When I was attending medical school in New York City (this was before I had any children), I recall being at a social event where I overheard some moms talking about preschools. Some of these elite preschools had waiting lists that were years long. I recall thinking how crazy it sounded that I needed to put my unborn child’s name on a list to get into a certain school. Were those schools really all that?
I have since moved and recognized that there are many other high quality preschools out there. Generally speaking, preschool is tuition based (although there are some free programs, like the state funded Head Start programs in some areas). It is not required, but I highly recommend a good quality program. Did you know that studies suggest that where most kids start academically in kindergarten, tends to be where the stay their entire academic career? (If they’re advanced, they stay advanced. If they’re behind, they stay behind.) Now there are exceptions to the rule, but generally, if your child is already reading and counting, he will be put in the better reading and math groups. Once you are in those better groups, you tend to just progress at that elevated level. So as if there wasn’t enough pressure already to provide every opportunity or advantage to our children, add preschool to the never ending list.
How do you know you have a good preschool? Good preschools have similar features.
- There is a program or schedule for teaching core principles (e.g., letters, letter sounds, maybe reading, numbers, colors, shapes, days of the week, seasons, writing)
- The teacher-to-student ratio isn’t too high. In the preschool years, 8-12 students per teacher is ideal.
- There are opportunities for children to learn to interact with the other children and learn social skills (determine how the preschool handles conflict when it arises between the children).
- There are set expectations and ground rules. Learning to follow rules and directions and listening to the teacher are important skills for a preschooler to learn.
- The classroom should have a welcoming and orderly environment (steer clear of a chaotic classroom).
- Qualified, caring staff. Many schools require teachers to have specialized education. Determine what specific training teachers have.
- The school should have a current state license indicating that it has met minimum state requirements for health and safety.
Most of the preschools are registering now for fall admission, so now’s the time to be thinking about it (unless you live in certain parts of NYC, in which case you’re already 3 years behind).
-Photos courtesy of www.123rf.com