Time spent at preschool is a time of joy, excitement, wonder and exploration. It’s a time where children’s learning comes through play, hands-on experiences and creativity.
The first five years of a child’s life is a crucial time for their lifelong learning and development. The experiences they have during this period, both at home and in preschool, will influence their brain function and lay the foundations for language, problem solving skills, reasoning and social skills; as well as emotional health.
It’s not surprising therefore, that parents want and need to select their child’s preschool carefully. There is a lot to consider, from location to educational approaches.
When we were at the stage of choosing a preschool for our daughter, we quickly realised that despite all my years as an educator, choosing the right preschool was as straightforward as we thought. To give you a glimpse of our experience, here is an extract from my first post: How Difficult is it to Choose a Preschool?
We breezed into the first one on the list; our hopes high as we admire the paintings on the walls, the ample space, children playing outside. The Principal arrived, and the tour began. En-route to a classroom, the silence was unnerving. A group of children passed us on the stairs. Nobody spoke.
Inside the sterile classroom, the Principal happily demonstrated an activity which has a device for, ‘controlled error’: the child would be stopped in their tracks from making a complete mistake. I looked at the Principal, waiting for that facial expression that would tell me she was joking. She wasn’t.
Undefeated, we strode into the next on the list. The conversation with the teacher was going well; and then the bomb shell. Children were grouped according to what number they could count up to. If a four year old couldn’t count up to fifty, then they’d be in with the two year olds and vice versa. As we reel from this information, another teacher approaches, arms in the air, cheering that it’s only two days until term finishes. We leave.
Grabbing onto a fast diminishing positive attitude, we walked into the next one. There’s a new playground, there’s noise, there’s movement. Then the worksheets come out. The children sit dutifully at their desks, pencil in hand and start the task. We make our exit.
Choosing a preschool for your child can be made easier though preparation and research. Below are some useful points to consider in helping you make that important decision.
Would it be more convenient to choose a preschool near to your home or near to your work?
Would you require a preschool that offers childcare before and/or after the official hours? If so, what would you budget be to cover this extra cost?
Become familiar with the various educational approaches that preschools offer and decide which one is best for your family. For example, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia?
Also become familiar with other approaches to teaching and which one is important to you. For example, would you prefer, child centered, teacher led, faith based, co-operative etc.
Research the schools that you are interested in by asking other parents, neighbours and teachers. Find out if the school has a community online where you can ask questions, and read any reviews you can find on the school.
When you’ve shortlisted your preschools, the most important part of you preparation will be to visit them. During your visits, you’ll be able to gauge whether the school is right for you and your child. You can see how the teachers interact with the children and whether the children seem happy and interested. You can ask about the turnover rate of staff members, how many have degrees in early years development, how they deal with discipline and what safety procedures are in place.
During these visits there will be a lot to take in. To prevent it being too overwhelming, many parents find it helpful to have a checklist. Not only does it mean that you won’t forget to ask or check anything, but it can also be very helpful in making comparisons between the schools and useful in remembering each one! If this would be helpful to you, you can get a checklist above to download and take with you.
Over to you…
What are your experiences with choosing a preschool or what would you find most helpful in the process of choosing a school? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.