My sons are just a few months away from finishing their first year of Preschool. They go 2 days a week for just a 3 hours per day, but it’s incredible the amount of leaning packed into those few hours.
Some days they come home singing new songs, or utilizing new words. Shocking as it sounds, they were even reciting the Pledge of Allegiance after only attending classes a few weeks. Each morning at school, the line leader for the day walks into the main room carrying a small American Flag with the entire class trailing in a row behind them. Then they all put their hands on their hearts, and say the Pledge. How do I know this? My wife and I received this important bit of information during our interview!
Yes, I said Interview. Before the boys stepped foot inside of a classroom and learned their first song, we sat down with the owner of the Preschool we were interested in, and interviewed her. All of our questions were answered, and our fears were quelled before our sons started school, and more importantly, before the school received our tuition check.
We really wanted the twins to start kindergarten on the right foot.
This made picking the correct Preschool even more important. There are several things we looked for in a school, and so many of questions we made sure to ask.
The first step in picking a Preschool is deciding the type of school you are looking for. Is it education or socialization based? How does the school approach learning? You’ll find that some are play-based, some incorporate reading and math earlier than others, while others let a child decide how much he/she wants to learn.
- Some Preschools follow educational models like the Montessori Method, the Reggio Emilia system, or the Waldorf Approach. You’ll want to research these to see if they fit your philosophies.
- Is location an issue?
- What is your budget?
Keep in mind, the stricter your requirements, the fewer choices you will have.
Once you’ve found a few that seem to fit your standards, it’s time to set up some interviews.
Here’s some of the 7 questions you want to keep in mind during the interview process:
What is the Teacher to Student Ratio?
Different classrooms will have a different mix of teachers to students. Consider the needs of your children when deciding what class size is right for you. 1 teacher to 7 students is about average.
Ask what a typical day at Preschool is like.
Do they do arts and crafts? Do they have a curriculum that includes writing and math? What about free time for play? Because we asked the right questions, we also learned about things like snacktime, show and tell, and the weather forecaster (where one of the children are assigned to step outside and see what type of weather they are having for the day, and then report their findings to the class.) How do these activities fit with your child’s intellectual, emotional and physical needs?
How long have the teachers been with the school?
Happy teachers usually mean happy kids. If a teacher has been with the school for a long time, it’s normally because they are pleased with the school and their position within it. If the school has a lot of new staff, chances are that turn-over is high, and that could mean that there’s a problem. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about their training requirements. Is the school accredited? Public schools need to meet state and district requirements. Private schools get additional accreditation from organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Independent Schools.
Is playtime a focus too?
At 3 and 4 years-old, no one expects a child to sit at a desk for 3 hours straight. Kids need to be kids, and that often means moving about. Role-playing and interacting with other children should be part of that play.
How do parents get important information?
How are teaches able to communicate with the parents? Do they send out emails? Do they have a newsletter? What if you have a question for a teacher, or administrator? Can you email them? Is there a number to call?
When is your child evaluated?
It may only be preschool, but everyone wants their child to succeed, and sometimes this means getting a little extra help in areas. What if your child loses focus easily? What if they need to work on fine-motor skills? Are they interacting with their classmates in a positive manner? These are all things that a parent should know before they become a larger issue. Are there parent teacher conferences? If a teacher sees an area that needs improvement, do they contact the parent then, or wait until the end of the year after the problem has escalated?
How are they correcting behavioral issues?
For as much as we’d like to believe that our children are angels, we all know better. Most schools have a disciplinary guide they follow. It may start at redirection or time-outs, and then go as far as expulsion. Are inappropriate behaviors addressed and dealt with accordingly, and how are they discussed? Are issues dealt with by both parent and teacher? Make sure the answers fall in line with what you feel is right for your child.
Remember, Preschool is the foundation of your childrens’ education. Ensuring that they have a solid base of learning will be the secret to their continued success as students.