Parents often have trouble choosing a good preschool for their children as they are bombarded by conflicting information from either the popular media or other fellow parents. Some parents may like to send their kids to the nearest preschool (for obvious reasons) while some may prefer to send their children to a school that is suggested by a relative or a friend. However, a random choice can lead to dissatisfaction sooner or later. Contrary to what you may actually believe, choosing the right preschool is not as difficult as applying for degrees! Take a look at the checklist that follows, this will help you to navigate through your preschool choice list before making a final decision.
Safety and Security
Considering the possibilities of various forms of abuses that befall children, it becomes crucial for parents to ensure that a potential school provides a safe and secure environment.
- A simple walk through school premises and spotting security cameras is a rough estimate of how mindful the administration is about this issue.
- Going further, parents should also dig information about how teachers identify pupils under potential distress or at a risk of harming other children.
- A school counselor or a psychologist at school is a good indicator as well.
This is probably one factor that pops up when you think about choosing a preschool. As you walk into a school:
- You should expect to see lots of interactions between the teachers and the children. If you notice smiling faces in a class then teachers have done their jobs quite well.
- Regardless, set time aside to interact with the teachers. Interaction will give you a chance to assess their love for teaching.
- Another telltale sign of teachers’ motivation are statistics about teacher turnover rate. If many of them have stayed at the school for a good amount of time then you can rest assured that your child can be in trained and experienced hands.
Almost everyone says that a good classroom environment is important but what exactly does the environment should have to entail to be called good?
- The size of the rooms should be adequately sized for the amount of kids. As such, it is of importance to gauge the size of the room in relation to the number of chairs placed for kids!
- Also watch out for the items in the class. If the walls bear art, writing, and pictures made by children then the classroom space belongs to them.
- Last but not the least, educational toys, books, and other toys are also important.
In today’s world, it has also become imperative to ensure that preschools are equipped with latest tools, which have the potential to transform the learning space. This is because educational tools and props can empower educators to become co-learners with their students by building new experiences for deeper exploration of content. However, parents should also be mindful of the fact that their shortlisted school offers the needed support to teachers in accessing and learning about new tools themselves. A school that provides ample programs for teachers to learn isn’t simply wasting time, rather programs organized for teachers re-affirms a school’s conviction to support children beyond completing curriculum! As such, parents should be on the look out for such signs.
Our society places heavy demands on individuals when it comes to the ability to acquire technology-related skills. Under this scenario, it makes sense to provide technology-related knowledge in the early years. No wonder, parents look for technologies like projectors, iPads, desktops and even touchscreens when they visit schools. And, it does make sense to look for these in order to ensure that children will get due exposure. However, not many are aware about the perils of relying too much on technology in the early years.
- Substituting touchscreens and iPads for practicing letters and numbers can have an adverse impact on the fragile, yet, developing writing skills of young ones. Well-informed parents should query teachers about how much time they devote to using the latest gadgets as compared to traditional notebooks and copies. There should be a good balance.
- Similar reasons could be advanced for handing over iPads to children for completing fun learning tasks. No doubt that children are more engaged and motivated to completed academic tasks on gadgets. However, this should not come in the way of routine social interaction or group-based learning. Looking up the class schedule to find out about outdoor playtimes or group learning is a good telltale sign in this regard.
Schools ascribe to varying philosophies and it makes sense to understand the differences.
- Montessori schools, for example, focus energies on cultivating independence in children.
- Reggio Emilia approach grounds programs in children’s natural development.
- Then there may be are other options like religious preschools, which may be attached to churches and temples.
Think about these philosophies carefully and choose something that resonates with individual family values. Bear in mind that schools should not be judged solely based on how traditional or progressive its classroom practices are. The fit between a school’s practices and your child is more important. As a parent, you are the best judge. If you think that your child learns better in a structured environment then you should opt for more traditional schools. On the other hand, if you feel that your child needs more independence for blooming then you should go in for philosophies like Montessori. Some parents report that there appears to be a mismatch between how they would like to coach their children and how the school actually does it. In cases, such as these, it is wise to enroll children in preschools that have a more religious bent.
