Monday, January 25, 2016

How do I choose a good preschool?

    It is often assumed that the role of a good preschool is to teach children their ABCs and how to write their name.  In fact, those are both things that can be done quite effectively at home.  What you don’t have at home is a room full of peers for your child to learn to work and play with while they happen to be practicing their traditional pre-kindergarten skills.

     A good preschool program will have developmentally appropriate program, which means they believe kids should be kids and not racehorses at the starting gate jockeying for position.  A good preschool will have:

· Space in their schedule and in their facility that will allow children to have 
  creative and purposeful free play, but that playtime needs to be balanced with 
  structured teacher directed activities as well.

·  Playground space that allow for unstructured outside playtime

·  Music time for singing, dancing and using rhythm instruments

·  Snack time when children can sit around a table and chat while they eat

·  Experienced teachers who have degrees or training in working with children

·  Rug/circle/gathering time when children can learn to sit in a group and hear 
  stories, learn about interesting topics, or have a discussion

·  A sense of exploration and fun with things to touch, see and do

·  An emphasis on developing social skills.  Even if a child knows the alphabet 
  in three languages, kindergarten won’t be much fun if they don’t know how to 
  make a friend.

·  Art and craft activities that are not too tightly scripted, but allow for the child’s
  style and creativity to blossom.

     School is the gateway to much success in life, but worksheets, flash cards and drills aren’t always the best preparation for school.  A preschool experience that fosters discovery, creativity, and social skills is far more valuable, lots more fun and it matches the way children naturally learn. 

     Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen wrote in his book Disrupting Class that the three core elements of the job of a preschool are:
            1. Creation of intellectual capacity in early childhood.
            2. Cultivation of strong positive self-esteem.
            3. Stimulation of intellectual curiosity, which will serve as a lifelong motivator for continued learning.

     Intellectual capacity comes from talking, touching, exploring, connecting and learning the new vocabulary that goes with all those things. Curiosity is facilitated by a good preschool teacher who really enjoys helping children discover the world.  Positive self-esteem is born of a child feeling capable and self-reliant because of the varied activities he or she has mastered at preschool and home.  Childhood is short.  Choose a good preschool.  And when you visit before registration, ask, “Is this where I would want to be if I was 4 years-old?”

© Diane L. Mangum 2014