Choosing a preschool for your child is a big decision. It is a hard decision. You want to protect them and be sure that the people you are entrusting their care to are NORMAL, trustworthy; and not a lunatic, or WORSE!
It is not easy to leave your child with someone. It is the first REALLY hard thing we have to do as a parent. Honestly, the only reason we do it is that; yes we know we love them, but we also don't want them living with us for the rest of their lives! So, this is the first step to helping your child grow and learn!
Ask around, get recommendations, if you just moved to an area and don't know anyone yet, find a Facebook group and ask there. You want a licensed place so call the local Department of Family Services office to inquire about preschools and what specifically you are looking for as far as times and days. Next, you are going to need to get in that car and drive! You HAVE got to visit these places, you need to walk through the door and meet the staff, take a look at the other children, see how clean the place is. (I'm not talking toys, there should be toys everywhere, I'm talking does it look sanitary?!)
Are you greeted with respect? Are the teachers rude to you or each other? Do the children seem comfortable with the teacher? Does the teacher show you around but still stay engaged with you AND the children? The teacher should continue to do her job and answer your questions, she should not ignore her students and give you full attention. Does she/he include your child? Does she/he talk to your child and ask questions?
You need to be prepared with questions! You can never have too many questions! Pre-plan, write them down. This is an important decision. Do your homework, look into the program, check their website. A preschool should NEVER seem put out by answering your questions. When I meet parents and they ask a lot of questions I know that these are the parents that are invested in their child's education and the ones who truly believe in Early Childhood Education and its importance in a child's life.
How do you feel about the teacher? Do you think the teacher is being honest? Is he or she being their true self? Do you get good vibes? Do you feel like you could be friends with this person? For your choice in preschool to work, you must feel like the teachers and the program share the same values as you!
Make sure to ask if parents are welcome? Are you allowed to volunteer? Are you required to volunteer?
How will teachers contact you? How can you contact teachers? Is there a school app, website, Facebook page, email address or phones numbers you need to know of?
When you visit, take a friend if your spouse cannot go with you. If your spouse has to work, ask at your visit if it would be ok to come back for another visit when your spouse is available.
Feel free to make it know you are looking around at other schools. Because you should be! You can't just visit one and know it's for you, shop around! This is a big decision!
Bottom line, this is important. Your child going to preschool is important. Do your research, you need to feel good about this decision. Choose a place not just for your child, but for you as well. Does the school make you feel good? Trust your guts!
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Abby Lazarus M.Ed.
Masters in Early Childhood Studies, Bachelors in Child Development and 13 years in the ECE profession.