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Choosing “The Right” Preschool

Published Monday, December 4, 2017

 

As seen in JLife magazine, January 2016

 

At this point the evidence is conclusive, preschool is good for our children. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Children in high quality preschools display stronger language, cognitive, and social skills.”

Kathleen McCartney, PhD, Harvard Graduate School of Education suggests "At preschool, children become exposed to numbers, letters, and shapes. And, more important, they learn how to socialize -- get along with other children, share, contribute."

In addition to strengthening social skills—how to compromise, be respectful, and problem-solve—preschool provides a place where your child explores, plays, and builds confidence. Children in preschool discover that they are capable and can do things for themselves, from small tasks like pouring a cup of water to tackling bigger issues like making decisions about how to spend their free time.

So we’re convinced preschool is important. It is already time to start planning your child’s future.

How do you know which is the right school for your child and for your family? Visiting sites, talking to teachers, to the Director, and to parents is critical.

  • What is the look and feel of the school? Does it feel warm and inviting? Is it clean and organized, or messy and chaotic? What kind of work is up on the walls? Do you see original art, or posters and worksheets?
  • What are the safety procedures for picking up and dropping off children?
  • What percentage of the staff hold degrees in early childhood? What professional development does the school offer its teachers?
  • How large are the classes and what is the teacher-child ratio?
  • What does a typical day look like? Do children have time built in to choose activities? Studies show that when children have the chance to make choices, rather than having all teacher-directed, they have better long term academic outcomes.
  • How much do the children play? Running around, active and imaginative play all are essential.
  • How do parents get involved? Is there an active parent organization? Can parents visit and volunteer in classrooms?

Of course, there is the question about discipline and social-emotional growth. How does the staff help children resolve conflicts? We all expect to raise angels, but let's be honest, a major part of child development is testing boundaries. The way the school handles social and emotional issues should complement your approach at home. Consistency for preschool age children is essential.

 

Lisa Monette has worked with children for over 15 years, she is the Director of the Sheila and Eric Samson Family Early Childhood Center at the Merage JCC. Contact Lisa at  lisam@jccoc.org.