No, this is not a reference to the spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood, but it is about an uneasy partnership between parents and the educational system.
I would like to say that every preschool is awesome and will set your child up for the rest of their educational life, but I know better. Some preschools are lacking talent and some are just a notch above a daycare center. How do you know what is a good or great preschool? The cost certainly won’t determine it. There are many expensive preschools that claim they will get your child ready for kindergarten, but will not deliver.
What to Look for in a Preschool? First place to start, visit a site with parent reviews. A site like Great Schools will give you a good idea of what to expect on your visit. Be sure to read the good and bad reviews. Get to know the staff and the credentials of the teachers. The longer they have been at the school, the better. Teachers tend to stay at schools that support them, and where they and the parents are satisfied. If you see a high turn over rate, just move on to another school. Don’t get fooled by the exterior of the school. They can have the instruments needed to teach, but if the teachers aren’t staying, that is a HUGE red flag. Upon the visit to the schools you have selected, take a good look around the classroom. You should see a vibrant room packed full of aides to help your child get engaged in the learning process. The toys and learning instruments should be age appropriate. The teachers and staff should be able to give you information on activities they will be conducting throughout the year. If they don’t have a fairly clear plan of what they are going to be doing, walk away. Organization is the key to success, and if they aren’t organized, they aren’t ready for a classroom full of energetic preschoolers.
Things to Look for in the Classroom
- Books, lots of books: board books, simple reading books, picture books, etc.
- places to sit for looking at books, drawing, private time, and other activities.
- cleanliness; clean and tidy bathrooms that are child friendly and close to room, clean and tidy play areas with easy access to toys and supplies. You should feel like you are walking into munchkin land.
- Stimulating toys and activities, blocks, puzzles, art supplies, and a central gathering rug for kids to come together and communicate is always good.
- Letters, numbers, colors, and shapes everywhere for kids to reference. Kids learn best when they can touch and interact with their world.
- Eco-friendly toys. The number one problem associated with learning disabilities outside of genetics, environmental toxins like lead. Make sure the school is just as concerned about the environment as you are.
Some schools focus on science, some on math, some on reading and writing. Be aware of the focus of the school, because you will need to pick up where they lack, especially if you want your child to be well-rounded by kindergarten. They may claim to teach all fields of study, but that may not be the case. Try to focus on teacher to student ratio and not class size. This will tell you just how much attention and time can be allotted to each child.
Make sure the preschool has a constant and open policy when it comes to communication. If you feel at anytime shut out of the process, that is a HUGE red flag and time to look at a different school. Honest and open communication is a must, and it is an area that you should never compromise on throughout your child’s educational life.
Lastly, follow your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid to remove your child during the school year. It is better to move on to something else then leave your child in a place that leaves you and them miserable. You won’t be able to do this easily once they start kindergarten. Take your que from your child. If they are happy and thriving, that is a good sign the school is giving them what they need.