What to ask when looking at Preschool

  1. You have chosen to ignore posts from Trouble30. Show Trouble30's posts

    What to ask when looking at Preschool

    I'm just beginning to look into preschools for my almost 3 year old to start in September.  What questions do you suggest I ask and what should I be aware of when touring the potential schools?  Thanks for any advice!!!  

     
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  3. You have chosen to ignore posts from Trouble30. Show Trouble30's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Grrr... bumping my post because of annoying spammer!

     
  4. You have chosen to ignore posts from purplecow89. Show purplecow89's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Do the kids look like they're having a good time?  Are they engaged, is the activity pitched to their level so they can do whatever it is?  Do the kids seem to be getting along reasonably well?  Is there a good mix of organized and free activity, of intellectual activity (letters, numbers, shapes, colors) and play? Do they have a reasonable time/length of nap if it's all day?  Do the kids spend at least part of the day grouped with their own age group and some of the time mixed ages?

     

    Other than that, figure out what is important to YOU and ask about that.  Don't go looking for a big list of Questions Good Mommies Ask Just Because.


    One biggie for me--at lunch time do they have the kids all sit and eat their food in a reasonably civilized manner, and sit there until everyone is done or nearly done during a specified time?  Not that every kid is going to eat every bite or have perfect manners at three, but if they're eating like savages and don't know how to sit in a chair or can't sit there quietly for five minutes...no good.  You would be surprised by how many kids show up in kindergarten (who have been to preschool) who kneel on the chair with their elbows on the table and eat utensil-type food with their hands.

    Yes, it's mostly the parent(s)' responsibility, but part of the reason you send them into the wider world is so someone other than Mom and Dad are also reinforcing some basic social norms too.  Lots of times kids will listen better to Miss Jane than to Mom!

     
  5. You have chosen to ignore posts from KAM2007. Show KAM2007's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Trouble-CT has posed this article and I thought it was great. http://www.boston.com/community/moms/blogs/child_caring/2013/01/hi_barbara_i

    When talking to my pedi about thinking of switching my son's preschool (our pedi hates all the forms and regulations my current center has) because they don't have a strong "educational" component, my pedi's response was "that's the first good thing I've heard about your center-run from any center that uses "curriculum" and 3 year old in the same sentence."

    Things I wish my center did better: Communicate what the children are doing each day. They have lesson plans posted, but its hard to read them and get your LO ready to go home. And talking to my DS about what he did during the day I hear "I played cars." Then the monthly newsletter comes out and they discuss a bunch of cool things they've done. (Building a volcano, making and flying kites etc.) This past month they've told us what they're doing this month-doing weather observations and documenting-so now every day I get to talk to DS about that.

    Find out how they like to incorporate what your child is interested in. DS's in a class of 12 kids-9 boys, and 3 girls (god help the teachers), so there's a lot of boy energy. The teachers kept trying to get them to stop playing pirates. I suggested they focus the pirate energy-draw maps, do treasure hunts etc. It took a few times of me suggesting this to his teacher, who is male, before he incorporated it into the class. DS has excitely showed us all the treasure maps he's drawn, and the details are increasing-so h's building on his skills.

    Most of preschool is learning how to get along with other kids. Learning basic manners. How they address meal/reading/nap time is important.

    besides that the basic questions about security/sick/closings/etc you ask for day care still apply.

    Good luck finding a program!

     
  6. You have chosen to ignore posts from ml2620-2. Show ml2620-2's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    KAM brought up a really good point that was a factor for us -communication.  We looked at two different but incredibly awesome preschools, one was huge on photos, website and blog updates, facebook updates on daily activities - as well as a portfolio of the child's work in each classroom, and one was not. While I felt a certain affinity for montessorri program that had the less web-based communication, we ultimate chose the other option, for a few reasons but they included communication with teachers. As a working parent who often wouldn't be able to do drop off and pick up myself very often, I need that kind of accessibility and communication.

    Another thing maybe to ask is what their vaccination policies are. We stuck to the vaccination schedule, but the schools policy was to accept unvaccinated children with an exception note, and they do infact have unvaccinated children currently in the program. I have mixed feelings about this, and don't want to start a political discussion about it or anything, but it's something to consider.

