Yes, it seems like we just began the school year but believe it or not, February is quickly approaching. Do you know what that means for Charlotte moms with little ones? Preschool enrollment time!
Oh, how I love thee, preschool!
Now I know for some of you the thought of preschool enrollment makes your palms sweaty and your heart race. Is my child too young? How do I know if a certain preschool is the right fit? Does preschool even matter? Am I a bad mom if I send my toddler somewhere without me for an entire morning??
Relax. While no one can answer every question for you, rest assured that most of us have had the same thoughts, which means most preschool directors and teachers understand your worries and will do everything in their power to answer your questions to help you make the right decision for your child. I’ve found these wonderful women (and I say women because I’ve never met a male preschool teacher but I’m sure there are some out there!) are the most loving, caring souls in all the land.
Here are some things to think about as you look around (thank you, Parents magazine!):
1) Do teachers stick around?
2) What’s the class size?
3) What’s a typical day like?
4) How is discipline handled?
5) What are your instincts telling you?
While preschool isn’t the right choice for everyone, it was definitely the right choice for us. I remember touring several different preschools (proximity to our house was key for me!) and instantly feeling at ease at the preschool we chose (OK, it could be because I am an alumni of the preschool but it was really the director at our school who nailed it for me! I still think she is in the Top Ten of The Most Wonderful People I’ve Ever Met!).
My kids have always loved going to preschool where they’ve developed friendships and gained skills beyond what I could teach them at our kitchen table. The sweet songs, artwork made from their little feet and hands, Christmas programs, and end-of-the-year-sing-a-longs are treasures for me and my husband.
Many preschools start at the toddler age (some have a “Must Be Walking” policy). I know many moms who wait until their child is two or three to begin preschool, which is just right for some families. You know your child best, and, in my opinion, it makes no difference what age you start.
We are so lucky to have so many awesome, affordable preschools in Charlotte (my friends in NYC and Chicago are astonished by how “cheap” they are!), but sometimes having so much variety can make the decision even more daunting. Ask around – at the park, the Target check out line, the food court. Most moms love to talk about their preschool. Once you’ve gotten a list together, call the school to ask if group tours are given or if they prefer one-on-one tours.
My advice is to hit the playground on a pretty afternoon around 1 pm –many parents stay after pick-up to play. It’s a great way to get a feel for the school and ask questions (plus lots of the preschool parks are some of the best in town!)!
And just remember: preschool is not “one step away from college.” A loving, caring, and safe environment makes most children thrive, and you might just find that three hours of time “off” two or three times a week makes you a better Smarty Mom!
Check out CSP’s past articles about preschool enrollment (2011, 2008). We’ve done lots of research for you! And feel free to brag about your preschool in the comments below – we’d love to hear your thoughts!