Choosing a Preschool, Questions to Ask
When we set out to find a preschool for our son last summer, we were a little overwhelmed by the variety of options available. What was going to work best for our son that was also within our budget? Given that he had never been in daycare or away from home for lengths of time, we weren’t sure if half days or full days would be best. How many days a week? Both my husband and I joked that we wished there was a formula where you plug in your child’s traits and a solution magically appeared. Wouldn’t that be nice for any number of things regarding our kids?!
We toured four local preschools, each time bringing TJ with us. In the end, we chose the school where TJ seemed most comfortable. When touring the school, he warmed up to the director within seconds and immediately integrated himself into the activity the kids were doing while we were there… like he was already a student. At the other schools we toured, he took a little while to warm up to the place and to the director. We liked this school’s philosophy and the relaxed atmosphere and the fact that there wasn’t a lot of pressure placed on the academic side of schooling; it was more about social interaction and play. The school being walking distance from our house was a major plus!
Below are the questions I printed out and brought with me on each tour:
- What is a typical day like?
- What teaching styles/methods do you use? (Montessori, Waldorf, Head Start, etc) A specific teaching method wasn’t super important to me since I didn’t know if one particular style was going to work perfectly for my son yet. But it helped to know ahead of time.
- We didn’t tour any church-run preschools, but if we had, I would have asked how much is taught about that specific religion if it was important to me.
- Full-day, half-day? How many days a week? Differences in pricing depending on how many days attended? Can I choose what days my child attends if I don’t want MWF or Tu/Thu? Based on his age, what is recommended?
- Snacks? Lunches? Do children bring their own? How long are snack times/lunch times? What if my child has a food allergy?
- Are the kids encouraged to play outside every day? For how long? What about in rainy/cold/snowy/hot weather?
- Are all teachers trained in first aid, choking, and CPR?
- What is the teacher/student ratio?
- How is discipline handled? Disruptive students? A biting or hitting student? At what point are parents notified?
- How does the school communicate with parents about their child and school events? Phone? Email? Online forum?
- School security? What about children who tend to wander off? Visitors?
- Are there opportunities for parents to help at the school? Are there opportunities for a parent to volunteer and get a discount on tuition?
- Are immunizations required?
- Illnesses? What symptoms need to occur before parents are called to pick up their child? What symptoms are okay for my child to still come to school?
- Do you go on field trips? If so, where? And how often?
- Once school starts, how do you deal with separation anxiety? Can the mama stick around for a little bit those first few days? If my child is inconsolable after I leave, how long will you let him cry before you call me?
A few of these questions were answered for me through the general information that was posted on the schools’ websites. Often, the directors answered many questions through the spiel they gave when telling me about their school, which was really nice.
Thankfully, TJ has loved his school and it’s been a great feeling to know we made the right choice for him.
What questions do you think are important to ask when choosing a preschool for your child?