Choosing a Preschool: Simple Tips for Parents
Parents across the country, you can relax. Contrary to what you might have heard, choosing the right preschool for your child is not as difficult as applying for an advanced degree. The key to choosing the right preschool is going into the process prepared. Prepared? Yes, prepared with a solid idea of what you want your child to gain from his or her preschool experience. This month's feature offers helpful suggestions for choosing a preschool that is a good match for your child and your family, as well as information on some of the most popular types of preschool educational philosophies. In addition, you'll find links to checklists that you can use when visiting and comparing preschool settings in your area.
Step One: Think About the Basics
The best way to keep from becoming overwhelmed by the process of choosing a preschool is to think about how the preschool will fit into your daily life. Here are some questions parents should consider:
- Is it important for the preschool to be near my home?
- Is it important for the preschool to be near my workplace?
- Is it important for the preschool to offer childcare services in the morning, afternoon, or both?
- Am I eligible for or interested in subsidized preschool programs (i.e. Early Head Start, Child Welfare League of America or state-funded programming) that offer services such as childcare programs with a focus on providing educational opportunities?
Answering each of these questions will help you narrow down the general location and type of setting you should research. Narrowing down your choices will make the process of comparing settings easier to manage.
Step Two: Become Familiar With Common Terms
For many parents, the most confusing part about choosing preschools is trying to make sense of terms such as, "Montessori Approach," "child-centered," "Waldorf Approach" and "faith-based." What do these terms mean and how can these terms help you choose a preschool?
Oftentimes, the key difference between settings is connected to the preschool's "educational philosophy." While educational philosophies are numerous and their definitions are not set in stone, we have provided you with definitions for some of the most popular philosophies.
The Montessori MethodFocuses on maintaining the individuality of each child in the learning process. This method believes each child learns at their own pace and educational progress should not be rendered based upon comparing students to one another.
The Reggio Emilia ApproachThis approach focuses on providing opportunities for problem solving through creative thinking and exploration.
The Waldorf ApproachThis approach places an emphasis on imagination in learning, providing students with opportunities to explore their world through the senses, participation and analytical thought.
The Bank Street ApproachThis approach places an emphasis on learning through multiple perspectives, both in the classroom setting and in the natural world.
The High/Scope ApproachThis approach focuses on letting children be in charge of their own learning. Children are taught to make a plan for what they would like to do each day and participate in a review session to discuss the success of their plan and brainstorm ideas for the next day.