Choosing your child’s childcare centre or first school is both an exciting and daunting prospect. Regardless of the qualities you’re looking for, it’s wise to start researching early and visit a couple of schools. Here are some questions to ask, and things to look for to ensure that this school will be right for your child and you.
Before You Go:
• Ask yourself “What kind of childcare or school environment am I looking for?” Do you picture your child in a busy, active place with lots of other children, or are you looking for a small, nurturing environment with just a few kids? What kinds of specific needs does your young child have: toilet training, napping, socializing? Do you want a school located near your workplace or your home? Is the fees within your budget?
When You Get There:
• Consider if this school is a good fit for your child — and you. Can you picture your child thriving here? Will this school engage his interests? How will he do socially in this environment? Nobody knows your child the way you do, so you have to be able to picture your child in this setting
• How does this school approach learning? Some philosophies are play-based, some introduce reading and math earlier than others, and many schools incorporate multiple philosophies. Some preschools follow specific educational models such as the Montessori Method, the Waldorf approach, the Reggio Emilia system and more.
• What is the look and feel of the school? Does it feel warm and inviting? • What kinds of activities are children doing? What is happening in the art corner and the block area? Are children working cooperatively, individually, or both? Are there opportunities for dramatic and fantasy play? Do children have lots of free time to run around? What is the focus on reading? If this is a preschool, ask if it focuses on teaching early literacy skills and at what age.
• How large are the classes and what is the teacher-child ratio? Most childcare centers range from 1:3 or 1:4 adults to children or infants, and then vary by age as the child gets older. The important thing to consider is how your child’s needs and your own will be met by this equation. Assess the staff and teachers. Do they seem happy and excited — or bored? Ask, “How long have teachers been with the program?” Also, inquire about how they were trained and training requirements.
• How does the school address social-emotional issues? How issues are like hitting, throwing, and biting addressed? What are the discipline policies? How are children punished for inappropriate behaviours .Do parents and teachers work together to deal with issues as they come up? Ask for specifics and consider if they will be right for your child and for you. How do teachers and the administration keep parents informed? Is there a good newsletter? Do you get e-mail updates?
Some more questions:
• Request a copy of the class schedule: Is the day broken up into many different classes or does one activity flow into the next? • What are the illness policies? How does the school handle illnesses? Is the space safe? Is it up to code? What evacuation plans are in place? Can you get names of other parents whose children go to the school? Talking to other parents is a great way to find out more specific answers.