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#1 of 9 Old 02-19-2013, 06:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It looks like we'll be sending my DD to preschool a year earlier than planned. That means I have to start visiting/applying to schools ASAP, but I really have no clue what to look for. I don't even really know how to tell a daycare center from a "real" preschool. Mostly, I'm just not sure what negatives to look out for. Anyone have some BTDT advice on prescribe preschool search? I'd really appreciate it!
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#2 of 9 Old 02-19-2013, 07:11 PM
 
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The difference between a "real" preschool and a daycare will be pretty apparent. A preschool will offer limited hours... usually 3 hours a day, 2 or 3 times a week. There will be preschools that also offer before and/or aftercare but often in a different room with different caregivers and a real shift in activities. Preschools are generally 3 to 5-years old and potty trained. There are some exceptions. Montessori tends to be full-day, everyday preschool but really do your research on them as they can vary from site to site pretty drastically.

 

As for what to look for, that's all up to what you and your child like. Personally, I went for pure play-based preschool. There was no letter or number curriculum. They didn't learn colors or shapes. Instead, they did messy art and science projects. They learned a lot about nature through hikes, outdoor play, growing things in class as well as lots of visiting animals from chickens to lobsters. Lots of sensory experiences... big vats of flax seeds, sand, water, beans, ect. Lots of singing, stories and imaginary play.

 

I taught preschool for a few years in a more academic preschool. We had a curriculum. We actively taught basic prek/k skills. I wasn't crazy about it but we were also working with underprivileged kids who often had a LOT less natural exposure and so could benefit from it more.


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#3 of 9 Old 02-19-2013, 08:35 PM
 
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Here preschools and daycares are obvious as well. Preschools close for school breaks and summer. Full time would be considered 4 days a week in my area. Almost all of the traditional preschools are closed on Fridays here but I know that isn't universal. They don't have hours from say 7:30-5:30, most start at 8:30 or 9am, some go half day or all day, either 12-1pm and the "all day" ones would be done by 3pm. Just like a regular school day. Like a PP said, 3-5 years of age usually. I know for our preschool, the state licensing is different for 2 and under then 3 years and + so it is only 3+ and fully independent in the potty. I know many parents that use the daycare centers as  preschools. A lot of them follow curriculums, lesson plans, etc...

 

My kids end up at a preschool that I never in a billion years thought I'd look at. A church based one. And we are not religious. The funny thing is that is it more "crunchy" and play based then most of the really sought out preschools in my area.  They adore my kids, and the lead teacher has gone out of her way, including getting state exemptions, for my special needs child to be able to attend. I'm a huge fan of play based schools so I'd pick one of those in a heartbeat over a more rigorous school. We've had chickens and baby goats as class "pets". DD2 would grind her own grain for her own bread every day. It's been fun over the years to see all their little adventures. 

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#4 of 9 Old 02-19-2013, 09:12 PM
 
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Hi newmamalizzy

 

I'm in the same place again!

 

We just started looking at preschools/daycares and I'm finding it daunting. Especially because I live abroad there are so many other concerning issues... I'd like a more play-based "curriculum" but here everything is largely academic and not a good fit for my son. He is advanced academically and would get soooo bored with things like "learning" colours and letters and numbers, shapes etc. all stuff he has mastered for a long time. But he has some small social/communication challenges (due to very mild ASD/SPD) and is somewhat behind his peers in some other ways. I just can't seem to find a good fit. Add that to that fact that it is so expensive and here most are FULL day, 5-day per week programs. Ugh, sounds like my decision is made. 

I think I'm actually leaning toward finding someone with a similar-aged child who I can trade childcare with on a regular basis. Or something more like this.

 

I'm interested in hearing about your search and experiences of others as I continue exploring my options here.


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#5 of 9 Old 02-19-2013, 09:54 PM
 
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We have just been going through this process as well. We decided we wanted a play-based pre-school so that helped to narrow our search down (quite considerably actually).

A friend who is an early childhood teacher suggested that we make sure that play-based truely is that as some places describe themselves as play-based but actually mean "unstructured play after you've finished your worksheets".

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#6 of 9 Old 02-20-2013, 02:59 PM
 
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I prefer mixed aged classrooms. I find the expectations end up being more appropriate and there are more "experienced" peers to model different things (this is how we get our snack etc).
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#7 of 9 Old 02-20-2013, 06:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the input! 

 

I'm on a real computer today, so I can add some more detailed questions.

 

1.  As for the daycare/preschool thing:  I'm getting confused with the "early childhood education" type places that take kids from 6 months old and then have a "preschool program."  Is that an actual preschool?  I tend to discredit these places because I cannot understand people sending their 6 month old to school unless it's really just a cloaked daycare.  So, if I understand correctly, a "real" preschool program is generally accredited?  Or does that not really matter? 

