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How to Choose the Right Preschool for Your Child
Are you looking for a kindergarten or a nursery for your child? Chances are, you have come across quite a number, but you may be confused when it comes to choosing the right one. Find out the types of preschool institutions and curriculum, what to consider, and how to choose the most suitable preschool or childcare option for your child.
Types and Levels of Pre-Schools
Pre-schools are children’s learning spaces and educational institutions that cater to kid’s learning and developmental needs. Preschool age range is between 0 and 6 years. These institutions are meant to prepare a child for the compulsory primary education.
There are different levels and types of daycares, nurseries, and kindergartens based on the needs of various age groups, ownership and operating hours. These include:
Public vs Private Kid’s Learning Centers
Public preschools are free since they are funded by state and federal governments through taxpayer’s money. Most states in the US have several government-funded kid’s learning centers including special education programs, head start programs, preschools and not for profit kid’s institutions. They offer healthcare, daycare services and nutritional guidance in addition to education services. They are primarily meant to cater to children from low-income families.
Private kid’s learning centers. Private kindergartens and preschools depend on tuition fees to meet their operating costs and make profit. Parents are charged on the basis of the services offered and whether you enroll your child for part-time or full-time programs.
Church-affiliated kid’s learning centers are a common type of private preschools. Such institutions are usually owned by a religious center and may incorporate religious teachings in their curriculum.
Co-operative preschools are a cheaper category of private preschools. They are formed by a group of parents who hire a few professional teachers to run the facility. The parents volunteer to assist the teachers in the operations of institutions. They have a say on the curriculum and activities that the children will be involved in.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time Preschools Children’s Learning Centers
Full-time preschools offer all-day services while part-time have sessional services and drop-in options. Usually, part-time is defined as 3.5 hours or less per day. Part-time programs are most suitable for younger kids (6 months-3years) while full-time programs are ideal for older kids (3 years and above).
These establishments mostly cater to kids from the age of 6 weeks. Some daycare centers cater to children up to the age of 13 years. Daycare centers are more focused at on offering childcare services than they are at on offering education.
Such preschools primarily offer playing facilities and programs that support your child’s development. They may incorporate some element of education, but they are to a great extent kid’s socializing centers.
Nurseries are the stepping stones to primary education. They cater to children aged between 3 and 5 years. Most nurseries have an education program that focuses on teaching basic scholarly concepts, socialization and life skills.
In the US, both public and private kindergartens cater to children between the age of 5 and 6 years. Like nurseries, kindergartens are focused at on building an education foundation for your child before he/she joins compulsory primary education.
It is worth noting that while some kid’s learning centers are exclusively daycares, nurseries, playgroups, or kindergartens, most institutions encompass all in one.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Kindergarten or a Nursery
There are a number of factors you need to consider when choosing a suitable kindergarten including:
Dropping off and picking your kid from preschool daycare can take up a lot of your time and resources. Decide whether it would be more convenient to take your child to an institution near your place of work, home or in between.
Your Child’s Temperament, Interests, and Needs
For instance, while one kid may be good at music, another one may be good at learning languages. Before embarking on a school search, take some time to understand your child so that you can find a school that matches their personality, talents, and learning style.
The Learning Center’s Curriculum and Philosophies
Different institutions employ different curriculums and philosophies. The most common preschool curriculums include Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, HighScope, Bank Street, Parent co-ops, and religion-based among others.
Methods of education for preschools include arts and crafts, games, music, motor activities and listening. Ultimately, whichever curriculum you prefer, it should have a precise education plan, incorporate hands-on activities, and support the social and physical development of your child.
School Size and Capacity
Pay attention to the staff-to-child ratio in a given institution as well as the facilities available. A definite red flag is if a school has too many students, few teachers, and limited facilities.
