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The time has come for my sweet girl to move on to preschool. It has been a rollercoaster of emotion for me coming to the realization that she is growing up, especially knowing how difficult it could be for her (and me) to alter the routine of people and places she’s known for the last three years. These choices may establish her learning pattern for the rest of her life – Wow, the pressure! I have been stumbling through this process – but have come up with a list of basic questions I need answered in order to decide which preschool is right for my precious little one.

Let’s start with some basics:

QUESTION #1: Hours/Schedule

  • Does your preschool have a traditional school schedule with many days/weeks off throughout the year or a year round schedule that only closes on major holidays?
  • Is there a half, partial of full day schedule?

QUESTIONS #2: Location

  • Should it be close to your work, home, or somewhere in between? Are there other more convenient locations that work for your schedule?

QUESTION #3: Cost

  • Preschool fees differ widely.  I discovered two schools next to each other could vary in cost by as much as $500/month. A good tip I learned is that there are co-ops where you can volunteer your personal time during business hours at the school in exchange for a reduced cost tuition or as a prerequisite of enrollment.

QUESTION #4: Preschool Philosophy

There is a wide range of preschool philosophies. Only an Owner/Director can explain their viewpoint fully.  I categorized four core philosophies below: 

  • Traditional:  This is the most common in the US and is commonly referred to as a Developmentally Appropriate Preschool. This program tends to emphasize physical, cognitive, emotional and social areas of a preschooler. It’s a mixture of self-directed and teacher directed activities.
  • Academic: This philosophy puts an emphasis on early reading, beginner’s math, and other skills not usually introduced until grade school. The teacher generally guides the class and learning direction.
  • Montessori: This is a structured program where children move from activity-to-activity at their own pace.  It is intended to create self-motivated, independent learners in a social environment.
  • Others:  High/Scope: Active learning, Reggio Emilia: Project based, Waldorf: Creativity over academia, and Parent Co-operatives: Parent and Student working together with guidance from a teacher that shares the groups philosophies.

 Last but not least questions: 

  • Teacher/Assistant vs. Student ratios
  • Do they provide snacks and lunch?
  • Do they separate the different age groups from each other?
  • Do they admit kids that are not potty trained?  If so, is there an additional fee?
  • Is there a nap time?
  • How do they prepare the children for Kindergarten and beyond?
  • Special Programs: Do they have Gymnastics, Music, or teach a secondary language?
  • Are the teachers licensed?
  • Does the school have positive/reviews? (Check your local parents’ network.)

After I complete my research and visit my top preschools with Lilah, I know that in the end, I will have to go with my ‘gut-feeling’ for my final decision. A friend of mine said that her son kept talking about one of the schools they visited and wanted to go back – her decision was made. I will admit, this hasn’t happened yet for us, but I’m hoping it will soon. Good luck!

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