Questions To Ask

Questions To Ask When Choosing a Preschool

Not all preschools are created equal. Although there are some amazing preschools available, the range in quality varies greatly. Preschools are not currently regulated in Utah, which means anyone can print worksheets, pull out some toys and crayons and open a “preschool”. What can parents do to ensure that their child will have a great preschool experience?

Before choosing a preschool, decide what you want to get out of it. I imagine what most parents want for their child is more than simply learning ABCs and 123s. We want our children to be safe, respected and loved. We want them to learn to interact with others in cooperative, respectful ways. We want our children to stand up for themselves without stepping on others, and to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner. We want them to develop an inner confidence that cannot be broken by outside forces. We want children to think for themselves rather than merely following others. We want them to discover knowledge rather than waiting to be spoon-fed information. We want them to learn accountability, responsibility and compassion. We want our children to discover talents and face challenges, rather than hide from them. We want them to embrace diversity, solve problems, feel deeply and express openly. The preschool years are critical in developing these characteristics in young children; in fact, research has proven that 85% of who you are as an adult is developed by the time you are five years old.

Yet, many parents and schools regard the preschool years merely as preparation for grade school. They believe that if they start drilling the alphabet, numbers and shapes EARLIER, their child will do BETTER when they enter grade school. However, starting academic tasks too early is not developmentally appropriate and can have an adverse effect. Although preschoolers can indeed learn and memorize facts, studies have proven that the end result is likely to be a child who is bored and disinterested in school down the road. How subjects are taught in preschool is as important to the intellectual development of a young child as what subjects are taught.

When choosing a preschool, keep in mind, the best learning environment for your preschooler is completely different from the best learning environment for you. As an adult, you may learn best in a quiet room, listening carefully to instruction. However, preschoolers learn best in a lively playroom that has been carefully structured for self-guided discovery and interaction. Simply put, preschoolers learn best by doing. They learn best from experiences, rather than having things explained to them or done for them.

To illustrate, I share a friend’s experience. Upon moving into a new neighborhood, many neighbors told my friend of a preschool they were sending their children to. They loved the teacher, the art projects that came home and the fact that the children were learning to read. This sounded great, and my friend enrolled her daughter. Before long her child became disinterested in attending preschool. My friend decided to observe the preschool and found that although the teacher was in fact kind, the children did lots of worksheets and memorized flashcards for extended periods of time. Yes, beautiful art projects were being sent home, however my friend observed the teacher putting the paintbrush in the child’s hand and while holding the child’s hand, moving the paintbrush for the child. Although it appeared to many parents that this was a great preschool, the room was so structured and controlled that there was no room for creativity, discovery or self-expression. My friend observed that many of the children lacked confidence to attempt tasks on their own without teacher intervention. How can one create confidence while sending a message of “I will do this for you so that it gets done right.”?

When trying to decide whether a preschool it’s right for your child, make sure you become familiar with The National Association for the Education of Young Children “10 Signs of a Great Preschool.”

As a lot of questions such as:

  1. What is the preschool philosophy for teaching young children?
  2. Does the preschool have a curriculum? What is the curriculum?
  3. What methods are used in teaching the curriculum?
  4. How is the room structured? Is it set up for self-discovery and interaction?
  5. Is the Curriculum adapted for individual children who are more advanced or need more help?
  6. How does the teacher monitor individual progress?
  7. What education and experience do the teachers have?
  8. Are teachers trained in current developmentally appropriate practices for preschoolers? What training do they receive?
  9. What is the student/teacher ratio?

When you are satisfied with answers to your questions, and you have compared the NAEYC signs of a great preschool to the school you are investigating, you will be able to make an informed decision regarding your child’s education.