A Katy parent’s guide to the basics of selecting the right preschool for your family
Written by Freda Ihediwa and Katy Magazine’s Editors
Selecting a preschool is not an easy task, especially with the overwhelming amount of quality preschools to choose from in the Katy area. Each one has its own unique qualities, and parents diligently seek a preschool that matches their family’s educational beliefs and values. Communication and research are key components when selecting a preschool that will accommodate your needs. Here are the basic ABC’s and 123’s of selecting the best fit for you and your child.
A – Ask
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make a list before you visit each school of things you would like to know about. For Katy mom Ashley Lancaster whose son has a life-threatening illness,
she had two main questions entering into her evaluation process. “‘What is your sick child policy?’ and ‘What is your hand-washing policy, and is it enforced?’” Evaluate what is most important and valuable to your family, whether it’s health-related, education-oriented, or a matter of proximity.
“Open communication with parents, management, and staff helps to foster a healthy and beneficial learning environment,” says Kamilla Saidova, owner of The Learning Experience. Also, ask for referrals from other parents. They have already done the research or may have
children currently enrolled in programs. Find out what they’ve appreciated most about their school’s curriculum, teachers, and overall environment.
Do your research. Preschool accreditation can be easily verified through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and most schools also allow you to view sample curriculum. Do you want a more hands-on approach to learning, or would you prefer a structured academic schedule? “Our motto sums it up: Learning for fun. Learning for life. I would like all parents to know that at The Goddard School, learning is fun,” says Asli Remlinger, owner of The Goddard School in Katy.
Look for programs that offer a good mix of learning, playing, activities, and extracurricular opportunities. Schools that are too focused on just learning or just playing are usually not the best fit for children. “Primrose classrooms are furnished with developmentally appropriate furniture, fixtures, and equipment,” says marketing director of Primrose School of Cinco Ranch Starla Fitch. “Our units of learning and our character development program, alongside a culturally diverse staff and student population, helps create a positive, productive, and cultural learning environment.”
Once you have narrowed down your choices and come up with two or three places you are interested in, schedule a time to visit each preschool. You can learn a lot about a setting by the way staff approach introductory visits with you and your child. During your visit ask yourself questions such as, “Do I feel welcome here? Does my child seem interested in what they have to offer? Do the children in the setting seem happy? How do the adults and children interact? Is the setting clean and safe?”
“Spanish Learning Castle is a school setting where their child is safe, and he or she, feels at home. Parents are confident knowing that their child is being attended to every minute of the day while learning and having fun. Recently, a parent told us that this is the reason she enrolled her child at our school,” says Ramon Marin of Spanish Learning Castle.
Find a preschool you feel is in line with your child’s needs and fits your family’s philosophies. Remember to ask how the preschool stays in close communication with parents and updates them on their child’s progress. “An emphasis is placed on parent communication to foster the connection between school and home, creating continuity in the child’s educational experience,” says Fitch.
Spend at least one hour in the classroom of your top three choices. This will not only allow you to see teachers and students interact, but determine if their education philosophy supports your family’s values. “We have a loving, family atmosphere that exists between the staff, kids, and extended families,” says Steve Sandweiss, owner of Tiger Land Child Care Center.
Connect with your child’s teachers. They will be the ones interacting with your child every day and their new primary source for knowledge. Find out if the teachers are available for quick side chats at drop-off and pick-up. Do they offer their email addresses to parents? And if so, how quickly will they get back to you? “Besides Goddard’s play-based curriculum, the school realizes the importance of the home and school connection between parents and teachers,” says Remlinger. “The teachers differentiate instruction for each child. They also modify or enrich goals as needed for the success of children.”
Many schools also send home newsletters to update parents on classroom activities. Find out if these will tell you menu plans for the week, what projects are being completed, and other school-wide news.
Choosing the best preschool for your child does not have to be an overwhelming task. Successful parents go into the process aware, informed, and ready to ask questions. Being prepared will make the process efficient, effective, and meaningful for you and your child. KM
FREDA IHEDIWA is freelance writer, and teacher at Hancock Elementary. She is proud to call Katy home.
* See the full feature in Katy Magazine December/January 2014 for tips on how to prepare your child for preschool and a list of common preschool philosophies in the Katy area.