PRESCHOOL! Yes it’s now happening. When I think of the process I usually associate it with fear and frustration. Let’s admit it’s not as simple as 1, 2, and 3 anymore. These days trying to find a school to enroll your child in is like winning the lottery, a one in a million chance. But as much as I try to dodge this process, I knew it needed to be done. Let’s face it; a high-quality early education is one of the best investments you can make for your child to build that long lasting foundation.
Taye is quickly approaching 3 this fall so it was time for us to enroll him into pre-school. Lucky for us, we did put his name on a waiting list for one of the schools of our choice when he was 6 months old but we still had to shop around for backups. [And keep in mind you don’t really have to do this, I was just so nervous after hearing so many horror stories] During the very early stages of our search, we had no idea what we were looking for. We read a lot and spoke to a lot of other parents to pick their brains. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, I cannot emphasize enough. This was the key to our strategy in figuring out what we wanted. Now that we have it all figured out, I have to say that it wasn’t as painful as I originally thought it would be.
I put together a list of tips to help with your process and hopefully you find it useful. Good luck!
ONE: Figure out what you are looking for. Play based or more structured or both. Talk to your friends and other parents to get their insight on schools and find out what they have learned in the process. This will help you gain a few tips and it is also a good starting point into what type of schools to consider.
TWO: Take a tour and what to look for when you are there.
* Look at the displays. Is there artwork or academic projects displayed on the walls or somewhere in the room? Do all the pieces look identical or are they more varied? A variety indicates more creativity and exploration.
* General cleanliness. Chances are if the site is not well cared for, they will treat your children the same way.
* How is the interaction between the children and the teachers? Are the teachers respectful and down on the same level (literally kneeling) during interaction? Does it seem like there is a purpose behind the activities you are observing?
* Who is leading the tour? Is this person articulate? If they are not? How can you expect them to connect with your children. If it’s not the director, ask to meet them so you can find out the educational background and experience of the leader.
* Classroom and outdoor area environment. The classrooms and outdoor areas should have open floor plans. Well organized classrooms allow the teachers to be in clear sight when children are playing independently. Shelves should be stocked and easily accessible to encourage creative play.
* Safety. Is there a system of entry and exit at the school. There must be a strict drop off and pick up guideline in place. Are there safety features in place like toys without sharp edges and storage of potentially harmful materials?
* Ask lots of questions.
THREE: Pay attention to student performance. Ask how they track child development and screen for potential problem. Is there an outline for curriculum or is it just play based? How do they prepare your child for Kindergarten academically, mentally and emotionally?
FOUR: Trust your gut and instincts. If you don’t get a good feeling as you enter the school. You are probably right on the money!
FIVE: Every family has their individual needs so go with what’s best for your family.
As always these are opinions of my own, keep in mind I’m no expert. I’m just learning through trial and error just like all other parents. Do you have any tips? Please do share.