Preschool, the first step on your child's academic journey can serve as the basis for all future learning. Preschool teaches important social skills like how to be independent, how to share and how to follow directions. Tidewater Parent asked the area's experienced preschools teachers for their opinion on what should be considered when selecting a preschool.
Investigate the school's philosophy
First and foremost cover this decision with prayer. God created your child, a unique individual and He knows exactly what your preschooler needs.
As parents approach the choice of a preschool for their child they should expect to spend some time investigating before making a decision about which school will best meet their child's needs. Good sources of information about local preschools include the Internet, local parenting magazines, pediatricians, and other like-minded parents.
Key factors that parents should consider when trying to find a pre-school that will meet their needs and the needs of their child include the school's philosophy of education, its teaching methods, and its approach to discipline. Investigating the school's philosophy of education and teaching methods as well as its disciple policies to be sure that they line up with those held by the parents will help to ensure a positive relationship between home and school. Once these factors are determined, parents should consider the pre-school's classroom structure and daily schedule to ensure that it will nurture their child's social emotional growth and support the development of language and readiness skills.
As parents put together a list of possible choices they should plan to visit each school with a list of questions. The questions should cover topics such as cost, daily schedule, and teacher-to-student ratio. Observing in the classroom and asking for names of parents that could be contacted would also be helpful. If a parent's current experience with that school matched their expectations they should be happy to share that information. Taking the time to do some investigation before making the decision about where to place your child for preschool should help to ensure a positive experience for all concerned.
Areas for consideration:
- Length of day
Questions to consider:
- Does the school's philosophy of education and discipline align with my philosophy?
- Are you looking for a rigorous academic program, something more socially based or a healthy blend of both?
- Will this preschool meet my child's needs academically, socially, emotionally, spiritually and developmentally?
- What and how do I want my child to learn in preschool? Does this school meet or exceed my expectations?
- What is the best environment for my child? Is this school a right fit for my child's personality and learning needs?
- What do other preschool parents say about this school?
Education is an investment, and you want to make sure you are making the best decision early on. Ask yourself these questions, seek God for wisdom, and choose the preschool that best fits the individuality of your child and the unique needs of your family.
Sheree Beale and Kelly Caroon
Consider what's a good match for you
The key to the answer to this question is in the question itself - whether it is right for you and your child. Preschool has to be a good match for both parents and children. Parents who feel that their children are in a safe, secure, and nurturing environment will be able to conduct the business of their days with less worry and more ease. There are many points to address in finding that place.
Before even looking at the "nuts and bolts" of the school, reflect on how you felt when you walked in the door. Did you feel welcome? Was the environment clean and attractive? Did the children reflect a happy disposition? Was their (the children's) work on display? Did the playground offer options to support the physical development of a preschooler?
Look at the operation of the school. Be sure that the hours of operation work for your family. Determine the cost to be sure that it fits into your budget and if not, ask if there are any avenues for financial assistance. Make sure that the student requirements meet your child's physical needs, i.e., age potty training is required, arrangements for food allergies.
Do you want to be involved in your child's preschool experience? If so, be sure that the program offers opportunities for parent participation and that the choices work with your schedule. Can't volunteer during the day? Ask if there is something that you can do at home in the evening.
Look at the educational program of the preschool. Be sure that it is aligned with your philosophy of education. If you haven't developed a philosophy, I would recommend looking for a program that subscribes to Developmentally Appropriate Practice. In this program, the curriculum looks at the total child and is based upon the idea that experience is the most meaningful way to learn. The day is balanced with opportunities for children to develop in all areas - academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. It addresses the needs of children who may grow and develop at different rates. The program balances teacher directed and child-directed activities with the teachers guiding the children's learning. Children actively explore the environment, whether it is mixing paint to learn about color, patterning manipulative materials to develop readiness skills, or looking through picture books to find answers to open-ended questions.
Ask some questions about the faculty. Be sure that they have the appropriate education for their respective positions and ask about the school's requirements for professional development. Be sure that the teaching staff's philosophy of guiding behavioral development works with yours. Check on the faculty turnover rate. Establish that the teacher/parent communication gives you a sense of what is going on in the program. For example, find out how the teachers let you know what is happening in their classroom. Do they send home newsletters, post notes outside the classroom doors, and/or use e-mail? Do you have access to the methods they use? If you are looking to develop a particular set of values for your child, be sure that the faculty and the curriculum reflect those values. There is something very special about a program where the teachers create a caring community though developing children's ethical behavior.
For most people, when you think that you have found the right preschool for your family, you will walk away looking forward to your child's first day of school, anticipating the excitement of your child's return home to share the wonder of their day.
Alene Jo Kaufman
Strelitz Early Childhood Center
Trust your instincts - and your research
Let's face it. This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make- to leave your most precious one in someone else's care. The answer to this really begins with you. Research educational philosophies and determine what you are looking for.
Do you want a play-based school, a structured program, an academic or religious based preschool or a Montessori school? Then research the schools in your area to see if they offer the kind of program you are looking for.
Schedule tours and observations during class time so that you can see if children are happy and engaged in their activities. Are teachers engaged with children?
Do you feel a sense of respect and love for children that each teacher should have? Trust your instincts. Upon entering the school, if you have a good feeling about the environment and staff then this is definitely a good start.
The next step is to check the qualifications of the teachers. Do these qualifications meet your expectations? If so, then this may a good fit for you and your child.
Shanna Honan, M.Ed.
Teacher and Owner
Chesapeake Montessori School and Virginia Montessori Teacher Education Center
Source: Tidewater Parent Magazine