Once you've determined your child is ready for preschool, the next step is to actually find one. So where do you begin?
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a preschool for your child. Some may be more important to you then others so making a list will help you put your thoughts together and have something to refer to.
Start by identify your priorities and needs. Is location a deciding factor for you? Are you looking for a preschool near your workplace, or would one closer to home be more convenient? Are you looking for a specific approach to learning? Do you want the curriculum to be more educational based or to include activities such as dancing and storytelling? Figure out what are your must haves and what you're willing to be flexible on.
Do your research. Ask around to find the most reputable preschools. Friends and family can give you the names of schools they've liked, and we all know that personal references are the best kind.
Go online. Both NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and the National Association of Family Child Care have Web sites as well; visit them for guidelines and contact information. NAEYC also has a searchable online database of accredited centers and preschools.
Visit and interview. You can ask a few preliminary questions over the phone (to find out basic information and fees, for example), but you won't get a sense of what a preschool is really like until you go there and meet the staff and director. Ask the director about everything from hours, fees, and vacation schedules to philosophies on child-rearing issues such as discipline and nutrition. Also, get a schedule of daily activities. Most importantly, pay attention to your gut feelings about the place and how the director handles your questions. Your initial instinct about a place can be very telling.
When you visit the classrooms, check the teacher-child ratios (In bigger schools, 1:5 is typical for 2 to 3 year olds, 1:7 is ideal for 3 to 4 year olds, 1:15 is acceptable for 5 year olds), and note how many children are in a classroom. Observe how the teachers interact with the kids - make sure they're friendly, caring, and encouraging.
Ideally, you'll want a regular, challenging curriculum, as well as a warm, clean, safe environment and experienced teachers who happy with their jobs. Ask about staff turnover. If the teachers change every six months, move on. Children crave consistency and need to form strong relationships with their caregivers, so you don't want a preschool where teachers come and go.
Ultimately, choosing a preschool is a personal decision. If, after visiting a preschool, you love the idea of having your child there, it's probably the right place for you.
Positive word-of-mouth is a powerful endorsement. If a certain preschool has a lot of buzz, ask parents why they're raving about it. Ask each school you're considering for a list of parents whose children have attended the school. Call them, and ask specific questions - Not just whether they like the preschool - ask what exactly they like about it and what they don't. If their child is no longer there, ask why. You may also want to call your state's Better Business Bureau to see whether any complaints have been filed against the school or its teachers.
Visit the school with your child. You'll want to see how s/he and the teachers interact and whether s/he seems comfortable in the preschool's environment. Does s/he enjoy the activities? Do the teachers seem interested in getting to know your child? Your child's gut feeling about the school is just as important as yours. If s/he gets a positive vibe s/he'll be willing to spend the day thee.
If the preschool of your dreams has no openings, don't despair. Put your child on the waiting list, and let them know why you like the school so much. It won't guarantee you a place, but it can't hurt to let the school know how enthusiastic you are about the program. In the meantime, if you've applied to more than one school, you'll at least have a few options to consider.
While A Mother's Haven doesn't endorse any preschool in particular, we're always here to advise and guide you through any challenges or concerns for your child/ren.
Visit us at:
16101 Ventura Blvd. Suite 230
Encino, CA. 91436p. (818) 380-3111 w. shopthehaven.com