Many parents will be visiting preschools as early as February either for the enrollment for the upcoming fall, and for some, it won't be until the following January at midyear, 2005. Either way, everyone needs guidelines when it comes to choosing a preschool. Don't just ask your friends and relatives - go out and check it out for yourself.
Take your preschooler with you but do so if he/she is not tired, hungry or sick. Take a quick tour and come back later for more questions.
There are parents out there who will enroll their preschoolers solely on location. They will also take the word of friends and relatives. Don't do it. Go to visit on your own. Unannounced visits are vital in seeing firsthand how the school staff will interact with visitors. You may not be able to even get any farther than picking up information about the school, but that's OK as you will also get to have interaction with the secretary and/or possibly, the director.
- Ask for a quick tour and a policy manual.
- Ask to see the curriculum listing and plan book (or sheets) for the current 4-year-old class.
- How many classes are there?
- What credentials does the school have?
- How long has the present director been there?
- What is the background of the teacher that your son may get? How long has she taught? If a teacher does not have a degree - it's not a big deal. Go by experience and how she presents herself to you and your child.
- How many and what kind of meals are served?
For a more in depth interview - make an appointment.
Make sure you look at the rooms.
- How old is the building? Has it been tested for asbestos and what type of cooling and heating do they offer?
- How big is the inside and outside play area?
- How many children are in one class?
- Is there an aide if the class goes over a certain number?
- What type of discipline guidelines do they have?
- Is the room safe and child friendly?
- Are the toys and books on a low shelf? How often are the toys washed?
- Are there field trips? Who drives for the field trips?
- Is there a music and/or art program?
- If academics are important to you ask about how much writing and reading they will do.
- Don't ditch a preschool if it is not accredited. This process is expensive and some cannot afford it.
- Write down other questions that might be important to your individual child and family.
- If you do not understand any answer -- ask the question again. Do not be shy. Talk to other parents and call references.
You want to look for a teacher who knows first aid, loves children and adores teaching 4 year olds. If you think all of this is a waste of time, you will regret not checking out the various schools and situations. A little work in the beginning could save a lot of heartache in the end.
Jodie Lynn is an internationally syndicated parenting/family columnist. Her latest book is Mommy-CEO: 5 Golden Rules (It's not just for moms!). Visit www.ParentToParent.com for more information on Jodie's work.