When deciding on a preschool for your child, there are important questions to ask the director. During the research/shopping around period, take time to gather information and spend time touring schools, listening and asking questions. There are excellent preschools, average preschools, low quality preschools, and very low quality centers. Here are four important questions and red flags to consider when choosing a preschool for your child.
Be Prepared With the Right Questions
1- Check to see if the school is accredited by a national or state accreditation agency. This goes beyond the regulatory state license (which is very important), and means that the agency representatives have conducted a thorough review of educational delivery, health and safety implementation, and operational and campus environment excellence. They observe each classroom, most often during instructional times of the day. It doesn’t guarantee a perfectly run school, but it should and does mean the owner/director cares enough to do the work required for an accreditation. This should be first on your list. If the school is not accredited, ask why. Does it plan to go through the process in the near future? Which agency will it use? How long has the school been in operation? Is it a private business? I would not rule out a school if it isn't accredited, as some new schools need adequate time before the accreditation process.
2- Check out the school website and read carefully the school philosophy and best practices of the school. The objectives should be clearly focused on the child’s benefit and the professional manner in which teachers/staff implement the program. Write down what is most important to you in selecting a school and ask the director plainly, (an example), “I see that one of your objectives is to understand and use basic educational concepts in Literacy, Math and Science. Can you give examples of how this is done in the 3 year old classroom?" The director should be able to give a focused, descriptive response without hesitation. It’s best to ask the most important questions at the very start, as you may forget or get caught up in the tour or become sidetracked with other details and the school activity. Take a written list with you and don’t feel embarrassed to have it in plain sight as you interview the director.
Look for Professional Early Childhood Educators
3- Ask about the teacher’s credentials and the staff rollover. What are the education requirements of teachers? Ask specifically about who your child’s teacher will be and ask to meet her and observe the room. The prospective teacher will become a very important person in your child’s life. You should feel comfortable and confident that the teacher and your child are a good match. Ask if there are other teachers or staff who will be involved with your child. Go with your instinct and listen and observe carefully. Most teachers want the very best for each of their students. If you feel noticeably uncomfortable, keep shopping around.
4- Ask about the payment policy and make sure you understand it fully. Some schools are very strict in regard to how payment is made and enforce late payment fees. Even if your child is sick or staying home with visiting relatives for a week, unless this is specific vacation time that has been earned and scheduled, most schools require payment for the missed week. Most preschools are corporate or privately run businesses, so it’s expected that you understand the business end of your partnership with the school. A good director will be more than happy to discuss these details and they should be included in the parent handbook. If a signed contract with the school is necessary, make sure you read and understand it thoroughly.
Listen, Observe and Know What to Look For
Red Flags to Watch for When Choosing a Preschool
If you can’t answer yes to the following, it could signal a red flag. Proceed with caution.
- First appearances are important. Does the school look well maintained? Is it clean? If not, that’s a huge red flag. Move on.
- Are the staff appropriately dressed? Do they appear professional in manner and their attire? Are they clean in appearance? Does the director have a background in the early childhood profession?
- Do you hear laughter and see smiles? Are the children actively learning in a structured environment, or do you see kids sitting at tables with their heads down?
- Are the children required to stay outside for extended periods of time in late afternoons? Are they overly hot and dirty? Be sure to ask the director and teacher how long the children are outside. If they’re outside for longer than an hour session at a time without some form of reprieve, ask why. Does the time given match the posted schedule in the classroom?
The best parent-child-teacher relationships are those in which mutual respect is evident. The best teachers are pleasant, professional and well prepared. The best preschools have an excellent reputation in the community and live up to the high standards that parents should expect and require from a preschool.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.
CraftytotheCore on February 03, 2014:
I wish I had read this information when my children were preschool age. I enrolled mine in private school because there weren't any openings in our public school. It was a nightmare. I didn't know that the teachers didn't have to be formally trained to work there. Some of them barely had high school diplomas, never mind any early childhood training.
rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on August 06, 2013:
That's funny, Holle. Every room has at least one MAJOR handful, they adapt! You know, it's kind of crazy to say, but we find that the new 3 or 4 year old child who has been home with Grammy IS usually a handful! After a while in a well-managed, caring classroom, they adapt. I hope he finds a wonderful teacher, it makes a difference, as I'm sure you can understand. Thanks for reading and taking time to leave a comment!
