Preschool Panic: How to choose the right preschool for your child


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Trying to maneuver your way through the preschool admissions process can be both complicated and overwhelming. Choosing the right preschool is the first educational decision you will make for your child and it is a major one. Research shows that the child’s first school experience sets a precedence for how the child will view school throughout their educational career.

This process is difficult and confusing and many parents choose preschools based on the recommendation of others. While the opinion of other parents matters each child is unique and what may be right for one child may not be for another. This seminar addresses the different schools of thought for preschools (developmentally appropriate, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf and Cooperative), what to ask at interviews and open houses and what to look for when visiting the schools.

Please join Karina Money, M.A. to find out how to operate within the complex world of the preschool admissions process. Karina Money is the President of Right Path / New England, Boston’s premier educational consulting firm in Cambridge, MA and is the mother of a three year old son who is about to embark on his preschool journey this Fall.

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Preschool Panic: How to choose the right preschool for your child

  1. 1. Preschool Panic: How to choose the right preschool for your child Karina Money, MA President and Founder Right Path / New England
  2. 2. Benefits of Preschool <ul><li>Growth and future educational success </li></ul><ul><li>Develop life skills </li></ul><ul><li>Future success: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Socially, Emotionally, Academically </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Children who attend quality preschool programs are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>more likely to continue their education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>less likely to be held back </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>more likely to succeed in educational endeavors </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Types of Preschools <ul><li>Developmentally Appropriate Preschool </li></ul><ul><li>Montessori Preschool </li></ul><ul><li>Reggio Emilia Preschool </li></ul><ul><li>Waldorf Preschool </li></ul><ul><li>Cooperative Preschools </li></ul>
  4. 4. Developmentally Appropriate Preschool <ul><li>Shy away from strictly academic and believe that structure is not the best way for a preschooler to learn </li></ul><ul><li>Most common in the United States </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasize the different areas of a preschooler's development (physical, cognitive, emotional and social) </li></ul><ul><li>Classroom is a “hands-on” approach </li></ul><ul><li>Both self-directed and teacher directed activities </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher may have a curriculum that fit a child's age and level of development but the child may lead the play and teacher will join in (kitchen example) </li></ul><ul><li>Schedule (morning “free play”, structured circle time or group activity </li></ul>
  5. 5. Montessori Preschool <ul><li>“ A child's work is to create the person she/he will become.” - Maria Montessori </li></ul><ul><li>Belief that children learn by accomplishing different tasks, or using toys as tools to accomplish these tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Classroom is very structured, with children moving from activity to activity but at their own pace </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers are there to control the environment, not the child </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Montessori found that children in this type of setting developed strong self discipline and lengthened attention spans </li></ul><ul><li>Calm, orderly setting </li></ul>
  6. 6. Typical elements of Montessori <ul><li>Fewer toys, more real life objects, promoting the idea that children should learn how to handle real objects, rather than pretend ones </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers trained in the Montessori methods </li></ul><ul><li>Younger children drawn to the activities of the older children in their group </li></ul>
  7. 7. Is this right for my child? <ul><li>Many kids do well in the realistic environment that the Montessori approach creates. </li></ul><ul><li>However, many will also find the structured curriculum and task-oriented activities difficult to follow. </li></ul><ul><li>If your child has demonstrated the ability to follow instructions, he may thrive in this setting. </li></ul><ul><li>The most important factor is that the parents are comfortable with the Montessori approach to teaching. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Reggio Emilia Preschool <ul><li>Children are little researchers; they can and want to communicate with the surrounding world. They are individuals with own thoughts, emotions and expressions. </li></ul><ul><li>Combination of developmental and Montessori </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis on a child's symbolic language such as drawing, dramatic play, and writing </li></ul><ul><li>Classroom environment plays a key role – considered another teacher. Children are taught to value and respect their environment </li></ul><ul><li>Parental involvement (school/home=partnership) </li></ul><ul><li>Child directed – projects follow child's interest </li></ul><ul><li>Projects are developed over time and work should be revisited = self expression </li></ul>
  9. 9. Typical elements of a Reggio Emilia Preschool <ul><li>Community-oriented classrooms, with everyone involved, including the cooks, custodians, parents, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Classrooms decorated with students' artwork, with an emphasis on natural materials, like pine cones, sea shells, and plants </li></ul><ul><li>Art studio and materials which are easily accessible to children </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of hands-on projects revolving around the community or nature </li></ul>