     
  7. You have chosen to ignore posts from clc51510. Show clc51510's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    I think it's very important that the preschool has a mix of free time and structured activity.  In high school I did an "internship" in a local preschool (4 year olds) and  they had no structured activities.  They had themes so the play areas were set up with certain themes in mind but they didn't actually do structured lessons to go along with the theme; all day, every day was free play.  The children had fun and were exhausted by the end of the day but they weren't learning the basics necessary to move to kindergarten: letters, numbers, colors and weren't developing the skills like sitting at a table or in a circle and listening to directions.  Only one or two of the 20-30 kids in the class could spell and write their name, not saying that all kids will be able to but I would expect a better ratio than that.  The one girl that knew the alphabet well knew it from her parents working with her on it not the teachers.  A well structured preschool should be showing you what their plans are for the kids each day/week/month.

     
  8. You have chosen to ignore posts from CT-DC. Show CT-DC's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    KAM, can you strongly encourage/request that the teachers write a "Today We..." note every single freakin' day and post it on the parent board?  they can't write daily notes for each child in preschool (although given your son's class has 2 teachers and only 12 kids, I actually think they COULD do this - we have 2 teachers and 8 kids so this would only be an increase of 2 notes per teacher, and they do them during naptime, so....  but as a start, if they wrote out a

    "Today We took a walk to the park and saw our friend the black squirrel plus 2 grey squirrels!  When we came back we built a volcano out of whatever it is - make sure you check it out in our art area!  Tomorrow we're going to set it off and see the lava come out.  During circle time we read "Volcanoes everywhere" and King Bidgood's in the Bathtub and Won't Get Out - and talked about the letter B - some of us even have names that start with B!

    Have a great evening, we'll see you tomorrow.

    WHAT a difference it would make on your car ride home, or at dinner time, or during bath and bedtime routine, as you talked about the volcano, what part he built, what color he thinks the lava will be, you can find out how much he knows about volcanos, and what he liked best about the book.  If they balk at wasting paper, they can have a few pages laminated and use overhead projecter pens to write a new one every day.

     

    Actually, curriculum and preschoolers DO go hand in hand, but NOT the way you might think of it - it's not a dumbed down kindergarten or 1st grade.  Curriculum is what we do all day, and HOW we do it.  We focus on gross and fine motor skills, language, reading and writing, social/emotional development as part of our curriculum, so that's why your school read the book they did at circle, which led up to the activity they did that day and the whole week....  the pirates is an expression of their curriculum - they are using fine motor skills, pre-writing (how to hold a pen, crayon and eventually pencil is critical before you can think about using those tools to make a letter or number) they are using critical thinking skills, they are socializing as they discuss each other's maps and talk about why they put what they did. Outside, if their teacher creates an obstacle course and then makes a map to follow during outside time, they will learn to follow instructions and follow rules.

    We have pushed education down so much that we expect 4 yr olds to be writing their names, reading, and unfortunately it's possible that many children can, but many children (and esp. boys although not always boys) cannot do this or aren't interested yet, and get so much pressure to do so that they get frustrated, stressed, and start thinking of themselves as not smart.  When you are pretending in dramatic play and you are the waiter, taking an order from the customers, and "writing" stuff (scribbles) on the paper, then bringing over the "food" (which could be pretend plastic food or some legos that stand in for those items or just plates), and remembering what that person ordered, you are learning social skills, memory, that writing is important and something they CAN do, they are taking turns, making and following rules, negotiating and being part of a whole vs. just being their own boss.  All critical!

    I would lean towards a program that has more open ended play than sitting down at structured time, because you see lots of "this is how you make a cat, do it this way" art in those latter programs, which doesn't teach anything and just leaves kids at tables too much. 

    And make sure they go OUTSIDE every freakin' day!  Your kids won't get recess once they hit elementary school, so get them outside now. 

    Spend time observing - pick out a child who seems to be like your child (boisterous, quiet, shy, helplful, into everything, reserved, whatever) and see if that child seems to do well at the school - does the teacher seem to get along with that child and the others, or does she pick at a few kids who can't seem to do anything right?  Do the kids seem to get along (for the most part, there will be squabbles, there should be), can they solve their problems themselves, and if not how does a teacher fix it? by sending them all away from the activity or does she sit and brainstorm and offer solutions and see if they can learn something from the disagreement/problem? 

    is it a happy sound of busy-ness or is it crazy, shrieking freakin' NOISY in the room? 

     
  9. You have chosen to ignore posts from CT-DC. Show CT-DC's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    KAM, I DO know what your pediatrician is talking about, when s/he says that s/he doesn't like to hear the words curriculum and 3 yr olds in the same sentence, because so often that looks like watered down curriculum for 5 and 6 yr olds, only for shorter kids at group tables vs. at individual desks.  And THAT is horrible, because what is appropriate for 5 and 6 yr olds is NOT for 3 and 4 yr old preschoolers.  In fact, unfortunately, so much of kindergarten is not developmentally appropriate for 5 and 6 yr olds, either, because the 1st and 2nd grade curriculum is being pushed down onto the younger and younger kids. 

