by Millicent Skiles
Attending preschool is a milestone for kids – and their parents. It’s the first school setting most children have been in, and parents are eager to find just the right fit for their 3- and 4-year-olds. If you’re looking for a school that meets both your child’s and your family’s needs, a little preparation will help eliminate a lot of the worry in your search. Here are sometips to see you through:
1 Gauge your child’s readiness. Think about your child’s age and developmental stage. Many preschools acceptchildren only when they’re at least 3 years old at the start of the school year, usuallyin September. Some preschools require children to be potty-trained and readyto “separate” from a parent, while others will work with families on both issues.Many preschools offer different schedules and options, from a two- to five-day weekand half- or full-day classes, so that parents can choose which suits their scheduleand comfort level.
2 Consider what’s important to you. Make a list of priorities in your preschool search. In many situations, price will be amajor issue. Preschools can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 a year. Check with theMassachusetts Department of Education on whether your family is eligible for statefunds to help pay for preschool.
Another important consideration is proximity. Driving across town to drop offyour child only to pick him up three to four hours later will get old after awhile. Forparents who work, finding a preschool that offers extended-day care, year-roundeducation or lunch programs will be essential.
3 Learn the school’s philosophy. There are many kinds of preschools available. (See Preschool Philosophies sidebar.)Which one you choose will depend on your child’s personality and your own view ofwhat a preschool should offer. Regardless, it’s difficult for preschoolers to functionin the regimented environment associated with elementary school. So make sure thepreschool’s teachers introduce any academic concepts in a fun way.
4 Don’t be intimidated by wait lists. Sometimes, the waiting list has little to do with when families apply. The priorityat most preschools is to balance the number of girls and boys, different ethnicitiesand a range of ages. Keep in mind that siblings of current preschoolers will get preference.