What do you look for in a pre-school? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 07-16-2003, 04:49 PM
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I am starting to decide what I want to do with my 2 1/2 year old DD - pre-school vs. no pre-school, homeschool vs. school, etc. I am completely confused and overwhelmed, but luickily I have a while to worry about it! In the meantime I am going to go look at some pre-schools in the area just so I know what they are all about (I was an elementary teacher, but never hung out at pre-schools). Is this too early to look if I wouldn't plan on sending her until next Jan./Feb. at the earliest?

So, what should I look for in a good pre-school? What sort of questions should I ask when I visit? I know I am looking at class size and attendance requirements (if I decide to send her next year I don't want it to be every day), but are there any things you wish you had known or are glad you asked?

Thank you!
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#2 of 6 Old 07-17-2003, 12:00 AM
 
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There are two big things for me:

Discipline
You'd be amazed at what some folks think is a good way to treat a child. Make sure the way of disciplining the child is what you'd want for your babe. Find out if the teachers are given regular training to help them in this area. Even preschool teachers have had bad experiences that can lead them to act in inappropriate ways with little ones, but training can help them get past that.

Academics
I'm a big fan of learning through play, and I couldn't care less if my kids know how to write letters or add or read at any particular stage of their lives. Make sure your dc's teacher is on the same wavelength as you, or everyone could get frustrated.

Smaller things to think about are:
Does the preschool offer outside play time, or do they expect that the children will come to school ready for indoor time (ie, already having had some exercise... we live in a snowsuit climate, and this is a biggie for some parents); what sort of a snack is served; how much does it cost; where are the teachers trained (around here the good college provides teachers for the great nursery school and the poor quality college provides diaper changers at the crappy daycare); do you want a school with a particular philosophy like Montessori or Waldorf, or are you happier with something more middle of the road?

That's what I can think of, for what it's worth!
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#3 of 6 Old 07-18-2003, 12:01 AM
 
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I think it is really important to notice whether the teachers love children and seem excited about YOUR child. They should have an interest in helping your child grow. There should be an atmosphere of utter delight in the children at the school. There should be sunshine and fresh air, and lots of opportunities to explore. I agree with bestjob that it is very important to find out how they handle conflicts and "misbehavior" as well. Is it handled in a developmentally appropriate manner? Are children's possible motives considered?

Another great indicator is NAEYC accreditation. (national assoc for the education of young children) This credential is hard to obtain and shows a baseline of best practices. However, it has been my expereience that someone can be NAEYC accredited and still somehow not really like and delight in children, so a visit must be done to sense the atmosphere and "vibes." You can check the NAEYC website at www.naeyc.org and look under accreditation.

 
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#4 of 6 Old 07-19-2003, 05:12 PM
 
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One of my big concerns was how the preschool handled the initial separation/adjustment for children new to preschool. This was one of my first questions, and based on this, I was able to get a good sense of the school's philosophies. For example, one director actually told me they recommend just dropping your child off & leaving the first day, and then to "stay tough" & stick out the crying, even if it takes a few months! (Obviously I couldn't get out of there fast enough!)

Also, I just fell in love w/the teacher of the preschool I chose. I knew she was someone I would feel great about leaving my child with. Trust your instincts on this one. It is a biggie. Of course, I also checked her out w/as many other moms as I could, who all agreed.

Definately observe as much as you can before making your decision. I was able to observe once on my own & then to bring my child another time. This helped me to not only get a feel for the class, but to see how the teacher responded to my son & his particular temperament.

Lastly, the above mentioned issue of joy in the classroom is so important. In a couple of the preschools I visited, the teachers & students just seemed like robots to me, going through the motions, not enjoying themselves at all. In the preschool I chose, there was an overall sense of joy & respect for the children. Experiencing this, I knew this was the one for us.

Good luck. And PS, I do not think you are starting too soon. Lots of the good ones have waiting lists.

Happy mama of four Wild Things
"And now," cried Max "let the wild rumpus begin!"
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#5 of 6 Old 07-21-2003, 04:58 PM
 
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Hi Amy,
Firstly, I don't think you are starting to think about this too early! There is a lot of time involved to do the research you need to find the right preschool for child. However, I don't think you need to send her right when she turns three. Where I live at least, you wait until the September after your child turns three to start them at the first of the school year. If there was an opening somewhere, I suppose you could start her when she turns three - well, no, the schools I know require the kids to be 3 by August 31 of the school year. Your state may be different though.

I agree with Lauren that finding out which schools are knowledgable about NAEYC will be a good thing. Accredition is very difficult to get but I at least like the teacher to KNOW what NAEYC is! And hopefully go to the state conferences each year.

You do need to do a bit of thinking about the type of preschool you want. There are co-ops - where parents "work" anywhere from one day a week to one day a month at school. I personally think these are great for a child's first year of preschool as they go one day a week without you and one day a week with you - good transition for both child and mom!
There are Montessori preschools - usually more expensive and more days/hours per week than other schools.
There are religious preschools.
There are traditional preschools where you drop your child off but they are more like co-ops in the way they focus on learning through play.
There are private preschools - although most of these are either Montessori or religious.
There are daycares that try to pass themselves off as preschools. I always ask if they have day care or before/after school care. If they do, I cross them off my list.

You want to find something that is within a reasonable distance from your home, that has the number of days/hours per week that you want, that is in your price range. But the most important thing is the TEACHER! A great teacher can overcome a small facility or any other issue. Don't be impressed by the nicest toys or the biggest facility - focus on the teacher. She should obviously love what she does. She should have a calm control of the room - not needing to raise her voice or use much discipline to keep a happy classroom. She should have age appropriate materials and be very knowledgable of what is developmentally appropriate for this age.

I would start by making a list of basic questions-
days per week?
times of class? (morning, afternoon, all day)
cost per month?
student to teacher ratio and class size?
parent participation?
potty trained necessary?
teacher's focus? (some are academic, some are social)
registration date?
registration cost?

I would take your yellow pages and call all the preschools in your area of the type (co-op, Montessori, religious, etc.) of preschool that you are interested in. Asking if you can ask a few quick questions - and those answers - will help you figure out which schools you want to visit. I would go alone (without your child) to the ones you are interested in then go again a second time to those you really like with your child to see where your child seems to fit in best/connect with the teacher best.

Also, asking friends for their recommendations is a good idea but not the end all be all. Some of my very good friends send their kids to schools I wouldn't be caught dead in. Everyone has different things they are looking for in a preschool.
Good luck finding one you and your child love!
Kirsten
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#6 of 6 Old 07-29-2003, 04:56 PM
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Thanks for all your advice! We went to see a Motessori school last week and had most of your questions in mind. It was a "true" motessori which I had not seen before. It was adorable and I liked the concept, but there were some things I didn't like. Classes were 25 kids with 2 teacers, hat is too big in m oppinion (at least for what I am looking for for my DD.) Also, she would have to go 5 days a week. I am not looking for that at all, just somwhere that she could be a few days a week. She is very smart for her age (if I do say so myself ) so I am not looking for a "school" type experience for the learning as much as the social development.

In fact, after reading your posts and visiting the school, I think I will probably wait until DD is a least 4 before I send her anywhere. I'm not positive yet, so I'll probably look at a few more places even if it's just for future reference. I am still thinking about homeschooling, I may go to a "start of the year" meeting for a local group in August to learn more about it in our area. I am also going to ask around about local schools a little more.

Thank you again!
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