By Betsy Stein
Want to have all the right questions when starting your preschool search? We recently ask several area preschool directors what questions they wished parents would ask when visiting their schools. Here are their top 10.
Questions for preschool directors
- What makes your program special, or unique? “I enjoy being able to point out the things that make our school stand out from other schools,” said Megan Holt, the director at Weems Creek Nursery School and Kindergarten in Annapolis
- Is your school credentialed, and what does that entail? The benefit of being licensed by the state is that it is an extra layer of rules and guidelines a facility must follow, which helps give children the best educational and professional experience by staff members, Holt said.
- Does your program address all areas of learning? A good program should address the cognitive, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual growth of a child, according to Jul Lee Martensson, Early Childhood Program Director and Director of the Annapolis Twos at St. Anne’s School of Annapolis. Children won’t be ready for physical or academic challenges unless they are feeling emotionally and socially secure and confident, she said. Parents should ask if the program is well rounded with opportunities in art, music, and science as well as time in the outside environment of the school, she said.
- How are academics addressed? Young children need to learn literacy and math skills in the context of everyday experiences, Martensson said. Play is not only important for developing social skills but also is the first step in growing academically. Look for writing opportunities in the housekeeping areas, math involved in the block area, verbal skills developed at the sand table. Too much paper and pencil activities stifles the love of learning at this age, she explained.
- How do you develop social and emotional skills? A good program should include in the curriculum interactive experiences that help develop social and emotional skills, Martensson said. It is important to give students the chance to apply skills that address conflicts and help them to develop a voice to meet their needs.
- What do you do if a child is reluctant to come to school? You want to be on the same page as the school on this point and know what will happen if your child does not want to go to school. A preschool teacher should do everything possible to help with the transition, said Dawn Wade director of Cape Kids’ Corner Preschool in Cape St. Claire.
- How long have your teachers been at your school? A good staff is a great indication of a good, stable school, Holt explained. A child’s preschool teacher is the most important adult in his or her life second only to his parents (and grandparents). Teachers who have been at a school for a long time are there because they love what they are doing, Holt said.
- What is the typical day like in the classroom? Are there a variety of activities addressing academic, social, and physical growth? Are students attending art, music, physical education, science activities, and library, and are they spending time outside? Are students having long periods of time to play? Are activities varied between small group, individual, and whole group tasks? Are there projects happening that last over longer periods of time? All these questions are important, stressed Martensson.
- How do I know if this is the right fit for my child? Schedule a visit to see the class, the school, and the teachers in action, Holt said. That is the best way to get a feel for a school. Look at the facility; is it clean and well maintained? Are the toys in good shape and age appropriate? Is the playground maintained? Most parents have good instincts when it comes to knowing what is best for their child. If you feel relaxed and excited about a school, you know it is a good fit, Holt said. Also, get referrals from former parents.
- What can we, as the parents, do to reiterate what is being taught at school during the day? This question is important because parents and teachers all need to be on the same page, and working together, Wade said.
For a listing of preschools in the area check out our directory of preschools and kindergartens.