Choosing which preschool to enroll their child in is a major decision for parents. According to Camille Santos, a learning support consultant and a special education teacher at Explorations – developmental-interaction educational center - preschool forms a consequential part of a child’s core. Certainly, this task can be exciting as it is overwhelming. Here are several factors that parents may consider when making their choice.
For Edrea Ramos, a mother of two, location was a key factor in deciding her daughter’s preschool. She had originally intended to enroll her child in her alma mater, but because it was too far, she opted for a school that only took a 30-40-minute travel time instead.
Apart from significantly affecting a child’s disposition, Santos points out, choosing a school that is in closer proximity to one’s home means more time for the child to rest, socialize, and engage in other recreational activities. Joanne Ongsitco, a mother of a newly-enrolled preschooler, also adds that choosing a school that is closer to one’s home or workplace is a matter of practicality, especially in the event of an emergency.
Deciding on a preschool largely means choosing which teaching method to expose your child to. While there are several popular early education curricula such as the Montessori method, the Reggio Emilia approach, the Waldorf approach, and the Bank Street approach, Santos emphasizes the importance of finding a school that will complement a child’s personality.
She states, “Regardless of the program, a child will have a hard time excelling if the school’s educational approach isn’t suited to his or her personality.” Furthermore, “We want to maximize their abilities and potentials, not highlight their weaknesses, which is why it is important to choose a school that is equipped to deal with a child’s inherent nature,” Santos adds.
Another popular factor cited by moms when it comes to choosing a preschool is its culture. Anna Enriquez, also a mother of a newly-enrolled preschooler underscores the value of a school, which espouses holistic development among its students. She shares, “It’s important that the kids not only focus on academics but on other subjects or activities that will hone other skills as well.”
Expounding on the merit of a school with a holistic culture, Santos explains, “The school must cater to the holistic development of the child. This means that the learning atmosphere must tap the cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical growth of each child. Here, individual differences are acknowledged and respected as children are allowed to express their thoughts and feelings through various forms, such as language, movement, music, and art; work together with their classmates; and solve problems collaboratively.” In effect, children immersed in this type of school culture will more likely emerge as resilient, responsible, and broad-minded individuals.
Moreover, Santos also touched on the importance of a home-school collaboration; a partnership wherein parents, families, and caregivers work closely together to achieve goals and monitor the progress of the child.
Safe spaces for play and exploration
Naturally, a popular concern among parents when choosing a preschool is the safety and quality of the school’s environment. Among key aspects to consider about a school’s environment include the ventilation of the rooms, the cleanliness of the facilities, and the level of security mobilized throughout the entire school.
Other features to consider include the availability of libraries, clinics, and a cafeteria. As Edrea remarks, “It is crucial that the first few years of a child’s education must be fun and enjoyable because if they start detesting their campus at an early age, it would be difficult for them to appreciate school as they get older.”
In addition, Santos stresses the importance of a school that “encourages children to get busy with their hands and open up their senses through the availability of various learning manipulatives, because work and play are valued as sources of discovery and mastery of skills.”
Though each of the previously mentioned factors hold equal importance, according to Santos, the best schools have “a low child-to-adult ratio in the classroom to allow for individualized attention and differentiation of instruction.”
As each child is unique, each one requires different learning paces and patterns of growth. Therefore, “skills and needs must be accommodated and modified depending on their strengths and abilities,” says Santos. This is a kind of learning environment which can only be realized if the school strategically allocates its teachers.
Parents know best
At the end of the day, Santos acknowledges the uniqueness of each family’s situation, which will ultimately affect the parents’ decision about a child’s preschool. With more elements factoring into the equation such as costs as well as religious and institutional affiliations, there is no clear-cut process towards coming to a decision. Above all, it all boils down to how much the parents know their child, in order to determine the best environment and system where he/she will thrive.
In this light, Santos suggests that parents must play a very hands-on and proactive role in this process by personally conducting field visits to prospective schools. It is even better to bring their child with them and obtain a firsthand feel of the school’s environment and interact with the school’s personnel, faculty, and administrators, as well as observe their child’s corresponding reaction to it. Lastly, Edrea, Anna, and Joanne all recognize the advantage of getting actual feedback from other parents who have previously undergone the process of school searching.
Indeed, choosing a preschool can be one of the most daunting yet memorable undertaking for parents who only want the best for their child. However, focusing on the things that essentially matter can be beneficial in whittling down most of the anxieties and concerns that may arise during this pivotal parenting milestone.