Monday, September 24th, 2007 at 3:03 pm in Miss School Manners.
Dear Miss School Manners: I read the Times article about preschool pressure last week. It is comforting to know that we are not the only parents out here searching and to some degree stressing over which preschool to place our child in! We simply want our child to attend a great preschool to learn, grow and socialize with other children in a safe and healthy environment. But we’re overwhelmed – all the ads for preschool programs claim to offer everything a parent wants. We don’t want to get caught up in the hype of this school and that school. But how do we even start looking?
Signed, Bewildered in Brentwood
Dear BiB: It is bewildering at first. But the best place to gather preschool recommendations without the ad hype …
(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)
is from people you trust – friends, family, neighbors and the members of your moms’ club, if you belong to one. And as you collect names – which, if they’re anything like the ones in our neighborhood, will all sound more like a plant nursery than a nursery school – think about what’s important to your family: the academic philosophy (structured curriculum vs. play-based or religious), the hours, location, etc. Then go and look at all those Budding Seedling, Mulberry Bush and Nurtured Beginnings preschools.
It’s the only way to know if a preschool is right for you, say Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum, authors of “Practical Wisdom for Parents: De-Mystifying the Preschool Years.” Call the preschool, speak with the director and take a tour. Look at the restrooms, the classrooms and outdoor play spaces. Is everything clean, well-lit and safe? Are there balls and playing structures and ride-on toys outside? Are there lots of activities indoors? What’s a typical day like? What about the staff? What are the teachers’ qualifications? Is there a lot of turnover? And most of important of all, how does the place feel?
Ideally, a preschool classroom has “a busy hum,” says Schulman, with well-established routines, and a good balance of child- and teacher-directed activities. Look around, listen and observe. “Do you see blocks, books, toys and art materials?” Schulman asks. “Are there science areas, areas for sand and water play, dramatic play areas, and soft elements as well as places for quiet activity? Do the children in class look happy and involved? Do the children seem busy and purposeful?”
You know your child better than anyone, and you’ll know the right school when you find it. And if things don’t work out… then you’ll try again. In fact, the Contra Costa Child Care Council recommends that you ask those important questions – are we greeted warmly, are we free to express concerns and questions, are the teachers happy to be here with these children, and is my child happy too? – not just when you tour a school, but always.
P.S. If any Brentwood, Antioch or Oakley area readers would like to chime in with their preschool recommendations, this is the spot. Scroll down and comment.
– Miss School Manners