Finding A Preschool For Your Child.
If this is your first time searching for a preschool we know what a confusing experience it can be. The pressure to find a quality school can make even rational parents become a bit crazy.
Anyone who watches the popular TV show Modern Family appreciated the hilarious competition that developed to get one-year-old “Lily” on the waiting list for the “best” preschool. Thank goodness it isn’t usually THAT bad.
Questions you may initially have are:
How will your child be placed into classrooms, divided by age?
What are the teacher’s credentials and experience?
What is the student-to-teacher ratio?
Are the children allowed to choose their own activities based on interest?
What is the cost of tuition?
What are the school’s discipline policies?
Do the schools hours of operation fit your needs?
Does your child need to be potty trained?
Will there be plenty of outdoor time for physical activity?
Any preschool you are considering should provide a tour and time spent viewing a classroom in action, observing children actively engaged with each other and their teachers.
There are many choices in the style of programs such as play-based vs. academic and there is conflicting research/ opinions as to whether early academics help children succeed in elementary school and beyond. Programs that allow the child to learn at their own pace while providing materials and lessons to stimulate curiosity and encourage exploration would be a great objective. This is a hot topic so do some research.
An often-overlooked aspect in early childhood classrooms are the social and emotional environment. Important life skills such as: learning how to initiate and maintain friendships, getting along with others and eventually working together as a team. Learning to connect and relate with others will help your child successfully develop relationships for the rest of their life.
Time spent outdoors with nature can be invaluable to a child’s education as well. Children who learn in an environment with physical activity and a connection with nature have been shown to enjoy school more as well as have greater retention in class. Most importantly the kids are just happier with fresh air and exercise! Go to any playground and there is your proof. It is also no coincidence that if you ask the majority of elementary school boys what their favorite part of school is their answer is either gym class or recess. Kids need movement! (I know – we repeat ourselves a lot!)
In other words, does the preschool meet your child’s needs socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically?
Things you should ALSO be looking for in a preschool:
Does the school you’re considering have energetic and enthusiastic teachers that love to explore and investigate?
Does the staff encourage curiosity and creative problem solving?
One of the best teachers I know is constantly looking for creative ways to inspire the 3 – 6 year old children in her classroom. After doing research she brought in an entire series of science related experiments using water. There were tubes and funnels and pipes and lots and lots of sponges and towels. The children LOVED these lessons and these materials were never on the shelf because the kids were constantly using them and experimenting and making messes. Water was everywhere. The children in her class were excited to come into the classroom each day and see what “Miss Sue” had brought for them to explore. At every age learning should be exciting to children and encourage further exploration.
Are the children allowed to choose their activities based on interest? Letting a young child follow their interests is a great way to engage and encourage passion and curiosity. Maria Montessori describes this as: “Following the child.” Children joyfully discovering how to make bubbles one day and learning about the animals of Africa the next!
When you visit the school are children having fun and engaged?
Do your research as not all schools are the same. If you are looking at a Montessori school for instance, not all require full teacher certification.
Ultimately your child will get into the college he or she is MEANT for based not on the pedigree of the preschool they attended but on their own personal determination, ambition and curiosity. Attempt to find schools and teachers that encourage just that.
“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”
– William Butler Yeats
Bam Radio Education Network: “Putting ABC’s Before Social Skills” Mark Ginsberg, Executive Director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children
Mayo Clinic/ Child Development Chart: Preschool milestones (below link) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/child-development/MY00136