Now that a new year is underway, it’s time to start considering the options for your preschooler in the upcoming school year. Studies have shown that children who participate in some form of preschool programming experience social, emotional, physical and educational benefits that will help them in Kindergarten and beyond. There are many preschool options available, so it is important to take the time to select a program that will be the best fit for your child and your family.
When you begin the search, you will have to sift through a variety of different approaches that preschools take to learning. There are “play-based” preschools that allow children to learn primarily through play. There are Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools that offer child-centered, hands-on learning with an aim to foster independence. There are “traditional” preschools that follow a set schedule of early childhood educational activities. There are religious preschools that combine early childhood education with faith-based learning. There are public and private programs. There are morning and full-day programs. There are in-home and center programs. Each of these programs has benefits and the one you ultimately choose must be the one that best suits your child’s personality and your family’s needs and values.
When you’re ready to narrow down the list of options, start by talking with family, friends, and people that you know in your community. Find out which preschools they have used and hear first-hand about their experiences. When it comes to picking a preschool for your child, one of the best ways to narrow down your search is through referrals from other families. If you know any elementary school teachers in your area, see if they have any insight about the preschools that their students have attended. Your local school district may also be able to provide you with a list of preschools in your area, although they generally do not make recommendations. And don’t forget to make sure that the preschools you are considering are appropriately licensed by the state that you live in.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, reach out to the preschools on your list to get more information and to set up visits. It is helpful to have a list of questions available so that you can gather as much information as possible to help you with your decision. Some of the things you may want to ask about are:
- the educational approach/philosophy,
- the background of the teachers,
- the cost (including enrollment fees, tuition, annual assessments, meals, field trips, etc.)
- the hours of operation and whether it is year-round,
- the security measures in place,
- the approach to discipline,
- the meal/snack options,
- the approach to communication,
- the classroom sizes and teacher to child ratios,
- the general daily schedule
Although you may be able to get many of the answers to your questions on the school’s website or by speaking with someone on the phone, it is also important that you visit the school in person during hours of operation. Doing this will enable you to get a feel for how the school operates as you walk around and see everyone in action. It will also give you the chance to ask other questions that may come up during your visit. If possible, consider bringing your child along for the visit. You may be able to get a feeling of whether or not the school is a good fit based on how your child responds during the visit.
Hopefully, the preschool will be able to provide you with additional information to bring home so that you can take a closer look at their policies and other factors that may impact your decision. Don’t forget to ask if they have any references that you can contact. It can be helpful to get the perspective of a current or former parent.
Once you’ve done the research, gathered all the information you need and visited some preschools in person, it is time to trust your gut and choose the preschool that you feel will be the best fit for your family and most importantly, for your child!
All Stars Montessori is an individually owned, private Montessori child care in Apple Valley, Minnesota. If you are considering preschool options in the area, we would love to have the chance to tell you more about our program and to set up a time for you to come and visit. We have been serving families in the Apple Valley area since 2007 and have had the joy of seeing over 350 preschoolers head off to Kindergarten prepared and ready to go! We have both full-day and morning preschool options available as well as programming for infants and toddlers. Call now for more information and to schedule a visit. 952-432-2422