Preschool is a major milestone for parents and children, and something not to be taken lightly. When the time comes, it’s best to look over the options and create a list of questions before you set out to investigate all the local programs.
Ask yourself, “What kind of childcare or school environment am I looking for?”
Do you picture your child in a busy, active place with lots of other children, or are you looking for a small, nurturing environment with just a few kids? Are you looking for a particular educational philosophy? How does this school approach learning? Some philosophies are play-based, some introduce reading and math earlier than others, and many schools incorporate multiple philosophies. Some preschools follow specific educational models such as the Montessori Method, the Waldorf approach, the Reggio Emilia system and more.
What kinds of specific needs does your young child have: toilet training, napping, socializing?
Do you want a school located near your workplace or your home? If the preschool is private, are the fees within your budget? What kinds of needs do you have regarding your schedule?
After thinking about the school environment and determining some of your needs, you can begin your research by talking with neighbors and friends to get an idea of area schools. Then, find a few programs which fit your needs the most and schedule a visit to the classroom, so you can meet the teachers and see how the program is.
Here are some specific questions parents should ask at any type of preschool:
• What type of experience and credentialing do the teachers have?
• What is the daily routine?
• What is the school’s philosophy on parent involvement?
• How is discipline handled?
• What is the policy for sick or injured children?
Ask as many questions as you want. Nothing is out of bounds when you’re talking about your child.
When visiting a preschool, rely on what you see. Oregon law requires minimum staffing ratios of one adult per 10 children in a preschool classroom, with a maximum class size of 20. Any parent can imagine what that ratio would do to an adult, so look around and see if there are other staff members to help out.
Think through your wants, needs and questions before you visit. Make a checklist and take it with you.
Throughout your visit, make note of the following:
• Is the classroom developmentally appropriate?
• Are the rooms decorated with teacher art or children’s art?
• Are the children safe, busy and happy when you visit?
• Does the school have a lively, creative order to it?
• Are the kids engaged?
• Is there a good balance of teacher-led and child-led activities?
• Are you comfortable with the technology use?
• What types of hands-on curriculum are planned?
• Is the setting safe? Are the bathrooms easy to get to? Are they the right size?
• Check inside and outside. Is the playground right outside, or is it within walking distance?
• Is it a kid-friendly place?
• Staff turnover rates? How long has the teacher been there?
• How long is a normal day?
• Are the teachers happy and do they enjoy what they are doing?
Armed with knowledge that your child will be safe, secure and happy is a great way to enter a learning environment. If you, the parent, feel comfortable, your child senses this. This fosters your involvement and ensures a safe feeling all the way around.
By Gary Weaver