Finding the right preschoolAs July winds its way towards August, many parents in College Station may find themselves in a preschool panic. With two months left to go before the official start of school, there is not much time left to find the right childcare for your little one. There may be several choices available, but which one is the best choice for you and your child?

Where do I begin?

The most frequently used methods for finding the right school usually involve referrals from other parents or our good friend Google, with the most common search terms being, “Preschool, Montessori school, childcare and daycare.” Narrowing the city of choice is also helpful, i.e., “Preschool in College Station.”  Once you have found your options, the real investigation begins.

Most preschools will have a website. Take the time to go through the website and see what the school offers before taking the time to set up the tour. What ages does the school serve, what curriculum is offered, school timings, is it a year round program, how established is the school? Since time is clicking away, it may not be possible for you to visit a large number of schools before August, so narrow your search results down to the top 5 or 6 and then set up a time to visit the facility. If you can arrange your tour mid-late morning, that is optimal, with later tours you run into lunch, nap and afternoon pick-up.

The Tour

When you arrive for your tour, have a list of questions ready to go. Many schools will offer a folder of some type with basic information (school timings, tuition etc), but for the nitty gritty, it is great to have questions on hand. Here are some helpful suggestions:

  1. What are the ages in the classroom?
  2. What are the ratios and what is the maximum number of children in each group?
  3. How long have the teachers been at the school and is it the same teacher throughout the day?
  4. What are the main points of the curriculum?
  5. What is the policy for t.v and other electronic gadget time?
  6. Are meals/snacks offered?
  7. What is the discipline and guidance policy?
  8. Are there any extra curricula activities offered at the school (dance, gymnastics etc)? Tackling these activities after a long day of work can be challenging, why not get them taken care of during the day!
  9. Does the school offer field trips, either in house or off campus? If off campus, how do the children get there and back?
  10. How diverse is the school, teachers and students?
  11. How does the school decide when to move children into the next older class (certain time of year, age, over-all readiness)?
  12. What are pick-up and drop off procedures?

Things To Look For

The most important aspect of any school, is safety. What safety measures are in place to keep your child secure? Many schools have adopted some sort of keypad entry system to keep strangers out, this is a definite plus!

Ask to observe the classroom your child will be entering as well as the older classes they will eventually move into. Most parents prefer to keep their child in the same preschool if possible for the sake of consistency. It is important that you have all relevant information for however long your child will attend the school. Is the classroom clean? Don’t confuse a messy classroom (which just means that kids are exploring the world around them) with a dirty classroom.  Watch interactions between children and teachers, are the children engaged and active, what are the communication styles being used? Don’t be overwhelmed by loud active classrooms; happy children are busy bees with lots to share!

Children spend a good portion of each day outside playing, take a look at the playground and see what activities are available and how much shade there is to keep little ones cool in the hot Texas heat.

The school parent board has all the inspection information and the classroom parent boards have daily schedules and other important information. This is helpful information for you to see the compliance history and how your child will be spending his/her day. The parent handbook is essential reading, be sure to read it completely so that you understand the policies and procedures of the school and if they work for you.

Finally, if you have not been referred to the school by someone you know, ask for references. Most schools will be more than willing to give you the names of a few parents that you can talk to and find out what their experience was like.

Now What?

Once you have toured and found the place that is a good fit for you and more importantly your child, go for it! Every parent wants to know that their child is learning as much as possible to get ready for kindergarten, however, don’t lose sight of the fact that preschool should be fun and nurturing. There is plenty of time to be serious, for now, let them enjoy these years.