Holle Abee from Georgia on August 06, 2013:
Great read. My four-year-old grandson starts pre-K this year, and he is a MAJOR handful. I'm going to pray for his teacher! lol. Voted up.
Michelle Liew from Singapore on July 17, 2013:
Yes, other than checking if the credentials are valid dressing does speak volumes! Thanks for sharing, Rebekah!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 17, 2013:
When I was searching for my kids preschool, I wasn't prepare for the questioning. Instead, I was looking for a school nearby our house so that I could send him to school by walking together. He can't accept taking a school bus or van. So, I had no choice since I can't drive. I should have ask about the teacher's qualifications and all those points you had listed. thanks
Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on November 04, 2012:
It is sad when they close our children's schools..
thus hub is great and informative..
I want to thank you. 1 year ago today you gave me my very first comment.on my very first hub., called
"I LOVE POETRY"
thank you so much..
it's been a year now.
and I stand amazed
rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on July 05, 2012:
TToombso8, Thanks for reading. I can imagine you could have used this info here in Florida. Unfortunately, it's true throughout the country. Preschools are a hit or miss and it is imperative that time, research, and observation are a part of the choice process. Parents sometimes falsely assume that a newer, attractive facility is a sure sign of a great school. Believe me, it's not. It starts at the top. A seasoned professional, experienced director will take the time to hire the best available. It's not easy.
It's so sad to hear about Collin. It is especially challenging finding the right school for an autistic child. Most preschool teachers are not trained in how to best teach/instruct a non-verbal autistic child. I would suggest reaching out to an early childhood coalition or the public school district to find recommendations for an autistic child. And then still, ask these questions and look around carefully and listen closely.
A non-supportive preschool/daycare environment can do more harm than good for a child. There are great schools out there.
Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on July 04, 2012:
rebekahELLE, I so could have used this in Florida when I was searching for a preschool for Collin! It was doubly hard as he's non-verbal autistic. He got bounced around a number of times because we were assured they could handle it only to find out a day or two later they couldn't. Excellent hub and VERY useful. Thank you. VUM!
rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on May 30, 2012:
Thanks Sandra and twoseven. Sanda, I agree that it's an important subject and one that I wish parents would take much more seriously. Preschoolers are often at school longer than they are awake at home. This is a huge influence on young children. Thanks for reading.
twoseven, it sounds like you found a great school! Happy children is an effective endorsement in a preschool setting. Good for you and your child!
rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on May 29, 2012:
Thanks teach12345, I appreciate your comment. Definitely, first appearances are key and they say a lot about the quality of the school. So many germs are brought in through the front door. The school I currently work at has a small sink in the front lobby. It shows we care, and it does reduce the number of germs coming in and going home.
Thanks Pamela, I hope it is helpful to those who are seeking a quality school, and perhaps it may help those who already have a school. It never hurts to make sure your child is in the best environment.
twoseven from Madison, Wisconsin on May 29, 2012:
Great advice! It can be really daunting trying to choose a preschool, and this gives some great ideas of what to focus on when evaluating choices. For me, it really ended up coming down to the "tone" of the school - at the one we chose, the children were happy!
Sandra Busby from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA on May 29, 2012:
Great hub on an important subject. Thanks for SHARING.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 29, 2012:
This is a very thorough assessment for parents looking for a good preschool. I believe these years may be the most important in a child's education and they set the standard for their school life for years to come. Very useful, excellent hub.
Dianna Mendez on May 28, 2012:
Great advice to parents when looking for a good preschool. It is so important to ask the questions you list as it will give parents a better understanding of the environment. Noting the condition of a school is key, a dirty, unkept building is a sign of carelessness. Voted up.