I am looking for a preschool for my 3 year old to go to next year. I went to see one today with him and I am going the see a few more next week. My question is what should I be looking for when I go to visit? And what kind of questions should I ask the director/teacher? Thanks. Any advice on choosing a preschool is welcome.
I chose a christian preschool that is right down the street from where we live. I chose it for the location, price and of course how comfortable I felt with the people I met. I took my dd with me for a tour with the director. I felt the director had my daughters best interest in mind, and she spent time talking to her. She showed us the classrooms, play equipment, and I was introduced to one of the teachers who was teaching a summer class. I also observed the class that was in session, and all the children seemed very happy and well cared for. Honestly, at the time, my biggest question was on potty training. My dd is not potty trained yet, she is working on it. A lot of the schools won't take her if she is not trained. This one said they prefer it of course, but are willing to work with the child in potty training as well.
are staff infant/child cpr and first aid certified?
are teachers licensed or certified? (my state offers a CDA - child development associate which people can aquire through the local community college. the other option is to hold a P-3 teaching license. you need a lot more training to receive the p-3 license and a 4 year degree).
what type of curriculum do they follow? is it child-initiated or staff directed? what standards do they follow? be careful when choosing a school. a lot of times the schools that focus on academics fall short on developing the child's social-emotional skills which are actually much more important for kindergarten. a well-rounded child can enter kindergarten not knowing any letters and be a successful reader by the end of the year. a child who does not have any self-help or problem solving skills, or does not know how to handle different situations appropriately will not do well in kindergarten regardless of how many letter/numbers he knows.
do they allow TV? i personally feel that only the occasional, educational film that is relevant to a topic of study is appropriate.
is there time for play? so many programs treat preschoolers like kindergarteners without giving enough time for play. children learn so much through dramatic play, block building, puzzles, art, etc...
do they have sensory activities (sand, water, etc...) and outdoor play?
are families allowed to participate in activities? can you come in and read a story to the class?
what is the child/staff ratio?
What kind of program is it? half day? full day? if it's extended day, ask about the staffing. is it consistant or do they stick a different parttimer in there everyday?
what is their discipline policy? (i personally feel that time-out is not effective in most situations and is a technique often employed by less experienced or less educated teachers)
preschool typically starts at 3, but you can also start at 4. for children born at the sept 1st cutoff, you have to look at the child. if you feel they're not ready, then wait. if you're not sure, then you can send them, as a good preschool can accomodate differing levels of maturity in the classroom. usually, children born near the cut-off aren't a problem at the preschool level. however, when it comes to moving them along to kindergarten, you will want to look at their readiness and consult the preschool. these days the curriculum in kindergarten is more like we were learning in first grade way back when. it can be very tough for child who is not ready. many children benefit more from an extra year of preschool. this is especially true for boys born in the summer since they tend to be less mature. of course, this does not hold true for all summer babies, but it does for many. if your child's preschool teacher expresses concerns about kindergarten readiness, please listen to them. i know too many children who ended up falling apart in kindergarten because their parents did not listen to teacher recommendations.
Thanks for your list of questions! Do you work in a preschool?
How do I tell if they focus on acedemics vs social emotional. My son is shy and what I want him to get out of preschool is the social skills and how to be comfortable listening to another adult ( he has always been home with me or my husband). Also how to play with more kids. He already knows most of his letters and numbers and generally picks up new information well.
In 2.5 hour progam how much time should be play?
What is a good child to staff ratio? The preschool I looked at today is 1:7.
What disipline policy do you suggest in preschool?
Most progams I am looking at are 2-3 days a week for 2-3 hours. Choice of afternoon or morning. He still naps now in the afternoon, but he will be 4 in October so I am not sure if he will be napping next year.
i have worked in both private and a public preschool. I am currently in a 4 and 5 year old room in a public school.
the state has regs on child to staff ratios. where i live it is 1 to 10. 1:7 is a good ratio, although it is better if it is 2:14 rather than 3:21. how many children are in the class? are really big class can be overwhelming to a young child, especially one who hasn't been in school before.
as for discipline, you want to look for several things. unfortunately, they may not be obvious to an outside observer. first it is important that the room be arranged in a way that minimizes and problems. if you don't want kids running through the room, arrange it so that there isn't a long "runway" down the middle that tempts them. there should be interest areas (some schools call them centers). a good program will have a block area, dramatic play (kitchen, dress-up, dolls, puppets, etc...), a science/discovery area, an art center, computer center, library, sand table, water table, wood working table, music and movement area, and an area for games and puzzles (math, manipulatives, etc...) a room with planned out interest areas has less problems because the children are engaged.
when conflicts arise, staff members should work actively with the children to help them solve the problem. Prompt each child to explain their perspective. Help them find a resolution through compromise. When teachers immediately jump in and hand out consequences, the children don't learn any problem solving skills. Children who do something wrong towards another child should have to help fix the situation. A child who hits another should help find a way to help the injured child feel better. A child who spills something or knocks it down should be expected to help fix it. Logical consequences help children see the immediate impact of their actions and helps them learn empathy. Putting a child in time-out removes them from the situation. and i can guarantee that most children who sit in time out do not spend that time thinking about what they did wrong. they spend that time being angry towards the victim for getting them in trouble or being angry at you for putting them there. That is why certain children seem to spend all day in time-out. In addition, NAEYC feels that time-out is inappropriate because it can be viewed as isolating and humiliating. Time-out can be used when a child is danger to themselves or others. However, children should be given the option of cooling off if they need to. being forced to address an issue when very upset can be counter productive. if a child is extremely angry or upset i tell them they can go calm down and come solve the problem when they are ready. of course, they are not playing during this time! but there is a difference between giving a child an opportunity to cool off and putting them into time-out. when cooling off, the child determines when s/he is ready.
one of the biggest things in appropriate discipline is empowering children. You can empower a victim by teaching them to stand up for themselves. One of the hardest things to teach children at that age is to be able to turn around and say "I don't like that!" or "you hurt me!" as opposed to bursting into tears or running to a teacher. We teach them that it's ok to get mad. And we teach them that we all make mistakes and empower them by giving them an opportunity to help be a part of the solution.
as for how much time should be play... i figure there would be a circle time, although it should be relatively short at that age 10-15 minutes is more than enough. some programs do small group instruction, but that too should be short. the rest of the time is "play," but that play is valuable learning time.
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