Just when we start relaxing in this quiet lull between holidays, something jolts us back into the reality of mommyhood: it’s almost February, which means most preschools are accepting applications for new students! If this is your first time maneuvering the great big world of preschool, don’t worry. We’ve got your back. We asked Smarty Mom of the Year, Charlotte Shakleford, preschool director at Mouzon United Methodist Church, to share with you some of her tips about how to pick the right preschool for your child.
You can also take a look at the Smarty preschool tips from last year to supplement your research. We have so many amazing preschools in Charlotte – you are sure to find one perfect for your child and your family.
Now here’s Charlotte’s advice on preschool enrollment:
Every year it sneaks up on me. I get the last Christmas ornament back in the box, and suddenly it’s time to plan for the upcoming school year. As a teacher I enjoy the planning component; it’s what keeps me sane and organized. Yet, every year preschool enrollment takes me by surprise.
If you have a preschooler (or a preschooler in training), you are probably in the process of touring schools to find the right fit, or waiting for your current school to send home registration forms for the upcoming school year. Most preschools in our area begin registration in February.
If you haven’t found your preschool home, here are a few tips to help in your search:
1. Bring your preschooler!
First and foremost, always take your preschooler with you when touring new schools. Children are so intuitive and will always let you know how they are feeling in a new environment. If the school looks great, but your child seems distressed or uncomfortable, keep looking.
2. Follow your “parental gut”
If everything looks good, but you’ve got a gut feeling that something is off, it isn’t the school for you. While some people joke and say, “It’s just preschool,” we as parents know that any decision involving our children is of the upmost importance. We want our child’s first school experience to build their confidence and help them feel loved and secure.
3. Play based learning? Academics? Or both?
Local preschools have a lot in common, but one thing that can set them apart is their method of teaching. We all know that preschoolers learn through play. They learn how to interact socially with their peers, follow their teachers’ directions and a multitude of other life skills. While play is an integral part of all preschools, we as parents need to decide if we want an academic focus as well. This is where the divide among preschools occurs… Some preschools believe that kids should be kids, and academics should not be a focus. Period. Other preschools believe that a play-based environment is an ideal opportunity to teach colors, shapes, letters, and various other academic concepts. In these schools, academics are taught through play, everyday. Going a step further, there are some preschools that function more like elementary schools. Children are expected to complete work sheets, learn through methods that don’t always involve play, and have homework in the afternoons. Regardless of which you think is best, it’s important to decide what type of program will benefit your child the most before scheduling your tour.
4. Do you have a TK-er?
Now that CMS (and most private schools) have moved the birthday deadline to August 31st, there are number of children that are in need of Transitional Kindergarten. Generally speaking, children with a birthday between August and December may need a TK program before Kindergarten. In other words, they’ve completed the toddlers, 2’s, 3’s and 4’s, but they still miss the deadline and cannot begin kindergarten. There are several great preschools that offer TK programs, and it’s definitely something to consider if you have a child(ren) with a late birthday.
5. Location, Times and other Conveniences
As parents, preschool hours are incredibly sacred. It allows our children to develop and learn from others, while giving us a chance to breathe so we can be a better mom when it’s time to pick them up. When choosing a preschool, look for a school that not only meets your child’s needs, but also your family’s needs. Is the school convenient to your home or work? Are the hours conducive to your schedule? Do you have friends or neighbors that attend the same preschool and could help with carpooling? As parents, it’s ok to be a little selfish and still find the perfect school for your child.
It amazes me how quickly each school year passes. Our sweet children grow up so quickly, and attending preschool allows them to develop skills that will benefit for a lifetime.
Thank you, Charlotte, for all of your wisdom! We want to hear from you – do you and your child love your preschool? Where do you go and why is it THE BEST in town?