    I love the idea of universal PreK (thank you, President Obama) but what I worry about is that it will be expressed in kindergraten curriculum at the 4 yr old level, and that would be sad.

    I would agree that social/emotional skills are THE most important aspects of a good preschool program, and the other things - the volcano building, treasure map making, pretending in the dramatic play area, using sand tables, water tables, blocks, legos, and hearing stories are all important because we must challenge children so that they aren't bored - but all of that should be done with the idea that children are going to learn socially and emotionally through that play, through that equipment.  Because you can't learn social and emotional skills unless you bump up against other children in play and work - it's not learned in a bubble, or when you are bored, or when you are so stressed by having to sit still for long periods of time, coloring on coloring books, worksheets or by writing letters on lined paper, or my heavy handed discipline.

     
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    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    KAM, I'm curious, what policies does your pediatrician think are over the top?  The ones that say that we need doctor's notes for kids to come back to school?  When does your school require those type of notes vs. the parents' word that their child meets the criteria for return (whatever they are at your school)?

     
  11. You have chosen to ignore posts from KAM2007. Show KAM2007's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    CT-glad to hear your nephew is doing better!

    Things my pedi doesn't like about my center: they requre notes for everything. Different sunblock than what the center provides=note; we don't eat pork products so the center needs a note (our center provides all food, and must provide an alternative protein for my kids-though I'm totally fine if they just don't have ham, but they have a cheese sandwich-but the nutritionist decides what their subsitution is). DD almost got kicked out of the center because her physcial release form was not on the form the center provides, but on the form the doctor provides (they changed their policy on that and didn't communicate it.) DD is allergic to mandarin oranges=note-this one is fine with me.

    But if the worst complaint is the requirement for notes-things aren't so bad! They just take things beyond common sense sometimes.

     
  12. You have chosen to ignore posts from purplecow89. Show purplecow89's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    I know the notes may be a pain, but it sure helps to keep things from getting mixed up about which kid eats or wears something different...if there is confusion people can look it up.

     
  13. You have chosen to ignore posts from CT-DC. Show CT-DC's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Hmmm.... OK, I feel better - we have sunscreen forms to fill out, but doctors don't sign, just parents.  Alllergies would require signatures from doctor and parents, with information about what the allergy is, what the reaction is, what the medication or treatment is.  If someone is a vegetarian or doesn't eat pork, we don't need a note, just need to know so we can write it in the classroom so there isn't a mixup.

     

     
  14. You have chosen to ignore posts from kargiver. Show kargiver's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Just talked with my BFF today about her 3 yo and their visiting preschools for her.  Something that weighed heavily on her mind was what their daily routine is for the newly potty trained.  Do they schedule regular potty breaks or rely on the kids to give consistent and clear signals to be taken as necessary.

     
  15. You have chosen to ignore posts from purplecow89. Show purplecow89's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    I'd hope with the potty, they'd do both--encourage the kids to speak up AND have a couple of regular breaks or reminder times.

     
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    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    I meant that she is asking what their specific plan is to handle it so a comparison in that regard can be made when weighing the pros and cons of each preschool.

     
  17. You have chosen to ignore posts from misslily. Show misslily's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Here's what my kids do in the 2 1/2 hours they are at preschool 3x a week:

    Put away their own coats, backpacks, boots etc. Put their snack in the bin. Wash hands.

    Then they have greetings, weather and a song. Then music and movement including yoga. Snack time is next - at tables and everyone helps clean up and recycle. Then they have another circle time with a story read by the teacher. Then they have partners time where they get paired up by the teacher and have to choose an activity with their friend for the day. They do art projects. They have "puddlestompers" where they learn about nature. They have library 2x a month to choose a book to take home (I'm the library mom!). They have recess at the end for 20 minutes if the weather is good.

    I get a page in their notebook everyday noting what they did and if something special happened (either good or bad). The curriculum is posted on the door everyday at dropoff. It says which books they are reading, what they are learning etc. "The Snowy Day" "Hibernation" "Valentine art" etc.

    They actually potty trained my son who was in pullups when he started. They took him every 20 minutes at first! And they are great about reminding kids to go.

    My kids just love it. They know their uppercase letters and can count to 20. I noticed the other day that they were working with kids on how to hold their pencil correctly.

