How to pick a preschool and why

For some very young children, preschool is NOT the answer.  Some kids just belong at home a little longer.

Now as an “always” working mother, I more than “get” that you have to go to work and the kids have to be somewhere and not everyone can afford in-home care.

But keep in mind that the early learning experience can have long-range impact on the young child. Because this is often the first time that they have been away from home without a parent, finding the right experience is crucial.

Choices for this are often chosen for reasons ranging from: geographical convenience, social (this is where my friends take their children), religious, cost, physical appearance.

While all of these issues are important the list needs to also include:

  1. Experience of the teachers
  2. School certifications
  3. Philosophy of the school
  4. Size of the classrooms
  5. Number of classes per age group (are there smaller classes for children that might need modifications in the general program)
  6. On-going continuing education for the teachers
  7. Frame of reference for age/class specific curriculums
  8. Structure of the school (level of classroom structure and flexibility, is it experiential, etc.)
  9. Classroom facilities
  10. Extra-curricular experiences available (foreign language)
  11. Outside consultants (OT/Speech, Nutritionist, psychologist)
  12. Accommodations and modifications for the child with early learning needs

These issues become even more important when you are selecting a school for a child with special learning concerns.  This is where the occupational therapist is often engaged to help the parent make specific decisions that are essential for a successful early learning experience.

Helping find the right place is two-fold: it must fit the child and it must fit the parents.

Evaluating the home philosophy is as important as the evaluation of the child.   A child from a family that is “democratic” may not do well in a structured school. And conversely a child from a very structured home may be lost in a loosely defined atmosphere.

If your child has been asked to leave a preschool setting the first impulse is to be defensive. But step back a minute and think, “was this really a good match?” Usually the answer will be “no”.  Figure out why before picking the next setting.  

Maybe some testing might help you get to the right decision.  Or maybe an alternative setting might be just the “ticket”.  For more information log onto “The Modified Developmental Preschool” at www.childrens-services.com