Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Choosing a Preschool

My little girl is FINALLY old enough for preschool. She is now "pre-kindergarten" age. Technically I could have put her in last year, but I didn't really see the need. She's been dying to go to school for ages though, so she is positively excited.

Choosing a school was much harder than I had anticipated. This is my first time sending a child to school, so it was new for me.

I picked up some tips through this last week of dilemma. I hope they help you and that you have some to offer if you've already sent one of your children to preschool.

1 - If you can avoid it, don't wait until the last minute. I didn't have much of a choice.... we just moved to our new house a week ago (and it's in an entirely new state), and school starts in just 2 weeks. I had to work FAST. As a result I felt pressured to choose. There aren't many spots left open in preschools at this time of year. Explore your options early so you can feel confident about your choice.

2 - Ask for suggestions. This one goes without saying... but it's important. I searched out 3 preschools and all of them came off of referrals from ladies in my ward. I had to be bold and ask FAST since I had just met them, but it was worth it.

3 - Go meet the teacher/see the preschool in person! Don't just make a judgement call based on what others have said or over a phone conversation. You might have different tastes/needs for your child than your friend. I had preconceived notations about the schools I was looking into and ended up choosing the one I didn't think I would after I had met the teacher and seen the school. I really liked one teacher over the phone AND in person. The other teacher I didn't really like when I talked to her over the phone, but upon meeting her in person I discovered that she's awesome, and just doesn't do well on the phone.

4 - Take your child with you to see the schools and meet the teachers. Let him/her be part of the process and if possible let your child give input. In the end I had narrowed it down to 2 schools that I really liked and I couldn't choose. There were pros and cons for both. It was a HARD choice. I asked my daughter SEVERAL times which one she liked better and every time she said the same one. Since she liked it so much I picked her preference.

5 - If price is a concern you can POSSIBLY get someone to lower their prices. At one point I had settled on one school and called the other teacher to let her know I had chosen somewhere else. When she asked if it was because of the price difference and I said yes, she offered to match the price of the other school! WOW! (I think it helped that school starts in 2 weeks and she wants to fill up.)

6 - Choose a school that fits the needs of your child. If I was concerned about my daughter academically I would have chosen preschool with very few children in it (there was one I looked at that would have had only had 8 kids in the class with my daughter). However, I was looking for a great social experience, so I ended up choosing the school with 16 students and 2 teachers so she would get more of a feel for what kindergarten will be like. This school is an actual building instead of a basement which really appealed to my daughter. I also picked the school that only had pre-kindergarten age children in the class, instead of one with 3 year olds in it as well.

7 - Pray about it. After we'd made the choice I told my daughter that we should pray about it to make sure our choice was good. What a wonderful opportunity to teach your little one about making big decisions WITH Heavenly Father.

8 - If it works for you and you don't have the money, do preschool at home or do a JOY school with other mothers in your area. I can promise you that your child will be academically sound for kindergarten if he/she knows the basics (shapes, numbers, colors, letters, sounds). If you are worried about it, contact a kindergarten teacher in your area and find out what your child needs to know before kindergarten.

I hope this helps!! What other tips do you have for choosing a preschool for your child?


Don't forget to check out Megan's post below about tips for starting school. Although I taught elementary for 3 years, I've never been on the other end of the spectrum. I too would love some advice on getting kids ready for school.


Megan said...

I know for me it was there important that there wasn't such an emphasize on sending homework home for preschool. I also wanted some place that taught somewhat through play. My ideal place would have been the local university lab school, but it is extremely hard to get into.

Delia said...

I am personally a big fan of mommy preschool. As in teaching your child yourself...if you can. You're your child's best first teacher. Who cares if you're formally trained. It's about the bond you make with them that no one else can form with them like you can; and if you are actively doing things with them, like coloring and talking about those colors, or giving them scissor practice, reading to them a lot everyday, singing songs to them...they are going to do fine in school and likely be more emotionally secure to boot. Then, the year before they go to school, like with Claire, I like to do a co-op or joy school. We did one "semester" of that and loved it. The only drawback is that you have to find the right group of moms and kids that jive with what you want to do and how your kid operates. That's not always possible.

I decided to enter my oldest into a university preschool for the second semester right before he entered Kindergarten because he came up on the list and it's a pretty hard preschool to get into. It's also very unique in that they focus more on social and emotional readiness rather than teaching the ABCs {which you can do at home}. it was a wonderful experience. The only thing I didn't like about it is that they had it 4 days a week for 3 hours a day. That's pretty much Kindergarten hours right there. I think that the younger kids are, the more they should be home learning from Mom. I love that Utah does half day Kindergarten {even though I know I am probably in the minority :)}. Sorry my comment is so random.

You really have some great advice Tannie which I will definitely use if {hopefully} we aren't here when my next child reaches this stage.