Choosing a preschool for your child requires knowing what you want in a preschool and then asking questions to see if the schools in your city match what you are looking for.
There are many philosophies about working with young children. Some programs offer academic programs and others do not. Some offer a pre-reading schedule and some don’t. Some offer a lot of social opportunities and some don’t.
So what questions can you ask to see if the program on offer is right for you?
Let’s start with the school hours. Some schools open as early as 7am for school assistance and some schools open at 9am when kindergarten day starts. If you need to be at work at 8:00, you must first narrow down your choices to those schools that offer pre-school care.
My advice is to visit the school without your child. Talk to the school director and ask what is the best time of day to visit. You will learn more by visiting during indoor time than outdoor time.
Most schools have a rough schedule of what children do in school. Does this time match what you hoped to have for your child? My children went to two different schools. My eldest daughter needed more structure. In the school she went to, the children moved from one class to another. One class was as manipulative as puzzles, while another room had clothes to dress up and another room contained art supplies. Finally, the last room was what I called the academic room. You may find letters, numbers and books in this room. This system worked wonderfully for her.
My other daughter attended a school where academics were non-existent, but socialization was constant. This suited the little girl she was very well and she met both her needs and my needs.
Hence, it is very possible to find a good school with a great program, but not to suit your child.
I also suggest meeting a kindergarten teacher when making your choice to find out what the kindergarten teacher at YOUR school hopes to see when your child enters the kindergarten classroom on the first day.
Here are some questions you can ask during your visit:
1. Do you teach reading and writing? Remember that there is no right or wrong answer. You, as a parent, need to know if this is important to you. As I said, for one of my daughters it was pretty important and for the other little girl it wasn’t on my list of what was important at all.
2. What is the adult / child ratio that the school tries to maintain? Each state determines what the state requires, but all schools have their own guidelines within the state system. My eldest daughter went to a school that didn’t use teacher’s aides. However, they kept the classes small. My youngest daughter went to a school that used teacher aides and therefore the ratio was very small, like 3: 1, even though the state allowed a much higher ratio. With more children in the class, there is also more opportunity for playmates.
3. What is the policy on sick children? Each school has a different policy for sick children. As a mom, I didn’t want my kids to always be with sick kids. On the other hand, I knew that if my daughter had a runny nose, I would probably be called to pick it up.
4. How often are new toys purchased and how often are old toys thrown away? This was important to me, both for safety reasons, but even the longer a toy is in circulation, the more germs live on it. At some point, the dirt no longer washes away. In addition, times change and new toys come out on the market. Also, when it comes to objects like puzzles, the pieces disappear. I wanted my son to be able to complete the puzzle without losing a piece.
5. What is the communication system between the school and the parent? Some schools send home a monthly calendar for the following month, while some schools send a letter on Friday summarizing the week under review. Most schools have lectures. Moms like to hear how wonderful their preschooler is. If the school detects what they think might be a problem such as hearing, speech, vision or even a behavioral problem, what is their method of informing you?
6. How are the children separated? Is it by age? Are there multiage classes? Does the system used by this school for class development meet your needs and those of your child? Every child is different. My eldest daughter did better with children than her of her own age. My youngest daughter had a great time with children of many ages.
7. What are the dietary rules in this school? Do the children bring their own lunch? Are snacks served? Is the school free? Some preschools choose to be peanut-free to accommodate children with peanut allergies. Are hot lunches served? If so, ask for a month-long menu to see what foods are on offer.
Without your child, it is important that you take a lesson. Do children interact with each other and with adults? Do children play both alone and with others? Do you see activities and toys that allow the child to be unique and creative? Or is each child told to make the flower the same color? Children are children. If you see two children arguing, how does the teacher solve the problem? How big are the classrooms? Is there enough space for different children to play with different objects? For example, is there room for two girls to play dress up while two boys build a train track? Where are the bathrooms relative to the classroom?
Plan to visit the school during the return time. Are the children rushing to their classrooms or are most of the children not happy to be there?
If you think the school is what you want, ask if you can bring your child for a day. Most schools will allow a trial day. If your child is happy, you have just found the right school to enroll your child in.
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