How To Choose A Preschool – The Complete Guide
This is the ultimate guide for parents who are considering or choosing a preschool for their child. You will find a checklist on what to look for and how to choose. Everything you need to know about preschool selection starts here.
What Is PreschoolPreschool, also known as nursery school or pre-k, is a facility that provides early childhood education to young children until they are old enough to start kindergarten.
Preschool learning is not mandatory and most preschools are private organizations. Parents who want to send their children to preschool need to look for suitable facilities and pay for the expenses themselves.
Some states offer public early childhood programs such as Pre-K or Transitional Kindergarten, but availability varies by state.
Is Preschool Considered A SchoolPreschools are not accredited schools. In most states, preschools are considered child care centers. They are required to obtain a Child Care license and meet state safety requirements. For some types of preschool, such as Montessori, there are organizations that provide accreditation to preschools that meet their standards. But getting accredited is not a requirement to operate.
Each preschool has their own age requirements. Most require the child to be at least two or three years old to enroll.Some also specify that the child needs to be potty-trained before they can attend. Some schools have long waiting lists. You may need to apply even before your child is at the specified age range to secure a place. Make sure you check with each preschool for their application deadline.
Head Start is a federally funded program that provides free comprehensive early learning and family support to preschool-aged children from low income families. However, their funding levels aren’t always sufficient to provide access to all eligible children. Apply as early as possible if you are eligible.
Why Is Preschool ImportantStudies show that early childhood education in general increases a child’s cognitive development, reduce grade retention and improve behavior during elementary years. Some studies even find that when these students grow up, they tend to involve less in delinquency and are more likely to have a skilled job. Research also finds that kindergarten readiness is a reliable predictor of future school performance.
How To Choose A PreschoolParents should choose a preschool based on the quality of the teachers, the policy enforced by the preschool Director, resources and the overall environment, not so much on its written education philosophy. Oftentimes, when you talk to preschool directors, you will find that they like to emphasize their education method. Parents are, therefore, led to believe that they should pick a preschool based on the marketed philosophy. However, preschools do not need any accreditation to use the names of those education methods. Subscribing to a philosophy does not guarantee it will deliver the same type or the same quality across the board.
Your child’s experience will mostly be shaped by the teachers, the environment and the policies of the preschool.
The NICHD has found that fewer than 10% of the facilities it surveyed fall in the “very high quality” category. That means most preschools are mediocre and some are even low in quality.t is more important to understand how the teachers are interpreting and incorporating that philosophy into their teaching than whether they have a certain buzzword in their marketing brochure. To choose a good preschool, after narrowing down several that fit your budget, schedule and commute, schedule a tour. During your visit, talk to the teachers and staff. Observe closely to see if they meet the criteria in the next section. 4. It is prudent to find a high quality preschool for your child.
The NICHD has found that fewer than 10% of the facilities it surveyed fall in the “very high quality” category. That means most preschools are mediocre and some are even low in quality.
3. Teaching Is Interactive And EngagingLook at how teachers interact with the child during class. Teachers should interact positively and frequently with the children. They ask thought-provoking questions and help kids to think deeper. They encourage children to talk. They also praise the child’s positive actions and inspire them to learn. Teachers should be engaging rather than merely lecturing. They may sing songs, tell stories, read books or describe events. They use games and crafts to teach, and allow children to be active contributors to the classroom. Besides academic topics such as alphabets, counting and shapes, teachers should also cover daily life knowledge.
4. Use Positive Discipline And Patiently Guide The Child’s Behavior
Ask the school for a clear explanation of discipline policy.All preschoolers are developing self-regulation and social skills. They need help to learn social rules and the words to express frustration. Good teachers should practice positive discipline. They should enforce discipline by patiently explaining and teaching, not by punishing. Under no circumstances should children be physically punished or given punitive time-out.
5. A Lot Of Free Playing Time And Social Learning With Teacher’s HelpFree playing has been proven to be one of the best ways for preschoolers to learn. Playing and physical activities stimulate brain growth and enhances early development. Free play promotes prosocial behavior and allows children to develop social competence. Look for a play to learn preschool that not only incorporates plenty of free playing time in their schedule, but also has teachers who proactively guide conflict resolution and facilitate social learning (rather than just letting preschoolers “figure it out” on their own, because they can’t).
Things To Look Out For
The Child’s Behavior May Become Worse If The Preschool Quality Is LowAlthough attending preschool is associated with better cognitive development and social competence, studies show that the child’s behavior may worsen if the preschool is lower in quality. This is another reason why parents should make an effort to look for a good preschool.
Pay An Unannounced VisitSometimes, what we see during a school tour may not be the real deal. When there are visitors, we all tend to be on our best behavior. That includes teachers.
Drop in during class time unannounced and see if you like the way the preschool runs when there’s no other visitors. A quality preschool should have teachers who act the same way whether there are visitors or not.
Ask About Teacher Support And TurnoverTeaching young children is a tough job and teachers should be paid fairly. It is hard to be a happy teacher when you are underpaid. Ask the director about how the preschool supports its staff in terms of livable compensation, benefits and professional development. Also check their teacher turnover rate as a high turnover is a sign of systemic problems.
Talk To Other Parents But Keep An Open MindTalk to current and past parents if you can. But know that not everyone has the same definition of quality. You may have to ask more specific questions to get an accurate picture.
Verify The License Is Up-To-DateIn the US, every child care facility needs to meet a set of safety standards to be licensed. Occasionally, some preschools let their licenses lapse.
Before finalizing your decision, check if the preschool has an up-to-date license. A preschool that doesn’t renew its license should raise a red flag (or worse, some are unlicensed).