I second the babysitting exhange idea. We have done that for a long time, and it is nice to have a morning a week for things that are easier done without children (like naps!
), and my kids always really enjoyed such play dates.
Another thought is, if you want your child to go to a preschool, try to find one that jives with your philosophy. We have several options in our area. If you go to church, see if the church offers a preschool. Our town has a co-operative preschool that is staffed by one teacher and the rest are parent volunteers. For your child to got here, the parent *must* volunteer a certain amount of time each week.
My children always went to the preschool offered by the local arts center. It is a totally cool arts based preschool. No reading or writing....plenty of clay, painting, dancing, collages, stories, everything. They offer several sessions--my daughter goes three days a week for 2 1/2 hours a time. You can sign your child up for a once a week, 2 hour session, or they can go 2, 3, or 5 days a week for 2 1/2 hours. Also, for kids who aren't ready to leave their parents, they have Saturday morning parent-child classes that are an hour long. We did this with our first child for the semester before preschool--she LOVED it, and frankly, so did we. So much cool messy stuff to do, and *I* wasn't responsible for the cleanup!!! Each semester the art center has an "artist in residence" where the artist gives classes for adults, has an exhibit or show, has free studio space, etc...but part of the deal is that they come in and teach their craft to the little ones. Once it was a dancer, another time it was a percussionist, once it was a storyteller, and once it was a sculptor. The kids just love it!
I think that preschool can be a miserable experience, or it can be a very rewarding one. My children always loved their preschool. And, since there was not curriculum, I never felt bad only taking them for part of the time, or keeping them home if there was something else that we had planned for the day--it was never a big deal. I am just so thankful I found such a cool place for my children to play!
I hope you find some arrangement that works for your family!