Parents…it’s time to enroll your little one into school.
Coming to this moment, especially for the first time with our children, can be very scary. We all try to keep our babies home for as long as we can, but at some point the inevitable occurs– we have to find a childcare center or preschool program that meets both our needs and the needs of our child. And it is HARD.
For the most part, we like the idea of school. We want our children to make friends, socialize and learn. The part that makes us apprehensive is the unknown: Will this daycare center or preschool meet our expectations? Will my child not only be safe, but nurtured by good people? Will this school provide my child with a greater learning experience than would be possible at home? In short, how do I find that one great school for MY little one?
Have no fear, Mrs. Marlene is here.
I have been in early childhood education for 20 years, and for most of them I have run my own high quality, family centered, performing arts childcare center and preschool program. I encounter parents all of the time who are looking for a great school for their little one, and I encourage all of their questions. Questions mean you care and know what to ask. In fact, the more prepared they are, the more I want them to be a part of our family! Staff and leadership that welcomes your questions and has the answers is a major plus, parents.
One major key to finding a great childcare center or preschool program is to start early! We often as parents procrastinate and put off the search process because we don’t want to let go of our babies. In all actuality we aren’t letting go of them at all, you will surely get them back at the end of the day. What you are doing is expanding your child’s village. And the process of finding the right village must begin as early as possible.
So I am going to walk you through this difficult but fun journey of interviewing preschool programs or child care centers for your little one. We use the term interviewing because when you are searching for a school for your precious treasure, you will need to determine which one deserves the job of educating your child. Which school deserves to be a part of your child’s village and success story?
Please keep in mind that each family has different needs and there are different programs set up for different ages. As parents we must remember what’s important to us and be ready to have our questions at hand and some type of expectation as to what you would like for the answer to be. Before you start this process, make a list of the expectations you have and take them with you, along with the questions below.
And another note – please pay attention as you enter the building. There should be a parent board as well as all licenses and documentations posted in a visible area. Make sure all of the dates are current and not expired.
What are your formal operating policies and are they accessible to parents?
What is the philosophy on childcare?
What is the capacity for the entire center or school as well as the capacity for each classroom and the teacher/child ratio?
What is the discipline policy, including hitting, biting and bullying?
What food and snacks are served?
How does the center or school handle allergies? Is the school or center peanut free and asthma friendly?
What is the policy for handling student allergies and medical needs?
What type’s activities are done throughout the day? Ask for a schedule.
What is the sick policy and what is the policy regarding immunizations?
What is the policy on potty training?
What time do children have to be picked up? Is there an extended day program?
Does the center or school have a relationship with an elementary school that is of equal caliber? Is the center or school a pipeline school for another school?
How often are the rugs cleaned and what are the sanitizing policies?
What is the curriculum and what teaching tools are used?
Does the school have an open door policy where parents can come by at any time?
How often are the fire drills, evacuations, lock down and intruder in the building drills done?
What is the medication policy?
Does the school experience a high employee turnover rate?
If applicable, what is the tuition?
What is the drop off, pick up and child release policy?
What credentials do the staff and owner/director/principal have?
Does the school have a parent teacher organization?..
Can parents volunteer?
What is the center or school’s cell phone policy?
What is the late fee policy?
Does the school have a nurse and are the teachers trained in first aide and CPR?
What is the policy on technology?
What is the policy on naptime?
How often do the children go outside to play?
How often do the children go on trips?
What is the sick policy for staff and teachers?
Is a background check conducted on all employees?
Do the center or school have a handwashing policy?
How is the child progress documented?
If you ask these questions, no stone will go unturned and there will be very little surprises at the end of your search. Listen for what is said but also pay attention to what is not said, and the person’s reactions to your questions. That can tell a great deal about how the school values parents. And remember to visit more than one daycare center. If you really like a school or center, always double back with a surprise visit. Remember the old adage about buying a house – it’s good to go look at it a second time in the rain. More importantly, follow your gut and let your love for your child, lead the way.
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