One of the best ways to qualify whether a preschool center is suitable for your child is by checking its reviews. Visit online reviews forums to see what other enrolled parents say about the center. Ask within your community for referrals. Look out for complaints about a prospective center. If there is a buzz about a particular school, ask the enrolled parents what they like about that school.
Compare tuition rates against the services offered by different preschools and narrow down to the ones that provide the services you need within your budget. Some institutions charge per week, others per month, and others per school term. Also, consider the payment plans available such as installment payment plans and discounts. Aside from tuition fees, factor in charges on transport, food and snacks, and co-curriculum activities.
When deciding between full-time and part-time options, consider your child’s age and needs. For instance, half-day programs may be better suited for a child below the age of three in comparison to a full-day program. If you are a working parent, choose an institution that operates within the hours when you are at work. Most institutions offer the option for a child to start in a half-day program and transition later to the full-time program.
How to Choose the Right Kindergarten
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to go about choosing a preschool for your child.
Know the Characteristics of a Good School
The right preschool should have a definitive philosophy, a child-friendly learning environment, a schedule that is ideal for preschool age range, qualified teachers and staff, and a teacher to student ratio below 1:7.
Do Your Research to Identify Prospective Schools
Ask for referrals within your social circle. Identify preschools within your locality and find out about their offerings. Search online for preschools near you.
Schedule a Consultation Meeting and Tour
Most kid’s learning centers offer prospecting parents a tour around the school, and a consultation. The tour gives you a chance to take a look at the center— its facilities, activities of the day and staff engagement with the kids. The consultation is an opportunity for you to engage with the administrations and have your queries addressed. You may want to bring your child along for the tour to see how they react to different centers.
There are crucial questions you should ask and things to look out for during the consultation and tour.
Important Questions to Ask during a Preschool Visit
- Safety and security. What child-proofing measures have been put in place to ensure the kids are safe? For instance, have fences, gates and security keypads been installed to prevent children from straying and strangers from getting into the institution?
- Staff qualifications. What are the training requirements and qualifications for teachers and other staff working in the institution?
- Daily schedule. What types of activities will your child be engaged in on a particular day?
- Food and snacks. Does the center offer meals and snacks to children? Take a look at the institution’s menu. Find out if you can pack food, drinks, and snacks for your kid.
- Behavior management approaches. What discipline and behavior modification approaches does the institution employ on children?
- Parental engagement. Are parents engaged in the kid’s and school’s activities? Are there opportunities for you to discuss your child’s progress with his/her teachers?
- Assessment. What are the assessment criteria? Is assessment per child-based?
- Unique child’s needs. If your kid has special needs and interests, find out how the institution will factor them in.
- Fees and extra costs. How much does the school charge for tuition, co-curriculum activities and any other additional charges? Request for a fee structure.
- The range of services. What types of services does the center offer? For example, music, painting and drawing, cooking, gardening, and other extra curriculum activities.
- What happens if your child falls sick at school?
- What is the procedure for nursery and kindergarten registration? Is there a waiting list? Are you required to pay a deposit to join the waiting list or to enroll?
- Request for contact information to reach the school if you have questions, complaints, or concerns.
- License. Request to see the institution’s proof of accreditation to offer early childhood education and childcare services.
Things to Look Out for during a Preschool Tour
- Indoors and outdoors facilities at the institution.
- Is the institution overall clean and well organized?
- How do the teachers engage with the kids? Are the teachers friendly and caring to the children?
- Are the staff and teachers warm and welcoming to you? The success of preschool education is highly dependent on collaboration between the educators and parents. Dismissive and uninterested educators are a warning sign to look out for.
Narrow down to two or three options and then select your most suitable one and enroll your child.
Preschools play a crucial role as a firm foundation for learning essential life skills, supporting development and preparing your child for scholarly success. Consequently, it is important that you find the right one. Make sure to check for an institution’s reviews to get a sense of their reputation on the quality of services they offer. Put into consideration the aforementioned factors and follow the steps highlighted above to help you find a good fit.