    Ours is a NAYEC accredited school, but there are many very fine preschools who have chosen not to go through the very rigorous process of being accredited. So just because a school isn't accredited, doesn't mean they couldn't get it if they tried.

    Their are 14 kids and 3 teachers.

    Oh - and it's a nut free school if that matters one way or the other. My kids don't especially like peanut butter so it's not a problem for snack time. And everyone brings their own sunscreen in their backpack along with a hat with a brim during the warmer months.

    Hope it helps

     
  18. You have chosen to ignore posts from misslily. Show misslily's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    One last thing - I had wanted to send my kids to a school nearby that's in a church basement. The director did mention that they did sometimes tell "christian stories" like Noah's Ark and stuff. I didn't bother me, but it's something to be aware of with some of the private preschools. Many of the popular ones in my town are on church property.

    My kids school, on the other hand, has a "no holiday" policy. I was amazed that they got to do a valentine exchange last week. The elementary school kids in my town get to wear costumes on halloween, but the preschool kids weren't allowed. Obviously no mention of Christmas or Hannakuh. They did make Turkeys at Thanksgiving, but I don't think they actually discussed the holiday or it's meaning. Most of the books at story time were a Fall theme - about leaves and the changing of the seasons and stuff.

    Just something to be aware of. Good luck with your decision.

     
  19. You have chosen to ignore posts from CT-DC. Show CT-DC's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    misslily, what a full and wonderful half day your twins have at school!  Is your kids' school integrated? How are they doing with their hearing aids, do they wear them to school or not?  I know they eventually have to, but until they will be good about not pulling them out....  don't know how you manage it, although your school sounds like they could handle it if they took him every 20 minutes to the potty!

     
  20. You have chosen to ignore posts from misslily. Show misslily's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    CT - they are at the town preschool. It's integrated 40% special needs and 60% regular developing. My kids do wear their hearing aids every day. The school also purchsed an FM system. The teacher wears a microphone and her voice boots right into my kids hearing aids - even if they are all the way across the room. My town has a "teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing" who visits them once a week. She got "hushups' (basically tennis balls) for all the chair and table legs to help keep the room quiet for them. She will follow them all the way through the public school system. She currently has 43 kids in pre-12 that she watches over and makes sure they have all the accomodations they need to succeed.

    My kids also receive their SLP services and OT services. Other kids also get specialized SLP, OT and or PT if needed.  It's a wonderful place. It's amazing how far they have come in since they started in June last year. The school evaluated them last year and had very specific goals for all sorts of things (DS will initiate greetings to peers and teachers and continue a conversation for 2 to 3 turns) We're due for our next evaluations and new set of goals so we're ready for next year. They will go 4x a week starting in September. Of course the main goal is for all kids to be ready to mainstream into kindergarten.

    It's a fabulous place. My only "complaint' is that it's only 2 1/2 hours. Hardly enough time for mommy to get anything done. One other mom said she feels like she should just read a book in the parking lot sometimes! But it's worth it for the wonderful education they are getting. And at first I was reluctant to take on the job of library mom. My own mother has been really sick since Sept. so I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the extra time. But I'm so glad I'm doing it. I get to come to the classroom every other week with a selection of books from the library room for the kids to choose from. My children love seeing me and it allows me to see first hand what goes on there. I've also gotten to know all the other little ones in their class. I also signed up just before winter break when they needed 3 parents to help with a craft project. Three of us had a blast helping the kids make snowmen decorated with pompoms and snowflakes with glitter. We also made gingerbread kids with photos of each child as the head. I highly recommend any parent visit their kid's class - even if it means taking some time off work. You won't regret it. Our class also has guest reader spots available for willing parents and grandparents. It's another fun way to be involved.

    By the way - I got shooed out the other day for helping too much with coats, backpacks and snowboots. They want them to do it themselves! I was, of course, happy to oblige! :)

     
  21. You have chosen to ignore posts from rama8677. Show rama8677's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    MissLily, I loved reading about what your kids do at preschool.  We are sending DD to a NAYEC accredited program and they do many of the same things, teaching independence with putting on/off clothing and belongings put in cubbies, learning to socialize by sitting at table while eating, circle time with weather, stories, letters, shapes etc.  and we get a sheet every day detailing the days activities and adding a few specific details about my DD.

