With summer quickly coming to an end, and the fall semester just around the corner, many new families are out and about looking for new schools for their little ones. It’s that time of year! There are many factors to consider while compiling your list of schools to visit, most importantly, recognizing what is important to you and your family. You might find that child safety is your number one priority, or that you prefer low student to teacher ratios, or even that the school has a strong emphasis on professional development and proper training for their staff. Whatever your priorities may be, below is a list of what we feel are important factors to consider when touring any preschool.
1) When you first enter a new school, you should automatically feel a sense of warmth, or comfort. Your first impression of a school is determined within the first few seconds that you step foot through the door. You want to feel that you’re “at home” and that your children will have the same sense of security on their first day of school.
2) What programs do they offer for your child’s age group? Do they coincide well with your work schedule?
Some schools offer part-time programs, or Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 8:00am-noon, while others may only offer full-time, 5 days per week.
3) School Calendar/Scheduled Holidays and Days of Closure
There’s nothing more disappointing than finding out that the school you’ve chosen has a high amount of days of closure, after you’ve already enrolled and paid the initial, non-refundable fees. Be sure to ask for a copy of the family event calendar and verify that the holidays/in-service/parent conferences fit well with your work schedule.
Tuition is definitely a priority. Consider when the tuition is due, if it’s due per week, or per month. When do late fees start accruing? What if I leave town for an extended period of time with my family, do they offer a tuition discount? Does the school only accept checks, or can I pay via credit card? Considering how much it costs a family over the duration of a year in tuition, it’s important to finalize these details before you make this financial commitment.
What curriculum does the school follow, and are the lessons age-appropriate to your child’s developmental needs?
6) Meal Program
How are the daily meals prepared? Do they shop locally for the food, or is it delivered on a food truck? Does your child have food allergies? If so, what system can be put in place to ensure that your child receives food appropriate to their diet? What time is breakfast and lunch served? Is the food included in the tuition? Do I have to bring my child’s lunch? All of these are great questions to ask the person guiding you through your tour.
“In order to protect the child’s development, it would be well if a large part of the child’s diet could be entrusted to the school.” ~Maria Montessori
At Healthy Beginnings, we are committed to nutritionally cooking and baking seasonal from scratch with all-natural, organic products while sensibly introducing the children to diverse ethnic food, flavors and tastes. Everything we serve has a nutritional value of some kind to help our children develop a healthy diet from the start.
7) Parent Education
Does the school uphold a commitment to parent education workshops and events? Is this important to you? Like many schools, we believe that parent involvement is an essential part of our community growth. This is also a great opportunity to meet the teachers, or to socialize with your fellow school parents.
8) Teacher Certifications, Training, Qualifications, Professional Growth
If you’re leaning more towards Montessori, does the school have Montessori trained Guides? Is it important that the teachers be involved in continuing education and professional growth? Our TX Minimum Standards requires child caregivers to receive 24 hours of continuing education every 12 months, in several different categories pertaining to child growth and development. Does the school follow these minimum standards, or exceed them?
10) Eco-Safe/Eco-Friendly Environment
We pride ourselves in being a “green” school through our eco-friendly practices and environmentally-safe cleaning products. We recycle as often as we can, instilling an appreciation for mother nature in all of our children. If this is important to you, make sure your school is involved in similar practices.
11) Communication with Teachers
How and when do teachers communicate with their parents? Weekly emails? Daily journals? How can you communicate your concerns to your child’s teacher?
12) Communication with Administration
Is administration easily accessible? Do they have an “open-door” policy allowing you to communicate with them at any given point of the day? What is the main source of communication for the school community (e.g. email, online forums, newsletters, a bulletin board, etc.)?
13) Parent Participation
Does the school have a parent organization? Do they allow you to participate during special events? Do they offer discovery sessions for you to come and observe your child in their classroom environment?
14) Overall Cleanliness of the Building
It goes without saying that the school’s cleanliness and sanitation are a must. It might also be a good idea to discuss the methods of cleanliness in regards to the child’s personal hygiene (how often do they wash their hands, are the works rotated and cleaned once placed in their mouths, etc).
If you’re looking specifically for a Montessori school, rather than a conventional daycare setting, it’s important to make sure the school adheres to the Montessori philosophy. Discuss the curriculum and the work cycle of the classroom.
These are just a few factors to consider while touring new schools. It’s important to do your research, know the school’s background and culture, and come prepared to ask questions. Find out what your child’s daily schedule will include. As an administrator myself, I see this as an opportunity to get to know you better, to discuss your expectations, and educate you on what our school can offer your family. You can never have too many questions; the more, the better!
Copied from our website, healthybeginningsmontessori.com:
For those Parents who view education differently. Why Choose a Montessori School?
“If we decided that the purpose of education should be to help every child’s brain reach its highest developmental potential, we would have to radically rethink school. The task seems insurmountable, yet this work has already been done. In fact, it was done over a hundred years ago. When examined through the lens of environmental enrichment and brain development, Montessori education presents a radically different–and radically effective–educational approach that may be the best method we’ve got to ensure the optimal cognitive, social, and emotional development of every child.“
– Steve Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN is Director of the Center for Research on Developmental Education, and a Board-Certified Pediatric Neuropsychologist