New Things and Opportunities for Children
Preschools may offer immersive experiences that children wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to taste. Examples include classes in ballet, piano and yoga. Parents should not fail to grab these opportunities because it means reduction in other after-school classes. Moreover, enrollment in special school-based classes means that children get to learn from a variety of sources i.e., field trips and guest presentations. However, schools vary in the kind of classes that are provided. Some may offer more non-educational activities while the others may offer activities that are more aligned with curriculum/learning. Examples include extra computer training and abacus. A child’s inclination should guide parents’ decision. It wouldn’t be a good idea to send your child to a school that is heavily inclined towards learning when your child is also interested in physical activities.
The School Principal
The school principal may not be involved with children’s development and training directly but digging information about him/her is essential as she/he is in charge of running the school. A principal may also be involved with other broader aspects that may affect your child eventually, especially when the principal is responsible for setting the curriculum, recruiting teachers and managing school budget. If you get a chance to meet the principal then you are in a good position to understand, if he/she is warm and fuzzy or more concerned with fundraising and management. At least, she/he needs to be effective personality to be able to run a successful school. It makes sense to find out about her vision and activities, if personal meeting is not a possibility. An effective principal does things differently.
- Principals should be on the front lines, working with the stakeholders to improve not only the community but also the school.
- A principal is the leader of the school. Check to see, if he/she is respectful, keeps a smile and maintains a positive attitude.
- As a principal, it is easy to get busy. This is acceptable but as long as it isn’t done a regular basis. Check to see, if the principal is accessible to all stakeholders like teachers, other staff members, parents, and students. It is important for principals to have an open door policy.
Keeping everything aside, this is one aspect of your school search that will allow you to take a sneak-peak into a potential preschool.
- It’s a good bet to find out, if other parents have ever had concerns and the manner in which the concerns were addressed by teachers and the school principal. Asking hypothetical questions like ‘What if my child has problems making friends?’ is bound to get you to the core of other parents’ perspective on the school.
- These days, parents can get hold of reviews about schools. These reviews may be written anonymously by other parents and could appear on a school’s Facebook page or other Google pages. Many parents rely on such reviews in an unknown environment, for instance, moving to a new city where it is not easy to connect with other parents.
As a parent, you should ensure that the tuition fees are worth the assistance that children receive at school.
- Aside from tuition fees, you need to be aware about money deposit and if the deposit is refundable. Carefully read the school prospectus to scan for withdrawal policy. Parents make the mistake of not going through the terms and conditions thoroughly and this attitude may turn out to be problematic, in case, one needs to withdraw admission from the school. You may want to change the school for a number of reasons.
- Parents can also scan school reviews to look for parents’ woes regarding refund of deposits or withdrawal policies.
Preschool education is a stepping stone to higher education and parents might also want to consider, if their chosen preschool is affiliated to boards like ICSE, CBSE or other international boards (IB). Exposing children to patterned curriculum will help streamline training and make children school-ready. Some parents still say that they would like to go easy and enroll their children in a preschool that is not affiliated to any boards (e.g. local preschools in the neighborhood). The latter group of parents is of the opinion that this kind of training will not tip the scale in one direction early in life. However, a parent is a best judge!
If a parent does go in for a school that offers a free curriculum then it is important to look for the following:
- Schools should normally teach math, literacy, science, creative arts, and social skills (at an age appropriate level), among other subjects and skills.
- School activities should be designed around these subject areas.
- Educators who have designed or have been involved in developing school curriculum should be prominent figures or well-qualified individuals.
Few other things to remember
If you started with anxiety over deciding upon an appropriate preschool for your child then many of these points may have dispelled your doubts. Choosing a preschool is a complex task and it’s perfectly normal to oscillate between choices as a parent to a young one. Family circumstances and learning styles of children differ and some factors may hold more importance for one parent-child dyad than the others. Regardless, parents can make an informed choice that will ultimately blossom the tender minds.