Come April parents of 2 and 3-year-olds start scouting for preschools for their child. There is such a variety of preschools today, with each one vying with the other to attract more numbers. It can be quite daunting and confusing for parents to make a choice. As an early childhood educator and a mom, myself, I would like to say that parents should be extremely picky in finding a school that best suits their child and them. You might be wondering, “What does she mean by what suits the child”?
Yes! Just as every child is different, their needs are different.
Let us look at the different types of pre-schools operating in the market today. Parents are spoilt for choice. We have preschools that charge reasonable fees to preschools that make parents pay through their nose. Preschools that operate with bare minimum tools to those that have all the paraphernalia available in the market. Stand-alone preschools to franchisee model preschools and feeder preschools that guarantee your ward an admission to pre-primary. Confusion is bound to happen!!! Then we have schools following different curriculums. Schools following different teaching methodologies like- Play way, Montessori, Waldorf/Steiner, Reggio Emilia, Rote learning.
The next question is when do the parents start looking for the schools. When is the best time for them to visit the schools and the right age for their child to begin school?
Talking about the best time to start scouting for schools- I would say start as early as January. After your first appointment at the admissions office take permission to visit the school with your child when the sessions are in progress. This way you get a first-hand experience of the environment in the school. Research about the school their mission and vision before you meet them. Ask questions about the pedagogy and teaching methodologies.
Many times the head of the school is a trained educator but preschools fail to attract qualified and passionate teachers. Ask about what professional development the school undertakes for the teachers. How do they communicate the progress of your child? What method of assessments does the school follow? If it is a franchise, does the parent franchisor have checks and balances to ensure quality? Talk to parents who have already enrolled their child. Pre-schoolers should not be cooped up in a classroom for 2–3 hours. Make sure the school has a designated play area. Walk into their toilets to make sure they are clean. Talk about whether the school facilitates toilet training. If “yes” then what methods they use? If “no” and your child is not trained yet, then wait till your child is ready. Ask about how a typical day for your child would be like.
Coming to the question of “when to enrol your child to pre-school”? Ask yourself these questions. Is my child ready for school? Have we given her/him enough opportunities to develop independence and manage their daily routines? Is my child emotionally ready? Ideally, a child should enrol to a playgroup after they complete 2 1⁄2 years. It is about this time that they are ready to go out and explore the world around them.
Pre-school is a big step for your child to enter the larger community and into the world. Choose a school, which resonates and believes in the development of the whole child. A school, which stresses on the development of skills rather than mastering subjects. Much can be gathered from the walls of a pre-school. “Beware of schools whose walls are adorned with stencilled artwork”!!
“An environment where a child feels safe to make mistakes is an environment of learning”. Learning does not stop after graduation it must go on for life. So, make that first step the right step!!