How to conduct your search
Deciding where, when or even whether to send your kids to preschool can make parents – let’s not mince words – completely insane. It’s overwhelming, all-consuming, and completely fraught. Are you a Montessori or a Waldorf family? Are you willing to dive into a coop preschool? Does that church or synagogue program down the street have what you’re looking for? Is a half-day enough? Is a full day too much? And isn’t your child too young for all this anyway?
Every child is different, and every parent is different. What works for your best friend’s family might not work for yours. To find the option that’s best for you, tour several preschools, ask questions, and think about your child’s personality and your own needs (including your finances – preschool tuition can get pricey).
If you want options, start early (though not too early – you really have to wonder about parents who start touring preschools when their children are still in utero). And if after you’ve thought long and hard about it and want to wait another year to send your kid to preschool, hey, that’s cool too. There are lots of reasons to consider early education, but again, only you know what’s right for your situation, and opinions vary on the best age to start.
Before you tour, familiarize yourself with different preschool options. Here is a list of the different types of preschools and the philosophies behind them. Remember, not all preschools that call themselves “Montessori” or “Bank Street-modeled” are the same. You really need to get in there to get a sense of what the program offers.
How to Conduct Your Search
When considering a preschool, you should:
- Check the mission statement and curriculum.
- Learn how a typical day progresses.
- Meet the teachers.
- Check the layout and contents of the room and how the children interact with it, with their teachers and with one another
- Find out what the student-teacher ratio is.
- Find out how teachers are trained, how they are supported and how long they usually stay at the school.
- Make sure the classroom is clean, child-safe and filled with stimulating, age-appropriate toys, materials and activities. Also note whether the children seem engaged, active and happy.
- Ask how nap, lunch and snack, and exercise times are handled. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “all preschool children should participate regularly in a form of physical activity appropriate for their developmental level and physical health status” and also places a strong emphasis on the benefits of play.)
- Find out about extended hours in the morning or after school, if you need them, and check the school calendar so you can anticipate vacations.
- Look for state licenses, National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation or other affiliations.
Excerpted from How to Choose the Best Preschool For Your Child.
Used by permission.