There are a lot of preschools out there--and a lot of really good preschools out there. Finding one that works for you and your child is an important and weighty task. Here’s our guide to how to go about it.
1. Start early
It can be competitive to get into the preschool that you want for your child. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. If you plan to send your child to preschool starting at age 2, you probably want to start looking into things shortly after your child turns 1. Of course you will be able to find a program to send your child even if you don’t start so early, but it might not be your favorite school.
2. Talk to people
Ask your family, your friends, your friends’ families. Get a list of a few schools that you might be interested in checking out. Another good resource is the National Association for Early Childhood Education, which has great lists on their website. Note--just because a school isn’t accredited by NAEYC does not mean that they are not licensed or are not a great school.
Think about what you want in a school in terms of education and community. Remember that this first school will really be a community building experience for you and for your child. Your child will be making friends--as will you. So it’s important to really think about what you want for this initial community.
-Are you looking for a Jewish school that will teach holidays and values, and have monthly Shabbat dinners for you and your family to attend? This is often the easiest way to help give children a basic knowledge of Judaism--have them learn it in school and bring it home for you to do together.
-Is there a specific educational philosophy that you think would work well for your child?
-Do you want extensive parental involvement to be the norm (as in, do you want to be volunteering regularly)?
4. Location, location, location
Is the school near your home or near your work? How will that impact you and your family when there are community events there? How will you get your child there when it’s snowing?
5. Check it out
Go and see the schools that you like. This step is crucial. Plan on visits of 20-30 minutes. That should give you just enough time to get a sense of the classroom environment, the director’s involvement, the teachers’ qualifications, and the general vibe of the school. Print out Kveller’s list of questions to ask a preschool, and you’ll be all set!
Our best advice? Instinct will serve you well here. If the school feels like it will be a good place for your child, and is recommended by friends or family, and fits your needs--then it is probably the right place for you. Good luck!