Once you’ve decided what your needs and goals are for preschool, you’re ready to make a list of local programs.
Get familiar with available options: look at parenting magazines or newspapers or the yellow pages. Do web searches. Find an accredited program: www.naeyc.org/academy/accreditation/search. Search for local child care and preschools, go to www.childcarenet.org/families. Go to preschool fairs.
Ask your friends, families, co-workers and other parents at the playground for recommendations. (As your child gets older, one of the best sources for recommendations for the next level of schooling is to ask your child’s current teacher(s) or coach for recommendations.)If someone says they LOVE a particular preschool, ask why! It could be that something they love would totally turn you off. Or their family might have different needs or goals than yours. We all have different things we’re looking for.
Once you’ve got a list of interesting options, do more research. Read the school’s website in detail. Call to ask more specific questions. Go to open houses. Most open houses are in January and early February, so start looking early! (Note: if your child is a young toddler, and won’t be old enough for preschool for another year, you’re still welcome to check out open houses early. Sometimes it’s nice to begin checking things out early when there’s no pressure to make a decision.)
Once you’ve narrowed your list to three or four choices, absolutely go visit! They may have an open house (which may or may not allow you to bring your child along). They may have adult-only visits during the school week where you can go and observe part of the session. They might (if you’re lucky) have child visits, where you can bring your child along to spend some time participating in the activities. The in-person visit is the most important part of the process. Sometimes you have a school that sounded great on paper, but when you get there, it just doesn’t feel right…
Check out my next post for questions to ask at open houses and visits.
If you’re in the Seattle / Puget Sound region, we have fabulous cooperative preschools based at each of our local community colleges. Learn more here.