Monday, June 15, 2009

A Teachers View - Choosing a preschool!

I am blessed to live next to a elementary school teacher who loves my kids and we love her!! She has multiple education degrees and is the first person I run to when I am worried about speech, development or anything learning related!! She has agreed to write a weekly post for me on some common concerns involving little ones. If you have a topic that you would like to see addressed, please e-mail me at

Preschool Part 2: Choosing a Preschool

So you’re ready to send junior off to the wonderful world of education. But which preschool should you choose??

Preschools, like kids, come is all kinds of shapes, sizes, and configurations. If you know what you’re looking for, you’re likely to find it. If you’re not, keep reading.

The Basics:

- Do you want a “traditional preschool” where kids go 2-3 hours 2-3 days a week or are you looking for more of a daycare, all day, everyday?

- Would you like a center that is church affiliated? School based?

- Are you looking for a lot of options such as kindergarten classes?

- Would your child do well in a classroom with child with special needs?

Questions Every Parent Should Ask:

- What is your staff training like?

- Are you NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accredited?

- How often are the rooms cleaned/toys disinfected?

- Is a snack served? Do parents need to provide? What about food allergies or medical concerns?
- For an all day program – is lunch provided or do parents need to pack one? What is the rest time policy? Are mats provided? How often are they cleaned?

- What kind of academic program do you follow?

- Do the teachers keep portfolios? Behavior logs?

- What is your center’s discipline plan?

- What makes your center special?

When you have your choices narrowed down, visit the center. The first time, you may want to make an appointment to talk to the center’s director and take a tour. Take the tour and use that time to observe, observe, observe. (You may also want to stop by at a later date unannounced for another observation).

Things to keep in mind while you are observing:

- Does the room appear to be clean and organized? Are appropriate things within reach of the children?

- Is there enough space to everyone?

- Are the spaces defined? i.e. the dramatic play area, an art center, library/quiet area

- Is the staff interacting with the students? Is there enough staff?

- Is there evidence of parent-teacher communication? i.e. a parent bulletin board or copies of newsletters

- Is the staff consistent in their discipline? Do you like the interactions you are seeing?

- Does it appear that safety concerns have been met?

- If you can do so without intruding, ask the staff any questions you might have.

I happen to really like the school-based special education preschools where 4-5 typically developing children are in a classroom with 6-8 special needs children. The “typical” kids are peer models for the other kids, modeling things like using words, taking turns, and skills special education students may not have yet. In turn, the special needs children teach the peer models love, empathy, and patience. These types of settings are not right for all children and the waiting lists are usually a little long, but having taught in these schools I am a big advocate for them.

The Bottom Line: Choose the preschool that is right for your child and your family.