Your child’s first day of preschool is a monumental moment. Just as monumental as their first smile, their first word, or their first sentence. As with every monumental thing in their life, you want to make sure that you are making the best choice for your child. If it’s time for your little one to head to preschool, it’s probably helpful to know that not all preschools are one in the same. But what should you look for when you’re picking out a preschool for the first time? Here’s a guide to help you narrow down your search so that you can pick the right preschool for your child.
Daycare V.S. Preschool
If your little spends time their time away from you at a daycare, the idea of enrolling them in a preschool may have occurred to you. But is it a good idea to pull them out of daycare and place them into a formal preschool? The answer depends on you and your child and the needs of your child. Daycares tend to be smaller in size compared to preschools. And if your child has a caring provider that does activities with him or her that are age appropriate, then you may not need to rush into pulling them out of daycare. Many parents find it appealing to introduce parental separation by placing them in daycare first. This allows them to adjust to preschool afterward easily. If you feel that your little one may be lacking an appropriate amount of exposure to a variety of children his or her age, then it may be appropriate to enroll them in a preschool instead.
Although all preschools differ from one another, their basic structure remains the same; grouping children in similar age groups. If you want more options as far as the structure of early childhood education, then you may want to consider a Montessori school. Unlike traditional preschools that group kids together by age, Montessori schools group children from ages three to six all together in one classroom. It’s not uncommon for Montessori schools to have twenty or so students with two or three teachers co-teaching together in the classroom. Typically in the Montessori model, students stay with each other throughout the years as they progress through the program. Older students get to interact with the younger students and vice versa. A variety of skills are explored so that students who develop certain skills faster than their peers can work with other children. This allows children to continue being challenged academically and socially.
Additionally, the Montessori model allows children more freedom than a traditional preschool. In Montessori schools, children are allowed to explore concepts and skills when they feel ready. The model of having the same teacher and classmates as your child progresses through the program is a bonus too. Seeing the same kids and adults allows for a very family oriented experience. If this is something you think your child may benefit from, then a Montessori school may be a better option for your child.
This type of preschool is exactly what it says it is. In a child-centered preschools, the curriculum, lessons, and day to day activities are generally centered around the child. This means that your child takes the lead in their education. If your child prefers to do activities based on their own interest, look for a preschool that follows this method. With the guidance of their teacher, children are given a safe space to explore topics and skills that they find interesting as opposed to having pre-designed lesson plans by their teacher.
A child-centered preschool is not a one size fits all model. If this approach does not seem appealing to you, then you might want to try the opposite; a teacher-led approach. This opposite approach allows the teacher to control the narrative in the classroom. Teacher-led curriculums are generally created by teachers in the preschool setting and include a set of preselected concepts and skills that the teacher will work on with the child. Teacher-led preschools tend to be more structured and routine than child led classrooms. If structure and routine is something you think your little one needs in their life, then this approach may be the best for your family.
Faith-based preschools are another great preschool model. This is great for the family whose faith is a big part of their lives. Faith-based preschools are generally offered through faith-based organizations like churches, synagogues, and mosques. Alongside teaching the tenants of their specific faiths, faith-based preschools will generally incorporate content areas such as reading, writing, and math. Additionally, faith-based preschools provide the familiarity of values and morals taught at home.
Many preschools across the nation are starting to develop co-operative curriculums. In a co-operative setting, there is an “it takes a village” mentality. Parents are encouraged, and may even be required in some settings to participate in the classroom in one form or another. Often, parents are asked to sign up biweekly or monthly to come in and help in the classroom. This could be leading a lesson, participating in an activity, or passing out snacks. A co-operative setting might be perfect for you and your child if you enjoy being a hands-on parent.
Location, Location, Location
A practical way of choosing a preschool may be as simple as the location. Unfortunately, location plays an important role in choosing the right school. If you stay relatively close to your home throughout the day or have a friend or family member that can help you with pick up and drop off, then a preschool close to your home may be a good fit. Another option is to search for preschools near where you work. The practicality of having your child nearby while you are at work can serve wonders. Especially if you find yourself in an emergency situation and you need to be with your child quickly.
Pay Them A Visit
Once you have narrowed down one or two preschools, its time to get driving. Strap your little kiddo in the car seat and visit the preschool. Touring a preschool and watching some of the classes in action is a perfect way to see if your school will fit your child’s needs. Not only that but having your little one tour the facility with you will give them an opportunity to see what they’re getting into. Your child may be too young to give you an authentic opinion about the preschool. But it helps to start a conversation with them about how they felt touring the school. They can tell you about the things they liked, and the things that make them a little nervous.
After Preschool Care
Unfortunately, timing does not play in favor for many working parents. The hours of many preschool programs may not perfectly coincide with the hours we are away at our jobs. If this is an issue that you may face, then you may want to search for preschools that offer after-school care until you can pick up your child. Many preschools offer dual preschool and daycare functionality to help with the burden of not being able to pick up your child until you’re done with work.
Is It Even Necessary?
Preschool is not a mandatory part of a child’s early childhood education. However, the studies do show that they provide some benefit. Exposing your child to preschool can allow your little one to practice vital skills. For example, being away from you for an extended period or following rules. Along with that, your child can develop important skills they will need in kindergarten such as group play, taking turns, and sharing. If these are skills that you practice at home, then they won’t be terribly disadvantaged once they start kindergarten. But the early exposure to a structured routine, however, will help them adjust when they do start the school year as a kindergartener.
The good news is that there are a variety of different formats of preschool available in today’s world. The better news? You are sure to find a fit for your child. No matter what type of preschool you place your child in, be assured of the fact that your little one will be adequately prepared in starting their educational career.
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