It’s your child’s first foray into the “school” world, and you’ve got mixed feelings. On one hand, you’re excited to watch her learn and grow. On the other, you feel tremendous pressure to pick the “right” school.
Choosing a preschool can be an overwhelming experience with so many options/approaches available: teacher-led, child-led, Montessori, Waldorf, co-operative, faith-based … the list goes on. GetReadyToRead.com offers a brief explanation of some of the most popular approaches.
As with any major decision, some advanced planning can go a long way to making the process less stressful.
Consider your wants and needs. Do you need a program close to home or work? Do you need childcare services that extend beyond the preschool day? Are you eligible for subsidized preschool programs, such as Head Start? Is the program affordable for you? Does your school district offer a pre-kindergarten program that suits your needs? Answering each of these questions can help narrow the options available.
Talk to other people: parents, neighbors, your child’s pediatrician or daycare provider. Ask for information on the kinds of programs available in your area. Notice how people describe their experiences. Do any of their priorities align with yours? For example, perhaps one parent is more concerned about programming, but teacher-student ratio is important to you. Ask each person if there is something that they wish they knew before starting the preschool search process.
Do research on the internet. Read about the various approaches and find out what’s available in your area. Do a web search on schools you would consider to find out if there are any red flags about the program, such as a large number of parent complaints, health or safety violations, or other significant issues. Look, too, for positive reviews, and note the kinds of things people are inclined to mention (class ratio, staff personalities, programming, and attitudes of children attending).
Visit the program. Consider how you and your child are greeted and treated during the visit. Is the staff warm and welcoming, or does your visit feel like an imposition? Are you invited to observe the classroom or kept to a separate area to ask questions of the school’s leader? Do the children in the classrooms appear happy? How does your child react to the setting? How do children and adults interact &;mdash and do they? Does staff interact with your child during the visit? Is the setting clean? Safe?
Ask questions. Is the program accredited? (It should be.) Is it developmentally appropriate? How long has staff been at the school? Is there a high turnover rate? Do staff members hold degrees in early childhood education? What is the school’s approach to discipline? What is the safety protocol for drop-off and pickup? What are the payment options?
Follow your instincts. Whether or not “everyone” sends their child to ABC Preschool doesn’t matter; what matters is what you believe is best for your child and you, as parents. Do you feel comfortable with the school’s approach to learning? Are you at ease with the director? Do you believe your child will feel safe and nurtured?
School will be a part of your child’s life for more than a dozen years. Making time to research preschool options can help ensure your child has a positive attitude and views school as a safe, nurturing, fun place to learn.
- Two sites to research preschools in your area include ChildAware.com and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC.org allows you to search for programs accredited by that organization.
- NAEYC offers helpful information in A good preschool for your child.
- Babycenter.com has in interactive checklist.