If you’ve got a toddler, you may be wondering about preschool options. And, believe it or not, now is the time to start planning for enrollment next fall! Before you start furiously scheduling preschool tours, it’s helpful to have a list of questions handy to help ease the process of selecting the perfect preschool for your family.
Locally, there are lots of options when it comes to preschool choices. You’ll have your pick of different teaching styles and philosophies. A good preschool should be one that emphasizes play over pre-academics, and teaches self-regulation, taking turns, and social skills.
Before you start your hunt, consider what you are looking for in a preschool:
- Do you need all-day care, or a part-time program?
- If part-time, would you prefer a Tuesday-Thursday, Monday-Wednesday-Friday, or Monday through Friday program?
- What is your budget for a preschool program?
- Are you wanting a preschool that is nature-based, play-based, language-immersion, Waldorf- or Montessori-inspired?
- Does your child need to be potty-trained? Some preschools require that children be fully potty-trained before entering school.
Stop, look, and listen
You can get a feel for a preschool’s learning style by taking a tour. EC CARES specialists recommend observing the following:
- Is the room clean and inviting? Are there toys and activities your child will like? Do the children appear engaged?
- Do the children seem happy, busy, or bored?
- Is there an outdoor play area? Does it look safe? Are there options for physical play indoors if it is raining?
- Does the room feel safe and secure?
- How are the teachers talking with the children? Are they using nurturing and encouraging voices?
- How does the classroom “feel” to you?
Generally, you will have a gut feeling about a certain preschool. Don’t dismiss that feeling! Chances are is something doesn’t feel right to you, it won’t be a good fit for your child.
After you’ve toured the classroom and ask for a moment to chat with a teacher one-on-one, and consider asking:
- “What are the backgrounds and qualifications of your teachers?”
- “How many students does your program take? How many teachers do you have?” or “What is your student-to-teacher ratio?”
- “How does your program handle challenging behavior?”
- “How does your program handle drop-off or separation challenges?”
- “What does the daily schedule look like?”
- “Are there opportunities for parents to volunteer in the classroom?”
- “How is safety handled at the school?” Are background checks performed? How is pick-up managed to ensure student safety? Is the building locked during school hours?
Teaching preschool is a busy job. Some teachers will prefer you have your tour when the school day is over. Others, may have you pop in while the school day is underway. Both situations present opportunities to glean important information about the school, its teachers, and how the students function in the classroom. If you don’t get the information you need, speak up and request an additional tour of the classroom during school hours or ask for a private meeting to go over your questions or concerns more in-depth. You should feel like you and your child are a priority!
This article appears in the January 2020 edition of Oregon Family Magazine.