 

2. Most of the instructors seem to have an associates from the local state college and an early ed. certification, but a few have upper level degrees.  Is there any benefit to having instructors with Masters degrees?  Is the philosophy likely to be more sophisticated and well-researched?  Or is experience and low-turnover a more important attribute?

 

3. I'm very concerned with discipline.  So far I've found one school (that we can't attend) that had a VERY well-elucidated discipline policy.  Otherwise I've seen nothing about this.  We don't do time-outs, never-mind punishment, so I'm really concerned about this.  I think this is the area where I'm feeling the most squeamish about letting my stay-at-home baby go. 

 

4. Does anyone have insight into personality and preschool? I'm worried that I'm not going to choose a school that's right for my DD's personality, even though it may have all the attributes that I prefer.  For instance, I definitely prefer the idea of a play-based preschool with more free play time than anything else.  BUT my daughter really doesn't do well with independent play at all.  She rarely chooses to play with toys at home, and will choose interaction with an adult (ME) over most other activities, and when she does play she still needs constant interaction and affirmation.  She also really seems to like "following the teacher."  We've seen that in her from a very young age.  She attends a gymnastics class by herself, and she really loves following the directions and doing what the teacher tells her to do.  Part of me wants to challenge her by putting her in a school that will strengthen her weak areas.  If it's better to play to her strengths....I almost think she would LOVE doing worksheets :)  But I think I'd personally like her to be able to choose that activity rather than it being required. 

 

Peony, I haven't thought to look at any of the church schools, as we're not religious either.  There's actually a Christian Montessori that I've been passing by, but maybe I'll take a better look.  Cost is definitely a factor for us. 

 

Expat-mama, good luck on your search.  My DD sounds a lot like your son in that she's got all the number/letters/shapes/colors stuff down, but is just kind of different than her peers in some ways.  She's sensitive and intense, and demands a LOT of attention.  I think if we only had full time academic programs to choose from, I would put it off for a while, or try to find a daycare for a few days a week instead. 

 

tbone - I have been thinking that mixed age would be a good choice for DD.  Older kids talk more, and she really seems to need that.

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#8 of 9 Old 02-21-2013, 01:46 PM
 
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1.I try to tread carefully here because I don't want to offend people that do need or want different kinds of care for their children. I have had a full time nanny in the past so I was once there myself. Generally speaking, a traditional preschool is not going to have 6 month olds on site. They very well may have a preschool room and have a preschool program just like they have an infant room or a toddler room. We haven't used a program like that but they are popular and plentiful and I do know of numerous SAHMs that use such programs like I would use a 9-12pm preschool. What I have learned is that many people object to the term daycare and so many are called early education centers, etc...  It can get very confusing because there are people that use them as preschools or say that that their one year old goes to school. Just apples and oranges. We've never gone to an accredited preschool, licensed yes, Unless it is run illegally, it will be licensed. Accreditation often means so many hoops to jump through that a program might not want to do. Not for lack of want but perhaps lack of funds or time that would take away from the actual children. We have only gone to very small schools though and they often do not have the resources that larger places would. 

 

2. Turnover is very important to look at. Pay is often quite crappy in jobs like this and so sometimes turn over is due to this. Poor management though might to be blame for some of it or lack of support. Our lead teacher at our preschool has confided in me that she makes far more money cleaning houses then she does as a preschool teacher with years and years of experience but she loves the kids so she stays. I look at job satisfaction over what type of degree they have. Which can be difficult to gauge but you can look at how the teachers interact with the kids. Do they look happy to be there, what happens when a temper tantrum happens, are they empathic, etc... Quietly observing during an outdoor playtime is often a wealth of information. Are the teachers engaging with the kids or over in a huddle ignoring them. 

 

3. Discipline can be tricky. and it is wise to ask questions as to how they handle incidents. Kids do adapt very quickly usually so they learn things are different at school then at home. 

 

 

4. They are all so different! My DD1 failed miserably at an amazing play based farm preschool. It was a horrid fit for her, and I loved everything about it. She never did go back to preschool so i can't comment on that. DD2 had a rough transtition to preschool, we pulled her out for a few months and then tried again at the same school where it just clicked that time, and worked. The next year though, the lead teacher changed and the teacher and her had a personality conflict. it isn't a great fit but we stuck through it and she survived. Honestly if I hadn't of just had a baby right when all that was happening, I would of pulled her out instead of forcing her to go but frankly, I needed her to go and did not provide that as an option.  Preschools here often have 1.5-2 year wait lists so changing schools is never an option but in many other places it is. If it isn't work, you just change. It isn't rocket science at this age, it feel like it is though! 

