How do you choose? That is what I faced when I started to look into preschools. I’m a teacher, so I thought my knowledge of teaching in a very competitive high school would give me a edge when I started looking into preschool programs for my twin sons. I soon became overwhelmed by the number of choices, curriculum decisions and type of programs available. There are many factors to consider when you begin the application process for preschool.
First and foremost are your financial needs. Preschools can range from $1,500 a year to upwards of $15,000 (no, I am not kidding) a year. This was the easy part for me. I knew what our range was and I was able to select a large number of schools that fit into our price range. This does not mean that you shouldn’t apply to a more expensive school, but it is a major consideration when you work out what you can afford (and in my case times two). It is also important to note that some of these higher end schools will also offer scholarships or aid to families.
Second, you must determine what kind of a school you want. There are “daycare” schools and “true” preschools. A daycare scenario works out better for parents who need to drop off early and pick up later. A true preschool usually has set hours and days. For me, I felt that three-year-olds didn’t need to be in school five days a week as I am a stay at home mother. I chose a true preschool.
Third, go and visit and shake hands. I brought my twins to every preschool I interviewed (yes, you will pay tuition so you should be interviewing them). I asked a lot of questions that I had written down ahead of time. Do a little research on what a three-year-old curriculum in preschool is like so that you have comparison from school to school. I also asked about potty training.
There are many preschools that will not take your child unless they are fully potty trained and out of pull-up diapers. Other preschools are more flexible on that issue. Let your children be your barometer at the preschool. I observed how my twins reacted in each environment. Then take the time to meet and greet the potential teachers. Are they friendly? Have they been doing this a long time?
Lastly, do your homework! Ask around about the school you are applying to. Look into how other kids have done there. Word of mouth is a powerful referral and mothers are usually willing to tell you their thoughts on teachers and schools. Look up the school’s rating online, look into how long it has been established. All of these factors will help you whittle down the list until you are ready to make a decision.
On the day that I decided to enroll my twins I knew there would be a line of mothers with checks in hand for the program I chose. It was very unfortunate for me that I had caught the stomach bug a day prior, but there I was with a trash bag, a warm coke and my check. I got there long before I should have and I was glad that I did. As it would turn out, the first day of enrollment created quite a line and had I not been ambitious enough to drag myself to the school early, I would not have secured a spot. Once you make a decision on the school you are sending your child to, be sure you are there the very first day of enrollment with all of your papers completed and a check in hand. You can miss a spot in your first choice school if you are not prepared.
Best of luck!