One of the hardest first steps you will take in childrearing is sending your little one to preschool. There are certain questions to ask when looking for a preschool that might prove beneficial in making the perfect decision and achieving the optimum match for your child.
Parents are often completely focused on the big question of if there is even an opening at the most coveted preschool in the neighborhood. This desire to get their child enrolled in the hottest school often overshadows the question of if the school is a good fit for the child or not.
Remember: the most popular preschool might not always be the best option for your child.
Even if a majority of kids excel at a particular school does not mean it’s the right choice for your family. Sometimes a parent just has to step back and evaluate what truly matters and what does not.
Visit the Preschools and Ask Questions
When picking out a preschool for your child you will want to physically visit each one of the schools. Sure you can ask questions on the phone, check out their website, or ask them to send you a brochure but nothing compares to physically visiting the school. Some schools sound fantastic but when you get there it is completely different.
Meet the Teachers
Meeting the teachers is an important step picking out a school. You will want to make sure that you like the teachers and that you can communicate with each other. If you feel on edge around a teacher or cannot seem to convey your thoughts to the person then you might want to reconsider sending your child to the preschool.
Top Questions to Ask
Here is a list of the top ten questions that you need to ask when you arrive at the preschool. Ideally, you should write down each one of these questions so you don’t forget anything. Also, keep notes of the answers you receive and your overall impression. This way you can look over your notes when you get home and decide if you are satisfied or not.
Here are the top questions to ask:
Is the school accredited and licensed?
Most preschools are privately owned and operated which puts them at risk of oversights. Preschools must have a license. You should check to make sure it is up-to-date by contacting the county or state’s social service department.
It is ideal if the preschool is also accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accreditation through the NAEYC means that the school meets the highest standards in not only education but also safety.
How long has the school been in business?
You will need to not only find out how long the school has been in business but also determine how long the director has been with the school.
What are the teachers’ credentials?
Laws vary by state but you should ask if the teachers have any credentials. Ideally, they should be certified in early childhood development. Als,o ask how long the teachers have been with the school because a high teacher turnover rate can be a possible cause for alarm.
How many children per class?
Find out how many children are in each classroom. Small groups mean more one-on-one attention. According to Dr. William Sears, a leading pediatrician, the perfect classroom size for a preschooler is no more than six children per teacher.
What is the school’s philosophy and discipline practices?
Every school has their own philosophy and discipline protocol. You need to make sure that their protocol fits your family’s needs.
Do they serve nutritious snacks?
Nutritious might take a back a seat to education but it still remains important. What your child eats during the day has a bearing on his learning and behavior.
How much parental involvement will be required?
Privately owned preschools often expect their parents and students to be involved in fundraisers and other school functions. This is great if you want to be deeply involved but if you maintain a busy schedule with a demanding career then it may not be your cup of tea.
How much free time will your child be allowed to indulge in?
Many preschools are play-based so provide ample free time but others focus more on academics so children have very little playtime. You will need to decide what will work best for your individual child’s needs.
Is the preschool safe?
Nowadays, all parents are concerned with the safety of the school. Is it a lockdown facility? What is the pickup and drop off procedure? You will want to make sure that the children are supervised both inside and outside.
Generally, the staff is trained in CPR but you should verify their credentials. Also, find out what happens if your child is hurt or becomes sick at school.
What does a typical day involve?
This is a great question to ask the teachers. Most teachers plan a structured day so don’t be afraid to find out their schedule of activities. Request a copy of the class schedule. Also, notice if the children are working together in groups or individually.
What the Experts Say
Linda Whitehead, Ph.D., vice president of education and development for Bright Horizons, emphasizes that parents should take an interest in the school’s curriculum. “It’s important to look for a discovery-based program, and not one that is primarily focused on drill and practice skills. While the structure is essential, parents should look for a preschool that offers opportunities for children to make choices about their learning.”
Marnie Trapp, director of Lady Bird Academy in Orlando, Florida, states that it is important to learn about the school’s staff. “I believe that each center has its own personality. It’s not necessarily about the curriculum; it’s all about the staff members and how committed, caring, and dedicated they are to the program,”
Denyse Whelan, a retired school principal and now a K-6 School Education Consultant, outlines her opinion on the importance of a parent picking out a child’s school. “I never recommend one school or schooling type over another to families, because it is a decision only parents can make for their child.”
Even after you visit the preschool and receive all the answers to your questions you still might want to take time to decide if the school is the best fit or not. It’s a monumental decision that is going to be hard for both you and your preschooler.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask to visit the school a second time if you are still on the fence. Picking out a preschool for your little one is an important decision and should never be taken lightly.