How to choose the best pre-school?
Oh my goodness, this season completely snuck up on me! I can be a planner in certain aspects, but totally a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl, in other areas. Apparently finding and enrolling my first in preschool was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience. Did you know that kids can start as soon as they turn three, at least in Oregon?? If you find the right school, that is. Many schools that take kids under the age of three have to be a licensed daycare, and that is not what I wanted for my girl.
This summer, when my second daughter Alana was born, I was feeling really overwhelmed with transitioning to two kids and knew Lucia (my three year old) needed some more socialization and getting in regular play-dates and doing all my other duties just seemed so daunting. Plus she asks questions like, "Mama, how do you read?"
Seriously, she's ready to learn how to read?? My background is being a teacher, but this definitely intimidated me as a mom. So I asked around and found out that it was totally possible for her to start pre-school as soon as she turned three, in October!
So I researched, asked friends, toured a couple schools and settled on one.
I was shocked at how many preschools were essentially just daycare for 2.5 hours a day. This is NOT what I wanted, I was searching for a school that would TEACH her, through play, intentionally and believe that kids as young as three can learn math and science through creative age-appropriate exploration, lessons and play. There is nothing wrong with that, if you really do just want a daycare for your kiddo for a couple hours, to give you mama a break, or to bond with your newborn, those were definitely incentives for me!!
The approach the teachers have with the students as well as the overall philosophy of the school is incredibly important to me, as this philosophy shapes the culture of the school. As a former public school teacher, I know how true this is and looking at schools through the lense of educator AND parent has made me very aware of what I'm looking at.
A few questions I asked when touring schools…
1. What’s your approach with discipline?
The approach with discipline was so critical, and if this question wasn’t answered in alignment with how I raise my children, that school is not a good fit! Don’t leave this one out.
2. How much instructional time is there?
Instructional time for three year olds means, they actually spend time talking to the children about a specific topic, or reading them a story, this also means the children have to learn to sit for a few minutes and listen quietly to someone teaching them, which is an important skill in learning “how to do school.” I'm pretty passionate about this, especially in this instant gratification society we live in, I want my children to learn patience, listening skills and how to respect their teacher.
3. Are there any field trips?
Field trips are so fun and extremely important to me, especially since I’m paying for a private preschool! I had one school tell me they didn’t do field trips because of the disciplinary issues among some of the students in the classroom. This was a huge red flag, I’m paying for my child to attend this private preschool so she doesn’t have to be surrounded by a ton of discipline issues, and I certainly don’t want her to not be able to enjoy or experience field trips due to others behaviors. I do completely understand this reality, as I too, have had to not do field trips when I had challenging classes and was obligated by administration to include EVERYONE, even when those children may be a serious safety issue.
The school we choose requires each child to have a parent with them, this allows everyone to participate and discipline their own child, if need be, but also sure makes it easier for the teachers to have a 1 to 1 ratio!
4. What kind of events does the school host for the children?
School events, the school we did decide on hosts several events, some in the evening, some during schools hours, but the school is more than just a school, they aimed to also be a community of parents who are connected to each other. Full disclosure, I’ve haven’t even barely scratched the surface of getting to know all the wonderful parents at our school, but it’s definitely something I want to do and it’s good to know the other parents are interested in the school being a community for them as well!
5. Do you follow a curriculum? Which one?
Then another HUGELY important question is if the school follows a curriculum. Honestly the choice of curriculum itself isn’t the #1 factor for me, but how the question is answered reveals a lot about the knowledge the teachers and director have about early-childhood education and development. Do they believe in challenging children at their level?
I hope my experience and thoughts help you to navigate the process of choosing the right preschool for your child. As mom I was nervous about reviewing schools and second-guessed myself in the process of if I was choosing the right one, until it became abundantly clear that the preschool we went with was definitely the right fit for my daughter.