  10. 10. Is this right for my child? <ul><li>If your child enjoys being creative with paint, crayons, and clay, he will likely do well in the Reggio Emilia setting. </li></ul><ul><li>Most children, in fact, will flourish in this creative and community-oriented program. </li></ul><ul><li>A child who is used to a lot of alone playtime may have a harder time adjusting to the focus on group projects, but will probably end up thriving in this environment. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Waldorf Preschool <ul><li>The Waldorf approach was developed in Germany, by Rudolph Steiner. These preschools are child- or play-centered, but also have a definite structure built around routine and rhythm. </li></ul><ul><li>120 Waldorf Preschools in North America. Children work in mixed-age groupings, and stay with the same teacher from year to year. </li></ul><ul><li>This philosophy emphasizes a healthy rhythm of activities, so that children move from physical games to free play, to more focused activities. </li></ul><ul><li>Creativity is emphasized, while academics are not stressed so strongly. Waldorf teachers also model good behavior for children, rather than instructing them how to behave. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Typical elements of a Waldorf Preschool <ul><li>Children acting out scenes from their lives, and using their imaginations </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers working in the background, offering gentle guidance only when necessary </li></ul><ul><li>Natural materials like cloth, stones, and shells </li></ul>
  13. 13. Is this right for my child? <ul><li>A wide range of children, including those who may be somewhat shy or aggressive, often do well in Waldorf schools, because the approach is both gentle and nurturing, and offers a sense of balance for students. </li></ul><ul><li>Children will blossom even more fully if the Waldorf approach of encouraging creativity is practiced in the home. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Cooperative Preschools <ul><li>The teaching approach of a cooperative school may follow any of the other philosophies, but with one main difference: the board of directors is made up of the students' parents, who run the business of the school by hiring the teachers and ordering the supplies. </li></ul><ul><li>Each parent is expected to help out in the classroom on a regular basis (anywhere from once a week to once a month), and many are also expected to serve on a committee. </li></ul><ul><li>This approach results in parents getting a close look at how their children are growing and developing in the classroom setting. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Typical elements of a Cooperative Preschool <ul><li>Teaching approach may be based on any philosophy </li></ul><ul><li>Program offers an educational style that follows parents' values and expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Parents helping in and out of the classrooms </li></ul><ul><li>A feeling of nurturance in the classroom </li></ul>
  16. 16. Is this right for my child (and me)? <ul><li>Need to consider their own calendar: this type of program may not be feasible for parents who work full-time. </li></ul><ul><li>For those who can make it work, this style of teaching can have a very nurturing feeling, since there are parents in each classroom. </li></ul><ul><li>On the other hand, some children have a difficult time seeing their parents pay so much attention to other students. </li></ul><ul><li>For some children who are prone to separation anxiety, it can be a better learning experience when their parents are not present in the classroom. </li></ul><ul><li>These kinds of issues must be considered if you are looking into the cooperative approach. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Admission Process <ul><li>Research – open house dates (Oct-Nov) </li></ul><ul><li>Part-time / full-time </li></ul><ul><li>Distance matters </li></ul><ul><li>Safety </li></ul>
  18. 18. Questions to ask when choosing a Preschool <ul><li>Are they licensed by the state? Do they have national accreditation such as NAEYC (National Association of the Education of Young Children) </li></ul><ul><li>What is the student-teacher ratio? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the backgrounds of the teachers? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the teacher turnover rate? </li></ul><ul><li>Do the teachers take part in continuing education programs? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the daily schedule? (remember, this age learns best by play) </li></ul>
  19. 19. More questions to ask when choosing a Preschool <ul><li>How does the program handle a child who is having a tough time separating from mom and dad? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the discipline policy? The goal of discipline is self-control not punishment. Avoid a program that uses corporal punishment. </li></ul><ul><li>Are parents encouraged to get involved? </li></ul><ul><li>May I talk with other parents at the school about their experience? </li></ul><ul><li>Are parents welcome to observe a class? </li></ul><ul><li>How is information about the child's day shared with parents? </li></ul>
  20. 20. What to look for during your visit <ul><li>Is the facility clean and safe? (smoke detector, first aid) </li></ul><ul><li>Is there a well-kept outdoor play area? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the atmosphere friendly and fun? (look for students' work displayed in hallways and around the room at their eye level) </li></ul><ul><li>Does all the art work look the same? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there various activity areas? (a reading place, art station with materials for kids to reach, blocks, puzzles, a place for naps) </li></ul><ul><li>The children should not all be doing the same thing at the same time; they should be playing with toys or other kids but still well supervised. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Classroom Observation: The Teacher <ul><li>Watch the teacher – does she/he look happy to be there? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the teacher truly love his/her job? </li></ul><ul><li>How does she/he solve conflict between the students? </li></ul><ul><li>Does she/he get down to the kid's eye level when talking to them? </li></ul>
  22. 22. Classroom Observation: The Students The Students <ul><li>Do they look happy? </li></ul><ul><li>Are they engaged in what is going on? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there any kids sitting by themselves in the sidelines? </li></ul><ul><li>Do they want to be there? </li></ul>
  23. 23. Meeting with School Director <ul><li>Does my child need to be toilet trained? </li></ul><ul><li>How are parents involved in the school? (parent association, family picnic, holiday parties, parent socials) </li></ul><ul><li>What do you do when two children fight? (It is crucial that you agree with the school's discipline policy) </li></ul><ul><li>What is the daily routine? (You want your child to have a sense of predictability each day – circle time, snack, reading) </li></ul>
  24. 24. Q & A Right Path / New England 689 Somerville Avenue, Suite B Somerville, MA 02143 (617) 297-7379 SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT TODAY!