Determining if preschool is the right step for your child and your family is a big decision, and there are many different factors to consider. Not the least of which are the dozens of schools in the region; which time of day to attend (morning, afternoon or full-day); and type of curriculum, including whether you want to send your child to a specific program or teach certain values, such as Montessori or religious.
Mary Rainey, pre-k teacher at All Saints School St. John Vianney, encourages parents to think, “What does the daily schedule look like? Are there alternating periods of quiet and active time?”
Abby Kassel, coordinator of student services at Revere Local Schools’ Early Childhood Program, advises parents ask themselves if the program is affordable and licensed, adding, “Most parents do not know their public district offers a preschool program. Parents should look into it.”
Susan Holding, early childhood program division assistant director at Old Trail School, suggests parents look for a program encouraging creativity rather than modeling after the teacher. Holding adds, “Also, look for a program promoting a community (a home away from home).”
How will I know my child is ready for preschool?
One easy way to tell if your child is ready for preschool is by seeing how your child separates from their primary caregiver. If your child separates with difficulty, preschool can backfire and make the first school experience traumatic. Rainey notes there are a number of ways to see how your child separates, like “attending library story hours, classes offered through local parks, recreation departments and museums.”
Another consideration to determine your child’s preschool readiness is if there is sufficient language and communication skills to express their needs to teachers and staff, notes Holding. Your child should be able to naturally play with toys next to peers, be curious about their environment and request help when needed.
Staff at Revere Local Schools’ Early Childhood Program notes parents will want to consider if the preschool schedule is a good fit for their child compared to a daycare with a preschool curriculum. The difference between a daycare and preschool program is most preschools will not take students until they are toilet trained.
Preschool Selection Checklist
Each of the education specialists provided some questions to consider when visiting a school this winter:
Personal Preferences and Needs:
- Does the preschool reflect your values and meet your family’s needs? For example, are you looking for a program with certain religious values?
- Would you prefer to introduce your child to formal schooling in a more gradual way, perhaps half days, or 2-3 days per week?
- Do children and their parents look forward to school, and feel secure spending time at the program?
- Does the preschool fit into your budget?
Preschool Program Curriculum:
- Is the program hands-on, teacher-directed or student-directed? For example, does the program focus on the child’s approach to learning or is it planned and scripted?
- How does the program focus on academic development?
- Does the program focus on social emotional development?
- Does the program allow children to ask questions and dive deep into discussions of their interest?
- Does the program encourage creativity rather than modeling after the teacher?
- Do children practice academic readiness skills (numbers, alphabet, etc.) in the context of their everyday experiences?
- Is the curriculum adapted to those who are ahead, as well as to those who need additional help?
Teacher & Classroom Setup:
- How are classes formed and students divided?
- Do the children have an opportunity to play outside or have access to gross motor activities every day?
- What are the staff qualifications, requirements, and turnover rates?
- What is the teaching staff-to-student ratio?
- Has the program been rated by Step Up to Quality (SUTQ)? If so, what is its rating?
SUTQ is a five-star quality rating and improvement system administered by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. SUTQ recognizes and promotes learning and development programs that meet quality program standards that exceed licensing health and safety regulations. (jfs.ohio.gov/cdc/stepupquality.stm)
- Does the program follow Ohio’s Early Learning and Development Standards? (for more info: earlychildhoodohio.org/elds.stm)
Why do Kids Love Preschool?
We asked parents and students at local preschools why they love their school.
What the Kids Say:
“I like sitting with my friends at Circle Time.” — Emma, 4 years old, All Saints School
“‘Cause I get better and better at learning every day.” — Preschool student at Revere Local Schools’ Early Childhood Program
“I like when my teachers read stories and sometimes we make plays” — Preschooler, age 4, at Old Trail School
What the Parents Say:
“We truly value the project-based Early Childhood Program curriculum that focuses on, and has successfully developed, problem solving skills in our boys. We find invaluable is the focus on the whole child, as an individual person and as a member of a community. It is wonderful to see the boys love to read, ask questions and do research, and solve problems. However, we are most grateful to see the program focus on character, service, and building effective relationships so early in their school career. “— Adam & Holly Snyder, parents at Old Trail School
“For our children, preschool has been a great way to introduce them into a weekly school schedule in a relaxed and nurturing environment. It has provided our children with the building blocks needed to enter kindergarten and has improved their social interaction.”— Parent at Revere Local Schools’ Preschool Program
“One of the aspects we like best about the school is that the teachers give the students individual attention, plus small group time and large group activities…all giving the child a chance to explore learning in different formats. Plus the learning is done through fun and play, so it’s not ‘work’ for the child. George comes bounding out with smiles every day with a story to tell.” – The Scolaros, a family at All Saints School St. John Vianney