    I totally agree about your point about going into the school to help out.  I haven't had the opportunity to do that yet (DD goes to school on days that I am working) but I definitely intend to take a day off and volunteer at some point.  My reason for wanting to help out is selfish - I want to know more about her timeat school!  Other than the daily sheet, and brief conversations with the teachers at pick up, I get very little information from DD about what her day was like.  (Some days she says she did "nuffing" at school; other days, I get a story about how one of the other kids cried because they threw away their fork at lunchtime..not exactly the info I'm looking for!) And, yet, I know she's getting a lot out of school because she comes home and sings new songs and has new abilities (learning to write her name!) and has become more independent even in the short while she's been there....so she's getting so much out of it, just not sharing any of it with me!!

     
  22. You have chosen to ignore posts from Trouble30. Show Trouble30's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Thanks so much for all the helpful suggestions!  I will keep them all in mind when I visit schools over the next few weeks.  Such an exciting time - I can't wait to see what the schools are like!

     
  23. You have chosen to ignore posts from misslily. Show misslily's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    Rama - that's so funny. I get "I did nuffin" too. Or this story: "I was partners with David today. He's nice, but he whines everyday. And today we had to wait at circle because he wouldn't sit chris cross applesauce." I probably know more about David's day than his own mom! :)

    And I can usually get more out of DD than DS - so I rely on her for info!

    It's really hard to get info at dismissal unless there was something super important.

    Trouble - it's super fun to have them come home having learned something new. mine we're singing a song about an alligator eating monkeys the other day - complete with hand clapping when his mouth went "snap". Preschool is certainly an exciting event for parents and kids alike!

    Good luck with your choice.

     
  24. You have chosen to ignore posts from CT-DC. Show CT-DC's posts

    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    In response to misslily's comment:

    Trouble - it's super fun to have them come home having learned something new. mine we're singing a song about an alligator eating monkeys the other day - complete with hand clapping when his mouth went "snap". Preschool is certainly an exciting event for parents and kids alike!

    Good luck with your choice.



    Here's the song, in case you want to impress your children:

     

    5 little monkeys swinging in the tree,  (show 5 fingers, waving back and forth)

    teasing Mr. Alligator, can't catch me! (shake no with head and first finger)

    Slowly Mr. Alligator crept up the tree, and (make your hands like an alligator and creep up)

    Snap!  (clap your hands together like you are alligator jaws)

    4 little monkeys swinging in the tree,

    teasing Mr. Alligator....

    3 little...

    2 little...

    1 little...

    no more monkeys swinging in the tree!

    Regional variations are rampant!  Our teachers do the alligator song slightly differently than I did it when I taught in Massachusetts, their words are:

    5 little monkeys swinging in a tree

    teasing Mr. Alligator, can't catch me, can't catch me!

    Along came Mr. Alligator, quiet as can be and

    snapped that monkey right out of that tree

    And, for a different monkeys song:

    5 little monkeys jumping on the bed

    1 fell off and bumped his head!

    Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,

    No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!

    4 little, 3 little, and so on.  I usually have other people call the doctor, like Daddy, a teacher's name, etc.  And I change the gender of the monkey, I alternate with bumped HER head!

    Our teachers do it in a circle this way:  5 little monkeys jumping on the bed, (child's name) fell off and bumped his/her head.  (next child in the circle) called the doctor and the doctor said... and so on. That gets 10 kids' names into the song, which they love.

     
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    Re: What to ask when looking at Preschool

    ha ha ha... I love this thread.  The alligator song is a FAVORITE that DD brought home from daycare as well and I had never heard it either.  They sing the version with "along came Mr. Alligator, quiet as can be", and DD loves to do the quiet part and then the loud SNAP.

    Misslily and Rama - I also get a lot of "I don't know" or stories about other people's kids (mostly something they did that caused the teacher to say "NO", or if they cried or didn't listen).  I have been having a little bit better luck lately by asking her specific questions, but this might be because she enjoys correcting me.  Like I'll say, "did you play with bristle blocks today at daycare?" And she'll say something like, "no, we just played with REGULAR blocks and then... [et cetera]"  If I ask her just what she did, I almost always get "I don't know".

    This thread is very timely because we are deciding whether or not to enroll DD in a preschool that is preschool through grade 6, so no infant/toddler care.  It's way more expensive.  And way more inconvenient, because we would need to bring the forthcoming little one to our current daycare anyway.  I kind of wish I had never visited, because I was smitten.  I am also soul searching and trying to decide if the preschool and pre-K rooms were *really* more interesting than the ones at our current daycare center, or if I'm being unduly influenced by seeing, say, the K and 2nd grade rooms and all the cool stuff they had.  Misslily, it was a big help to see the rundown of your kids' day.

     

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