Making Decisions for our children — finding the right fit for preschool.

Next week, our “baby” graduates from preschool.  While it’s hard enough for me to believe that she’s old enough to transition to elementary school, it’s equally as hard to realize we will no longer have a child in a preschool that we’ve enjoyed so much.  For our family, preschool has been a wonderful time, not just for learning and getting ready for school but for the opportunity our children have had forming bonds with adults other than family.  Our preschool has been a community of love to our family and a launching pad for lifelong learning that we have been most thankful for.
I remember trying to choose a preschool for our oldest. It seemed like a huge decision for me at the time and was likely more emotional/dramatic than it needed to be when you consider that at the time I had a newborn strapped to my body 20 hours a day that vomited with severe reflux about every 5 minutes, a 21 month old trying to potty train, and was coming off maternity leave. Thankfully my friends, who at the time were less frazzled and puked on than me, took the lead in researching local preschools and giving me the abbreviated versions of what was offered in our area.   I was most grateful for the simpler version of processing all that information at that stage in my life as a mother. When brainstorming blog ideas, we thought it might be helpful to share some of that information with you.
First of all…why preschool at all? A friend of our family who’s taught Kindergarten for close to 30 years explained it to me this way.  She says that as a Kindergarten teacher, she notices it takes children who did not attend preschool from September-January to acclimate to leaving their parents, standing in line, sharing, raising their hands to be called on. She finds children who have attended preschool are ready to learn on day 1 of Kindergarten.
Studies support the importance of pre-K programs so strongly that many states now offer “Universal Pre-K” for a year free of charge through public schools for this reason.  When choosing a preschool, there are many things to consider but the biggest question for yourself before you start on this search, is what your goals are for your child and your family with preschool.  Making this decision will help you in choosing a preschool that is the right fit.  Deciding this along with finding out the answers to these questions might also help you in this important decision.
Consider the following questions?
·      Do you want a more academic, traditional, religious, or artistic method?
·      What are the qualifications and background of the teachers?
·      What is the drop off and pick up process like?
·      What is the level of parent involvement in classroom and other activities?
·      Is there a policy on safety? Does the school perform background checks? What are the safeguards present to protect students?
·      What is the discipline policy?
·      What does a typical day look like? What is the class size? Teacher/student ratio?
·      What concepts are covered?
·      Are there extra enrichments like music or language?
·      What is the cost?
·       Are families expected to bring snacks or does the school provide?
·      Is there an allergy policy with food?
Once you’ve decided what your family’s goal is related to preschool, you can explore a variety of options.  There are many to choose from including traditional, church based, or Montessori (which emphasizes children learning at their own pace with a more multi-sensory approach). Some schools have achieved certifications (such as NAEYC) that hold them to a standard of certain teaching styles and to a high standard of parent interaction.
Whatever you choose, I hope you’ll enjoy preschool as much as we have! My kids have completely enjoyed all that comes with it – letter of the week, PJ and beach day, field trips, show and tell, Christmas programs, visits from the crazy Leprechaun, and a sweet-as-can-be Mother’s Day Tea among others.  They’ve made wonderful friends and grown so much in the years they spent in preschool.  My older daughter still runs into the arms of her preschool teacher as if she just left the school yesterday. For me, that’s all I need to see.  It shows me we made the right choice for her at the time.

 Some of our favorite Preschool Memories through the year. Enjoy making your own!
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