Who knew getting your child in to preschool was almost as difficult as college submissions? Many of our friends with kids kept warning us we needed to start looking into preschools early! We had no idea how competitive the entire process was especially if you don’t want to pay a “donation” to get your kid a seat.
Be Proactive and Start Early!
Preschools waitlists can fill up early and fast. You are going to want to schedule preschool tours prior to the school’s new student open enrollment. All returning students and siblings have first access to available spots and if the preschool you are interested in is in high-demand the waitlist will fill quick. It seems like most schools in our area are opening up their waitlist for new students in February for the upcoming academic school year that starts in September.
Just to give you an idea, Hayden is 1.5 years old. My husband and I just started touring schools so we could get a more personalized tour as well as schedule them around our already hectic work schedules. The longer you wait to schedule them and the closer you get to the open enrollment, the more likely the tour schedule will be full or you will be touring with a lot of families which might not allow you to ask all of the questions you would normally want to ask.
Explore what style preschool will work best for your child and family.
There are many methods of teaching these days from free-play preschools to Montessori. It wasn’t until we toured that we were able to ask more specific questions about the curriculum and see students participating in the format live.
Aaron and I decided that we wanted something that was more structured but had a new age-style of teaching with an openness to evolving and refine their craft. Whatever you decide, make sure it fits your wants, needs and expectations. Also, if you have an elementary school in mind, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them and ask for recommendations on preschools that translation well into their school and curriculum.
Bring your child with you on tour!
You are going to want to see how your child reacts to the environment. If they allow you to let your child walk around the classroom and check things out I would highly suggest it. Hayden walked up to all of the kids while they were sitting in a circle and joined right in. She felt completely comfortable at two of the schools in particular and definitely did not want to leave. It was obvious which schools she felt comfortable at and which ones she didn’t.
Bring a list of questions to ask.
We had questions prepared that were not clearly answered on the schools website. Her are some of the questions that were important to us:
- What is the student to teacher ratio?
- How are your classes broken up?
- What educational background do your teachers have?
- It is important to us that Hayden, transfers with a few friends to her next school. Where your kids leave you what schools do they tend to go to?
- What security measures to you have on campus to keep kids safe?
- Does your school do field trips?
- Is a school uniform required?
- What is your schools approach to discipline?
- What is the expectation level for parent volunteering?
- What is the ideal schedule for a child starting preschool for the first time?
- Are music and/or a second language included in the tuition?
Make sure to clearly define what is and is not included in tuition.
Many preschools have what I like to call the “a la carte” menu. These are the add ons. Some schools will require you to pay extra for music, Spanish class, physical fitness, gardening and the list goes on and on. It important to clarify what is and isn’t included because you want to make sure your child gets the education you envision for them and those adds ons can add up fast.
Whether you love them or hate them, you need to know if they will occur, how often and once again what safety measures they take to safeguard all the little ones.
My husband and I personally come from the camp of wanting a school that does not do off-site field trips but brought the field trip activity to campus.
Wherever you stand on this topic, it’s very important to find out all the details so you know what the expectation is.
This was a big topic for me. I work full-time and have a crazy schedule like most working moms. I feared that if the school had a lot of parents volunteering that Hayden would be resentful that her mommy couldn’t be there all the time like other moms. You will find that some schools do not allow any parenting volunteering and others do but usually have a sign up sheet way in advance. If this is a concern for you like it was for me, make sure to ask how this works so you can find a school that works with your family’s situation.
This was a hot topic for us. Some of the schools we toured had gates you could just walk in and out of freely while others required everyone to be buzzed in with high tech security cameras. We wanted to make sure the school had top notch security and requested this be explained to us in detail.
Admissions and Waitlist
You are going to want to find out all of the details surrounding admissions. If the school you want is in high demand, you need to jump at getting your child on the waitlist the second it opens. Set a calendar reminder in your phone ASAP and do not procrastinate. You need to also ask what fees are required to be on the waitlist.
Lastly, many preschools have strict rules like your baby must be 100% potty trained or cannot start until they are exactly 2.5 years old. Make sure to these details are discussed so you can prepare and plan accordingly.
You might need to be flexible.
In more sought after schools, getting in is the major hurdle so you might need to be flexible on how often your child goes or what session they attend. The best advise I can give is get your kid in and know you can adjust the schedule later. Take whatever you can if it is the difference between getting them in or not.
Trust your gut!
You will know if the school is a right fit for you and your family. The second my husband and I toured our favorite school we knew. We could tell she loved it too by her natural reaction to the people, children and the surrounding.
Get ready! This process is competitive and if you want the best for your child (like most parents do) you are going to have to be proactive and on the ball, however never lose sight of what is best for your child and their happiness.