!!

  4. Our 3-year old is currently in his second year of a private preschool and we’re (very) slowly starting to think about elementary schools. During a chat with his preschool teacher, she recommended another in district school than the one we live near due to test scores, parent involvement etc. She said to tour schools, check out scores, talk to other parents etc. I have several friends that are teachers as well as my mom so they will be great resources as well. Our son has an August birthday so WHEN to start Kindergarten is another consideration…

    • Sara, I hadn’t thought about asking the preschool teacher for input (DUH) – that’s a great idea because they already know your child’s personality and learning style. Great tip!

    • Becca, that’s on my short list! It isn’t our home school but it’s actually closer than the one we’re technically assigned to! We’re super close to there! 🙂

      • Sarah, We absolutely adored our kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Penoyer last year at CC. She was amazing and I wish that she was able to loop up with the kids this year and teach first grade! I can’t say enough wonderful things about her and honestly the rest of the kinder staff! There are tons of ways for parents to be involved if you want to so let me know if you have any specific questions!

        • We are looking into CC for our son to start kindergarten this August. We haven’t really toured other schools because we’ve heard such good things about this one. I was curious to hear how the touring works at CC? Should I be doing this now? Also, what, would you say, are your favorite things about this school? Thank you so much for your help!

      • Curious to hear whether you ended up touring or even choosing Copper Canyon for your child? We are hoping to start next September, but as you mention above, we have opted for this “neighborhood” school due to wonderful reviews and proximity, but sometimes feel like we should be at least looking into other options. I wonder if it appears that you’ve found a good thing, is it always necessary to complicate things further by always thinking the grass may be greener else where? A reoccurring theme in our lives 🙂 Anyway, I was just curious about whether you’ve acquired more info (good or bad) about the Copper Canyon community. Thanks!
        Signed, Nervous soon-to-be mother of a kindergartner!

  5. Both my kids (20) and (6) went to neighborhood kindergarten. It was great for both of them. The only thing I would have changed is my oldest daughter was in half day and she really needed all day and my youngest a boy was in all day and it was to long for him. He would have done much better in a half day. I feel you need to look at each child individually and do what is best for them.

  6. Hi Guys, this is my first posting although I follow your blog religiously:). I am a planner so I have been researching schools for my four year old since January. I became very stressed when I found out that open enrollment for many schools starts in November for NEXT YEAR. The first challenge was figuring out public, charter and private. just like buying a mattress (Lol) there is no way to compare these, it really boils down to the specific teachers, programs and schools. I have toured private, public and charter and see that all of the have their pros and cons. I guess the first thing to decide is what you can afford financially…paying higher tuition also means in some cases not being able to invest that money on extracurricular activities depending on the program. Then seeing whether you get in if you are going through a lottery and developing a plan for your “dream” and “safety” schools. I live in Scottsdale and my assigned school is considered “excelling” having said that they found a third grader selling drugs last year and apparently there are many other problems…needless to say my daughter will not be going there…I found out about these by talking to parents, teachers, staff….good luck everyone on your search!

  7. Hello moms,

    Firstly let me appreciate all those who take out time to blog here. It is such a wealth of information.

    I am moving to Phoenix, AZ from India with my 4 year old daughter. I am looking for a good school were she can be for a few years (PK-5 atleast) and can maintain a circle of friends. Currently all enrollments are open so I dont want her to miss window and end up daycare for Preschool/PK program.

    Highlighting the negative reviews from various forums like greatschool among others:
    1. Phoenix Country Day School – Super expensive for a preschool program.
    2. Northwest Christian School – Impossible for non christians as a. they need pastor reference form b. Bible study is compulsory and part of curriculum. Please don’t get me wrong here, I myself studied in convent school but had the option of studing moral science rather than catechism class and have attended mass in chapel every Friday.
    3. Summit Ahwatukee – a. PK classes are not maintained at all b. High attrition rates among teachers and students c. Country club atmosphere, with very influential parents having hand in decision making .
    4. Khalsa Montessori – a. students are made to repeat grades so the school can maintain good test scores and receive funding. b. degrading management.
    5. Rancho Solano – Principal lacks direction for school and is unavailable mostly.

    Great reviews but I am still undecided due to unavailability of higher grades in school:
    1. Rainbow Montessori – classes are only from K-2.
    2. Creative Bridges – Only Pre-K available.
    3. Copper Sun (managed by Bright Horizons) and Tutor Time – a daycare environment.

    I would really appreciate if someone could guide me through the process and correct me if any of the negative reviews are not incorrect. Its quite difficult as I can’t go touring schools as I am coming in on March only but I am open to enroll/complete registration to be added to waitlist.

    Appreciate all your time and effort in this regard. Hoping to see a few suggestions around good non-sectarian private schools or christian schools were non christians are admitted and bible study is not mandatory.

    Note: Currently I am not open to public/assigned schools as I have no idea where we end up taking an apartment.

    Thanking in advance.

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