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The "Right" Preschool

By Virginia Calistro

Selecting the right preschool for your child is an important decision and a big step for both you as a parent and for your child. Send your child to preschool for the "right" reason; the program best-suited for your child will provide him with both a social and integrating experience.

What is most important to you as a parent in placing your child in a preschool program? Are you most concerned with cost, location, interaction between the teachers and children and teachers and family, or health and safety? Is your child developmentally "ready" for preschool? Is he able to walk, communicate his wants and needs, go to the bathroom independently (toilet training is required by some preschools)? What is his maturity level? Does he still rely on a pacifier, bottle or blanket?

Collect brochures containing information about the policies, prices and programs offered by schools within a 10 minute radius of your home. There is much to be said for the convenience of a school which is in close proximity to your home. Contact other parents, your pediatrician, church/synagogue, or town recreation department for referrals to licensed and accredited child care centers.

It is a good idea to visit the school yourself initially and speak with the director and staff about the program and its objectives. If the experience is positive, then revisit the school with your child. This information must be posted where you can see it, usually at the entrance of the school. Look for other posted information including: the school's philosophy, procedures to lodge complaints, a fire certificate indicating maximum occupancy, whether the school has been tested for radon gas and whether the school's instructors are certified for pediatric safety.

Observe the school during regular program hours: watch how the teachers interact with the children and vice versa. Are the children happy? Note the teacher-child ratio. State law requires 1 teacher to a maximum of 8 three to four year olds, and 1 teacher to every 10 four to five year olds. Ask about staff turnover as frequent turnover could indicate inconsistency and instability of the program. Talk with the parents of children already enrolled at the school. What is the condition of the classroom? Are supplies plentiful? Is the room bright and cheery? Is it clean and well-organized? Note how you feel about the school after your visit - the right school will give you a good feeling. Even after you have selected the school you thought would best serve the needs of your child, he may not adjust well. Accreditation requires that if it is the mutual consent of the staff and the parent(s) that the child has not adjusted to the school, i.e. is not "ready" for preschool, or is very unhappy and inconsolable, the parent(s) can withdraw the child from the school with a refund.

By Virginia Calistro, Director of Cabbage Hill Country School, Inc., Woodbridge, CT

 

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