Preschool tours offer wonderful opportunities to learn about prospective preschools. Often you can meet the director of the school, see classes in progress, and meet members of the parent community. But, as is the case with so many things in life, what you see may not be what you get. So, think of the tour as an opportunity to scratch below the surface—to get a true feel of the school. You can best do that by coming prepared with questions that will help you determine whether the school is the type of environment that will be a good fit for you and your child. While not every parent has the same set of concerns, there are a few key issues that can help you distinguish among schools and, hopefully, identify the school that is right for your family. Here are some factors to consider:
1. What is the philosophy of the school and how is it implemented?
At first glance, many preschools may look the same—they promise a warm and nurturing community where your child will thrive. Of course, you want to sign right up. But how does the school translate its philosophy into practice? That is the critical question. When asked, a school director should be able to articulate examples of how its philosophy is practiced in the classroom.
2. How (and how often) do you communicate with parents? Are there formal and informal opportunities to speak with teachers and the school director?
Most highly regarded preschools provide numerous opportunities for parents to interact with the school. This type of communication is critically important because as all parents of young children know, your little ones are not likely to give you a detailed breakdown of what happened during the school day. Thus, your primary vehicle for learning how your child is doing in class is via her teacher. So, be sure to understand how that information will be communicated.
3. What do you expect of your parent community? Are parents expected to give time and/or money to the school?
Some preschools, particularly co-ops, have strict requirements about how much time parents must spend at the school. Other schools are more flexible- parents contribute when and how they can. But even the more flexible schools may have "unwritten" expectations about what parents should do. Try to determine what will be expected of you and whether you are willing or able to make that type of commitment.
4. What is your approach to discipline? How do you handle children who are disruptive in the classroom?
Almost no issue is likely to give rise to more conflicts than the sensitive question of how children are disciplined in the classroom. Some schools have very clear guidelines about discipline. Others take a more case-by-case approach. You want to make sure that you are comfortable with whatever approach the school utilizes.
5. What is a typical day in the classroom?
This question is useful in two ways. First, it helps to satisfy our natural curiosity about what our children are doing at school. And second, it helps you understand whether the school fits your child's learning style. Will your child thrive in a very structured environment? Or at a school where teachers allow the days to unfold without as much attention to a schedule? This is a great way to find out if the school is a great fit.
We know well that the preschool process can be daunting. But the good news is that there are wonderful preschools all across the country. At Savvy, we have many tools that will help you find the perfect fit.
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