It's no doubt that our children become our world and we want the best-of-the-best for them. But what happens when the best happens to be just mediocre? Many times our expectations will fall short, but that doesn't mean that you can't make adjustments to course correct. My daughter is 3-going-on-13 (I mean, about to turn 4) and we have switched her preschool 3 times already. I've learned a lot in my search for the perfect preschool, so take a lesson out of my book. These are the top things to consider when picking a great preschool for your little one.
Safety falls top of the list for me. When looking for preschools find one that takes this seriously. A preschool should have a secured entrance with some sort of keypad access for anyone coming and going. I think that it is also important that they have security cameras set up around the school and playground so if an accident were to take place you can see exactly what happened. You will also want to ask if everyone on site has had background checks and that they are all registered. You are trusting your precious child with them after all. Sadly, since active shootings are so prominent in the US, I feel as though you should look for a preschool that has a security wall surrounding the facility. Makes me cringe to even have to write that down, but safety comes first.
As parents, we all parent differently and have our ways of disciplining our children. When searching for a preschool it's important to have a conversation about how they go about disciplining bad behavior. You want to make sure it is in line with how you parent, or something you feel comfortable with. There are some preschools that will not be on the same page as you, and that is something you need to take into consideration before enrollment.
Ever since my daughter has been going to preschool, I have been packing her hot lunches. Many preschools offer a lunch option, however, I like to be in charge of deciding what my kiddo eats for the day. If you do opt-in for school lunches, check to see that they are made with quality ingredients and served fresh daily. Majority of preschools also offer snacks, so it's important to check on what they offer and if those items are something you are comfortable with your little one eating. You'll also want to make sure that if your child has any type of food allergies, the school is aware, willing to accommodate and will share that information with all the teachers, students and other parents.
The reason we send our kids to preschool is to help jump-start their education, along with being a safe place for them to be while we work. While on your search, ask questions about their curriculum. What kind of lesson plans do they have? Ask to take a tour of the school to see if what they say matches up to what you see in the classroom. Many teachers will post things around the class related to the subject material, or have it visible on a whiteboard. It's a great way to share with the students and parents when they drop off their kid(s) for the day. You'll also want to ask if all the learning material is age appropriate. Many corporate preschool facilities use a state-approved curriculum guide that covers age-appropriate material by week. A majority of private centers follow similar guidelines, but it's still important to ask. When interviewing schools I also like to ask what is the education level of the teachers in the classrooms. They should have the necessary schooling and credentials to be teaching the students.
Kids thrive on structure and having a set guide of expectation. It's important that the preschool is consistent with their daily schedule so the kids learn what to expect and what is expected of them. If a preschool is too lenient, it will have an effect on your child at home. Of course it's important to be flexible as we are all people and life happens, but it's also important for there to be clear guidelines of what your child can learn to expect on a daily basis.
I think this is one of the biggest things you can do when touring and interviewing preschools. Observe everything! Watch how the teachers and staff interact with the students, look to see if any other parents are there and see how the staff interact with them as well. Take a good look at whether the preschool looks clean and organized. Watch how the kids interact with one another, are they caring and sharing (as best as toddlers can)? Are the kids attentive and respectful of their teachers? A discerning eye will tell you a lot about a school. Also, follow your gut. Our intuition is often the right feeling. If you think you're not at the right school for your family, then you have your answer. The right fit is out there, you just need to keep searching.
Another tool that might help you with your search is Yelp.com. Search reviews for schools where you want your child to attend. See what other parents are saying about it to see if it sounds like a place you even want to check out. Of course, when it comes to kids, as parents, we do tend to be a little overprotective, so read through all the reviews, not just the bad ones! Not everyone is going to have a great experience at every location, there will be disgruntled parents and that's okay, as long as it's not the majority.
These are all things that I have learned along my parenting journey, and I really do think that the third time is the charm. My daughter recently started her third preschool and I couldn't be happier. It seems as though she feels the same way. Her demeanor has changed drastically in just a few weeks. She wakes up happy, asking to go to school, even on a Saturday! This is a major shift in her attitude as it was like pulling teeth to get her to go to her previous preschool for the past few months. I asked her daily if she liked where she was, and she was always happy at the end of the day. But, in the end, I knew it was time to move on and put her in a school that met all the check marks above. Happy searching, mama!