How is it February with 1.5 year olds, and we're already stressing about WHAT preschool our children are going to be attending in the Fall?!?!
"YOU ARE KIDDING ME?!" was my initial reaction to a girlfriend, who informed me preschool registration started like, TODAY. I broke out in a sweat and could not even fathom the idea of my little, itty, bitty munchkins waving goodbye to me at school.
At first glance, preschool "shopping" is an incredibly trying task if you have no starting point. You need to be smart about it, and break it down into a few categories that will best fit your families needs. This will quickly clarify a path to a few schools that you can further research.
I never imagined this to be a make it or break it component, but after one year of preschool under our belt and prior wavering between a school that was a 5 minute drive versus a 25 minute drive, I now see the light. I would advise not having to drive more then 10-15 minutes to a school. This is truly going to narrow down the playing field of contenders.
2. Discipline/Conflict Resolution Style:
If you are placing your child in a preschool at the young age of two, I've found it important to find a school that will mimic what you, yourself do at home when there is a conflict. You are in the beginning moments of building your communication, conflict resolution, boundaries style for your littles; you want this to be consistent. In our case, our school not only encourages the style of discipline we use, it has empowered me as a parent to use new techniques that I may never have been exposed to otherwise.
3. Curriculum Style:
Truly preschool is just that. "before school." Find a program that you believe in and fits your child's personality. A place that will challenge your children to learn at their own pace, and in an environment they feel confident to excel in. For some that may look like a child-directed play based curriculum. For others it may be a faith based curriculum that helps teach those building blocks of faith early on. We gravitated towards a co-operative curriculum that is creative based and implements Reggio Emilia principles. We wanted to foster an environment for our kids that would continue to allow them to be kids and learn cooperative and expressive communication skills very early on. This Reggio Emilia style is closest to how we parent and discipline at home and is a perfect extension for them to attend twice a week..
Be sure you and your partner make it a priority to tour each preschool that is on your list. Have a list of questions that you can ask the Director during your visit (see Questions to ask). Don't let them shy you away from viewing a class "in session."
Narrow it down to your top three and set a 2nd appointment for your children to come and shadow a classroom as well. Don't let the lack of "readiness" cues your children might show discourage you when shadowing. The other children have acclimated into their settings and routines over the past year and developmentally matured since their first day, so don't compare!
While you are going through this process of elimination, be realistic and recognize the school setting, the educators, the director, should feel like an extension of your home. If anything was off-putting during a visit, go with your mother's instinct and choose a different school that you feel will work for your family during this pivotal transition for your kiddos.
5. Ask Questions:
Don't shy away from asking any/all questions you may have for each school. If you want to narrow down your long list of options, ring the schools and ask to speak to their Director. When you start touring your favorites, make sure to sit down with the Director and ask additional questions. (see Questions to ask)
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