They never said it’d be easy, right? Choosing a preschool for your child can seem daunting, especially as you consider all the factors in making a good decision. You’ve found some good options but don’t know how to narrow them down. You want all your bases covered and to feel confident with the school your child will eventually attend. But which factors should you consider when making a choice?
Here are questions to ask yourself about what to look for when choosing a preschool.
Things to consider when choosing a preschool:
Do their hours coincide with your schedule?
Some preschools only function a few hours of the day, 9am to 2pm for instance. Others offer morning and afternoon care. As a working mom, I needed a school that would accommodate a variety of schedules, one that would allow my husband to drop our son off before going to work, but flexible as well so that I can pick him up in the mid-afternoon.
Depending on your schedule, whether due to work, school or other obligations, consider the hours when choosing a preschool.
How much does the preschool cost?
No matter how much we love a preschool, if its fees are out of our budget, we simply can’t afford to enroll. Consider how much you’re willing and able to pay for preschool. Ask if they have different fees for different hours—for instance, most preschools charge less for half days (9am to 12pm), or for three days of the week instead of five. See if they also have sibling discounts.
What’s the energy of the preschool?
Sometimes the deciding factor when choosing a preschool is simply the energy, or vibe, you get from the place. For instance, I visited a well-rated preschool, but found its environment too boisterous—a factor I didn’t think would benefit my son’s temperament.
Visit preschools before making a decision. The school might look impressive online or through word of mouth, but only in visiting its premises will you be able to determine whether you can see your child thrive in that school.
What’s the teacher/student ratio?
Consider as well how many students each teacher will have, as well as whether the teacher has an aide to help. You want a good balance: not too many that teachers are too busy to give each child ample attention, but also not too little that, depending on your child’s personality, she might feel like she’s ‘on the spot’ without the benefit of blending in.
How many times a year does the preschool break for the holidays or vacation?
Some preschools run like regular schools, complete with two weeks in December and another two during the spring, not to mention a few more breaks during the summer. For many working parents, too many breaks may not be feasible.
I was grateful my son’s preschool offered child care year round (with the exception of one week in the summer). Now that he’s in transition kindergarten though, my husband and I arrange our schedules to coincide with his school breaks. We’ve done this by scheduling our vacation days during those weeks.
What’s the preschool’s philosophy?
Read the preschool’s website and speak with its director to understand their general philosophy regarding education, child development, discipline and learning methods among a few. You may find that you favor one preschool over another simply because they follow similar values and philosophies you already have.
How is the preschool rated?
In addition to word of mouth, research potential preschools online to see what other parents say about them. I used greatschools.org and Google to read other parents’ reviews and get an unbiased sense of what the school is like to others. Ttestimonials on the school’s website, while reassuring, exclude less-than-favorable reviews.
How convenient is it for your child to attend the preschool?
Sometimes simple convenience can be a deciding factor. Conveniences to consider include:
- How easy are drop offs and pick ups?
- Is the school located near your home or work?
- Do they offer a lunch menu or are willing to heat up your child’s lunch?
- Is the school walking distance so that grandma or another caregiver can walk to school?
How do you feel about the school?
As irrational as gut feeling is, sometimes it’s much more telling than any ‘pros and cons’ list (because truly, the brain can argue a side indefinitely, while your heart usually tells you what’s right). How does the school feel to you? The director, the teachers, the classrooms?
However important technical factors may be, you also need to feel good and confident about sending your child to that particular preschool. Nothing will ever be perfect—there might be a few annoyances to overlook—but if you generally feel good about the school, there’s a good chance your child will too.
Sending your child to preschool is one of the biggest milestones both you and your child will face. The process can seem scary and overwhelming, especially when you have more than a few options to pick from.
Consider factors like the school’s cost, schedule and energy. Discover how many students are in each class, how well the school is rated, and just how convenient it is for your child to attend.
But most importantly, determine how you feel about the school, based on your visits, word of mouth or other reviews. With those questions answered, you’ll be better able to decide on the right preschool for your child.
Read more tips on getting ready for school:
- 6 Tips to Make Your Morning Routine for School Run Smoothly
- 6 Useful Back to School Tips for Parents and Kids
- Ask the Readers: Are Good Schools Overrated?
- How to Deal when Your Child Cries at Drop Off
- More than Just PB&J: Vary Your Child’s Meals with These School Lunch Ideas [FREE Calendar]
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