Ever since my daughter and her friends have turned two, the conversation in almost every birthday party veers in the direction of which preschool the kids will attend. Having recently gone through the sometimes stressful process of shortlisting, visiting and narrowing down the choices, here are some tips to make the process more streamlined and manageable.
Set Your Criteria: The first and most important is that any choice of school has to factor the kind of person your child is. While we may all want to find the best elementary schools or preschool in our area it may not be the best fit for a child. Many kids start with having separation anxiety issues and added to that if your child is a little timid then they may well prefer a smaller, home-based set up whereas an outgoing, confident preschooler might enjoy a larger group. The other important starting point is also trying to figure out what’s most important to you both in terms of curriculum as well as how the school operates. My husband and I had two clear must-haves – one was that the school be a Montessori and the second that it be close either to our house or one of our workplaces.
The School Visit: Having established our key criteria, we narrowed down our options and then started the time-consuming process of visiting each school – either during their open house or by scheduling a one-on-one visit. Our intention during the visits was really to get a sense of how the school operates. Some of the questions that we asked were around the daily routine, the amount of time available for educational activities for kids and outdoor play, how teachers enforce discipline and the number of students per teacher. Since the kids were to nap in school, it was also very important for us to see the nap area and understand the process that was followed in school to ensure that children took their nap.
While we were taking in the environment, our focus was also very much on the teacher. That to me is one of the most important factors especially if this is your child’s first time at school. At some schools, we weren’t able to meet the specific teacher assigned to my daughter’s age group but we made it a point to follow up and visit it at a time when we could meet with her. It’s important not only for your child with click with the teacher but also for you to feel at ease and be able have an open conversation about your child. Warmth, cheerfulness and a welcoming attitude were some of the qualities that we focused on when assessing the teaching staff. While we were initially more inclined to favor the more experienced we realized quickly that some of the newer teachers also had a zest and love for teaching that was equally appealing.
Solicit Feedback: Along with our own visits, we also did our due diligence by soliciting feedback from other parents. If we knew people whose kids went to a school we made it a point to get their opinions as well as to discuss any concern that we had from the school visit. Where we didn’t know people, we just asked the school if they could put us in touch with any current parent to get some feedback. None of the schools that we asked had any issues in doing so.
It’s Not Irrevocable: After putting all these elements together we were able to narrow down to 2 schools and finally went with the one that was a little closer. But we were very clear that the decision was not irrevocable and we watched her closely for any signs of unhappiness (apart from the initial separation anxiety).
The early experiences in pre-school are so crucial to fostering a lover for learning and exploration in kids. Hope these few tips help you find the right preschool where your child can thrive and blossom.
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