What should I look for when choosing a preschool?
Real Mom Problem
“How did you choose your child's preschool? I haven't got a clue where to start.”
- 1. Schedule a time to meet the teachers and tour the school
- 2. Ensure the school has strong safety policies in place
- 3. Check to see if the school is accredited and/or if the teachers have degrees in early childhood education
- 4. Find out the school's education philosophy and decide if it suits you and your child
- 5. Ask how the teachers handle discipline and other behavior issues
- 6. If money is an issue, check to see if public preschool is an option in your state
- 7. If the preschool program is longer than 4 hours, it's more likely to be a daycare facility
Real Mom Solutions
With so many preschool possibilities, the choices can be dizzying. Lucky for you, the moms of CafeMom have shared personal stories that can help you sort through the options and make the decision that's best for your child.
I made a list of preschools in the area and then set up a time where I could come in and observe. I looked at 8 before finding one I was completely happy with. I would highly recommend if nothing else at least being able to talk to the teacher. Being able to see the class itself was great because I could have a really in depth understanding of how the class worked, how the teacher interacted with the kids, what the rules were, etc. All preschools seem to be so different. I went to some that I ended up not choosing that I had safety concerns with that had I not seen it in action I would have never known about. Also, you need to decide what kind of preschool you are looking for (co-op which is parent run, academic, something in between, religious based, Montessori, etc.) Today we have so many choices that it really does behoove us to investigate them all.
Many times if you have a group of friends you can ask them. But most preschools should have an open door policy. You should be able to go for a tour of the facility and talk with the teachers. Take your preschooler with you, they are a good judge of character and comfort level. Trust your heart you will know which one to send your child too. Never forget that mother instinct.
Just call a few and ask to come for a tour. You will know it's the right fit. You will just connect with the Director and the teachers.
Do Your Homework
Pre-K is highly valuable! Choosing the right one is vital though! Depending on how your state does things, you may also have access to Pre-K programs in the elementary schools. If this is an option, I would recommend it, as then you have a state certified teacher with a highly qualified assistant in the class. At private centers, you are not likely to get a certified teacher, but if at the right place, it can still be a highly beneficial experience for your little one.
I would first look to see if they are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. If they are it's a good indication that their curriculum used is DAP (developmentally appropriate practice). NAEYC only gives accreditation to those who follow their guidelines. Yes, a center/childcare can be good and not have this but it shows that they are committed to meeting national standards of quality. It also depends on your philosophies and theirs. What are there philosophies? There is a list on the NAEYC site of what you should look for in a preschool. Look at the ratio of teacher to student. Do they do better than what's required? Are they on a strict curriculum or is it child directed? What qualities do their teachers-staff possess? Is the staff-nurturing, do they enjoy children or is it a job, are they knowledgeable, are they respectful of different cultures- lifestyles-situations etc.? Do they have an open door policy? I believe, and research backs up, that relationships and hands on experiences are key for children 0-6. People think that you have to be taught your ABC's early to get ahead (parent's egos) but it's not developmentally appropriate for them yet. There are exceptions, but a child who reads early is not the one who is the better reader. In fact it's the one who learns to read later when it is age appropriate. Children learn through play- this is how they make sense of the world. I majored in Early Childhood Education and have a passion for children so this is why I have such a strong opinion. It is however backed up with research and experience. It's so hard to decide but the first 3 years for a child are so important.
Pick Your Priorities
My son is 3 and will be starting pre-school in the fall. He will only be going two days a week and it's a school in a church. I was killing my self about researching the different kinds of preschools, but what it came down to was the following things: They played outside everyday (depending on weather), they didn't use worksheets - they learned things hands on, I received good referrals about the place, and they had structured play and free play. I did research on many different schools, but when I went to visit them I knew right away if it was the right one or not and that's not something you can research. Are the kids happy in the classroom? Do the teachers seem friendly? Are there many different toys to play with? As many schools I have researched have said preschool is really about learning social skills. Walking in line, listening to the teacher, sharing, following directions. I also chose the school because there were a lot of parenting volunteer opportunities. I actually met with a few pre-schools that completely discouraged parents from visiting or helping in the classroom because it may distract their child that attends there. I think my son would love to see me there on occasion.
Public vs. Private
Public or Private: Whichever one gets the child ready or accustomed to the system of school is the best for your child. In some communities, there are no pre-K classes offered so they have to turn to private schools. My children went to a preschool class at a "park district'. I suppose it would be considered "private", but it wasn't calling itself an academy or anything like that. Just a preschool. I knew the instructors and the curriculum. I do think it is just a dollar sign. I would try not to get wrapped up in the money aspect of preschool.
It totally depends on the schools you have to choose from. Just because it is private doesn't mean it is good. I've known plenty of private schools that have been very lacking in resource/opportunities for their students. On the flip side, there are also very poor public schools. As time consuming as it may be, you really need to do a lot of research on each school you are choosing from and make sure it will be the best fit for your child.
I think each preschool is so different that it's not public or private that matters so much as what YOU and your child want out of school. My kids do go to a private preschool but that's partly because they don't qualify for the public preschools.
I honestly don't think anyone can say public is bad and private is good (or vice versa). What they can say is "The public school isn't what I want for my child while this particular private school is". I know we looked at many schools and did not think most of them were a good fit for my son. Had public been an option we definitely would have considered it.