Friday, June 25, 2010

The Needle in the Haystack: Choosing the Right Pre-School

Sending a child to pre-school is an emotional milestone for both child and parent! It’s very hard to leave your child in the hands of someone else. You want them to be safe, protected and treated with respect.

When it was time for my first child to attend school I didn’t know what to look for. All I wanted was a warm environment for her. It wasn’t until I became a Pre-school teacher myself that I began to see things differently. For one thing, all schools are NOT created equal! There are many philosophies out there and the trick is to find one that matches your own. The following is a list of tips on finding the best pre-school for your child.

TIP #1 Start early!
To make an informed decision, start early and interview as many schools as you can. Also, if possible, take your child with you. It’s an excellent opportunity to see if he/she is a good fit.

TIP #2 Does the school have a daily routine?
Regular schedules are important and not all schools have one. Children like to know what to expect next. In fact, they thrive on routines. In my experience, when there isn’t a plan; there is chaos in the room. And if the classroom is chaotic, your pre-schooler is not having positive social interaction with their peers. The school you’re interviewing should have an established daily schedule and a monthly planned curriculum. Ideal routines offer time for free play (with stations around the room pertaining to the unit); meeting time (to discuss the days of the week, the weather and story time); snack time and outdoor/physical activity time. The monthly curriculum should include a variety of topics that introduce language skills, math, science, history and social studies in an age appropriate way.

TIP #3 What kind of crafts do the students work on?
Ask to see specific examples of artwork done by children in the classroom. The projects should appear like a pre-schooler created it by themselves rather than a teacher guided cookie-cutter project. Children must be allowed to create independently. If they are only allowed to produce work a certain way, it suppresses their imagination.

TIP #4 The Health and Safety of the Facility
In addition to having safe toys and an overall cleanliness; it’s a good idea to ask about their policy on food allergies. This is particularly important if you have a child with a life threatening allergy. NOT ALL SCHOOLS WILL CATER TO YOUR CHILDS NEEDS. A pre-school can and absolutely should be diligent regarding what types of foods they allow in the classroom. It is as simple as sending a memo to all the parents with a list of acceptable food. Also, ask about their pick-up policy. There should be restrictions in place with regard to whom they will dismiss your child.

TIP #5 Meet the Teachers!
It all boils down to the teachers! A school could have a healthy environment with a great curriculum, however, if you do not have teachers who are warm, friendly and capable of interacting with children of all personality types it’s not going to work. My suggestion is to meet the teachers. Set up an interview with them during classroom hours so you can get a feel for their teaching style. Watch how they interact with different children in different scenarios and trust your instincts; if you get a bad feeling about one of them…keep looking!

1 comment:

  1. Great list! I would agree with this list in looking for kindergarten too! We just went through that process - tough decision. We are happy we started early which allowed us to let everything sink in before we made our choice.