Finding the right preschool is no small feat. You’re looking for a safe, nurturing environment that will meet all the social, emotional, developmental, and academic needs of your child. Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be if you’re well-prepared.
Hopefully you’ve done your research and have come up with a short list of potential preschool candidates. Plan to tour each preschool at least once without your child–this will give you time to ask all your questions without the distraction of your little one. You’ll want to be able to give your full attention to carefully observing and soaking in the environment. If you like the school you’ll go back again with you child in tow, but for your first visit, it’ll be easier if you go kid free.
Typically you’ll start your tour with a meeting with the director, who will give you the rundown on the school, and then let you fire away with your questions. Most likely you’ll be offered a handbook or brochure that outlines the nitty gritty (school hours, before and after school options, tuition, holiday/days closed schedule, application process, etc.). But there’s a lot more information you’ll need in order to make a sound decision. Here are 5 topics to address that go beyond the basic preschool checklists you’ll find on the internet.
1. What is your educational philosophy?
This is a big one and might seem obvious, but you’ll want to probe deeper than just a standard answer such as “We offer a play-based curriculum.” How does your philosophy get carried out throughout the day? Are all activities tied back to your philosophy? How does your philosophy address the needs of all types of learners? And here’s a big piece of advice: Be sure to ask the teacher this same question!
2. What are your staff’s qualifications and turnover rates?
What are the backgrounds, degrees, and certifications of the staff? Do staff participate in ongoing professional development? A cohesive, highly-qualified staff that receive ongoing training is a sign of a great preschool.
3. How will you prepare my child for kindergarten?
You’ll want to know the level of academic rigor–how much focus is placed on language arts and math concepts? For example, if you’re considering a Waldorf preschool but intend to send your child to a typical public kindergarten, you’ll want to know that the Waldorf method doesn’t explicitly teach numbers and letters in the preschool years.
4. How do you handle parent communication?
Is there an email distribution list, or do you rely on paper notes in kids’ lunchboxes? Technology has been slow to creep into the early education world, but there are plenty of preschools that are opting for modern ways of connecting with families. Look for a school that uses technology to stay in touch. Brightwheel is a free and easy-to-use mobile app that helps schools stay better connected with families.Teachers use brightwheel for recording and tracking daily events and activities in the classroom. As a parent, you’ll get private, real-time updates on your child delivered to your mobile device throughout the day. Brightwheel also allows for digital check-in/check-out, and a paperless billing system.
5. Can I speak to some parent references?
Connect with some current or former families to get a parent’s perspective on the school. Ask about their child’s development in school, and find out what kind of parent community there is. Some schools don’t have a cohesive parent community, which may work just fine for you, but maybe you’re looking for a more close-knit group of families.
If you are satisfied with the answers you get out of these 5 questions, you’re on the right track! But if you’re not, cross this preschool off your list and move on. Doing your homework will ensure that you find the right fit for your child and your family.