 

 

Our preschools have been multi age so ages 3-5 in the same room. When DD2 was 5, it was a little rough because she was the oldest and was bored (JUST missed K cut off) but it was great at 4 and it has been great with DS at age 3 in there as well. Church preschools are often a little cheaper then other ones. We either ignore the religion or it has sparked good conversations when DD2 was 5 in that room about how they believe that way and why we have different beliefs. I actually heard for years how good our current school was but refused to consider it because of the religion and I did learn a valuable lesson that I shouldn't judge before learning more. There is always going to be something in your child's schooling that you don't love. It is rarely if ever going to be 100% perfect, so it is choosing the parts that are most important or perhaps what you can live with. I discovered I could live with religion to get a welcoming, nurturing environment. 


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#9 of 9 Old 02-22-2013, 06:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Peony View Post

1.I try to tread carefully here because I don't want to offend people that do need or want different kinds of care for their children. I have had a full time nanny in the past so I was once there myself. Generally speaking, a traditional preschool is not going to have 6 month olds on site. They very well may have a preschool room and have a preschool program just like they have an infant room or a toddler room. We haven't used a program like that but they are popular and plentiful and I do know of numerous SAHMs that use such programs like I would use a 9-12pm preschool. What I have learned is that many people object to the term daycare and so many are called early education centers, etc...  It can get very confusing because there are people that use them as preschools or say that that their one year old goes to school. Just apples and oranges. We've never gone to an accredited preschool, licensed yes, Unless it is run illegally, it will be licensed. Accreditation often means so many hoops to jump through that a program might not want to do. Not for lack of want but perhaps lack of funds or time that would take away from the actual children. We have only gone to very small schools though and they often do not have the resources that larger places would.

 

Thanks for clarifying this.  I just often feel like I don't trust these places because I don't really believe in "schooling" a younger child.  I feel like it's a gimmick to earn more money making people believe they can make their baby smarter with these programs.  I have no problem with SAHMs sending their kids to a daycare or whatever else for a few hours a day, as this is exactly why I'm looking for preschools earlier than I had planned :)  

 

2. Turnover is very important to look at. Pay is often quite crappy in jobs like this and so sometimes turn over is due to this. Poor management though might to be blame for some of it or lack of support. Our lead teacher at our preschool has confided in me that she makes far more money cleaning houses then she does as a preschool teacher with years and years of experience but she loves the kids so she stays. I look at job satisfaction over what type of degree they have. Which can be difficult to gauge but you can look at how the teachers interact with the kids. Do they look happy to be there, what happens when a temper tantrum happens, are they empathic, etc... Quietly observing during an outdoor playtime is often a wealth of information. Are the teachers engaging with the kids or over in a huddle ignoring them. 

 

Do you feel like teachers "peform" when they know there's a visiting parent? 

 

3. Discipline can be tricky. and it is wise to ask questions as to how they handle incidents. Kids do adapt very quickly usually so they learn things are different at school then at home. 

 

 

4. They are all so different! My DD1 failed miserably at an amazing play based farm preschool. It was a horrid fit for her, and I loved everything about it. She never did go back to preschool so i can't comment on that. DD2 had a rough transtition to preschool, we pulled her out for a few months and then tried again at the same school where it just clicked that time, and worked. The next year though, the lead teacher changed and the teacher and her had a personality conflict. it isn't a great fit but we stuck through it and she survived. Honestly if I hadn't of just had a baby right when all that was happening, I would of pulled her out instead of forcing her to go but frankly, I needed her to go and did not provide that as an option.  Preschools here often have 1.5-2 year wait lists so changing schools is never an option but in many other places it is. If it isn't work, you just change. It isn't rocket science at this age, it feel like it is though! 

 

Funny, there's a farm preschool near us that I am DYING to send my DD to.  It's not really an option, I don't think, but it's totally my dream school for her.  I have a feeling she wouldn't like it just because it's so perfect to me.  That's just the way my plans for my DD seem to go.  It does feel like rocket science sometimes.  I really stress over this type of decision, like I have to find the exact. right. thing.  In reality she could probably go to any preschool and be alright. 

 

 

Our preschools have been multi age so ages 3-5 in the same room. When DD2 was 5, it was a little rough because she was the oldest and was bored (JUST missed K cut off) but it was great at 4 and it has been great with DS at age 3 in there as well. Church preschools are often a little cheaper then other ones. We either ignore the religion or it has sparked good conversations when DD2 was 5 in that room about how they believe that way and why we have different beliefs. I actually heard for years how good our current school was but refused to consider it because of the religion and I did learn a valuable lesson that I shouldn't judge before learning more. There is always going to be something in your child's schooling that you don't love. It is rarely if ever going to be 100% perfect, so it is choosing the parts that are most important or perhaps what you can live with. I discovered I could live with religion to get a welcoming, nurturing environment. 

 

Thanks for all the advice, Peony.  I don't really have anyone to discuss this with IRL, so this has been really helpful.  Especially since, as I said, I tend to stress over these things. 

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