By Debra L Karplus
You feel that your preschooler needs more stimulation and peer contact than he or she gets at home or in day care. But how does a parent find the right preschool? Many local parents are raving about Happyland, Village Tree, Montessori, and Home Sweet Home? What is it about these preschools that make parents and children smile? Take a tour of at least three preschools and arrive with a list of questions. Here are a few to get you started:
Do the school, director. And teachers have a vision or mission for the school? What is the teaching philosophy? Is teaching reading a high priority? Or is there more focus on peer interaction and social skills? Is the teaching academic or more play-based? What is the daily curriculum and how much does it vary from day to day? Is naptime part of each day? What is the earliest time that a child can be brought to school and what is the latest they can be picked up at the end of the school day?
What are the credentials and experience of the teachers and teacher’s aides? What is the staff turnover? Which teacher has been at the school the longest and for how many years? What is their experience with physical and developmental disabilities, ADHD, and autism spectrum? Are teachers allowed to administer medication? Are they trained to handle medical emergencies and other situations such as earthquakes?
How is behavior and discipline handled at school? Is discipline positive? Does it involve redirection? Are teachers and staff respectful of students and their families? In class, do the children sit at tables or desks or on the carpet or do they run wild around the classroom? How much time is spent outdoors at school? Is staff receptive to receiving feedback and input from parents?
How involved are parents in curriculum planning at school? Do parents volunteer at school? What is the expectation for parent involvement?
Who are the other students? How many children are in the classroom and what is the adult to child ratio? How old is the oldest student in class, and how old is the youngest? Must a child be potty-trained? Are their resources for children with special needs? How are special diets such as kosher, vegan or gluten-free dealt with for snacks and lunchtime? Are healthy snacks served such as fruits and veggies, or are sugary cookies and crackers part of snack time?
What is the policy on student illness? What if a classmate has a communicable disease such as measles or chicken pox? And if a classmate has head lice, are other parents notified, or does it stay private? Are tables and work areas sanitized during the day especially after eating snacks or lunch?
After touring the preschool, do YOU get the feeling that you would love to spend YOUR days at this place if you were a little kid and have these wonderful loving teachers take care of you and teach you new skills?