Choosing a Preschool

It’s that time again. Just after the new year, we start seeing the ads in Bay Area Parent, the questions start flowing in the mom groups, and I start to break a sweat. It’s preschool open house time.

My daugther, Jelly, is 20 months and I’m considering sending her to preschool a couple mornings a week in the fall. I always assumed my daughter would just go wherever we sent her older brother, so this decision should have been made already. My son is 3 1/2, and when he was about Jelly’s age, I started to think about preschool for him. But he just didn’t seem ready, and we decided we’d wait until he was 3. But around his second birthday, he was diagnosed with autism, and a new path was chosen. There were still many decisions to be made, but they were guided by our developmental pediatrician and what the Regional Center offered for early intervention. When he turned 3, he entered our school district’s wonderful program. Although our days are challenging, the decision of what preschool he’d go to was pretty easy.

But now I have this typically developing little girl, who despite a little bit of separation anxiety, seems more than ready for preschool, so I’m once again faced with this decision. I asked my parents how they chose my nursery school, but things were different in the 70’s. Kids usually went to preschool for just one year, if at all, and my parents just put me in the nursery school at the local temple. They said they didn’t really give it too much thought.

For better or worse, parents have a lot of choices now. If you haven’t been through this, or are going through it now, here are just some of choices to think about:

  • Approach: Developmental vs. Academic
  • Philosophy: Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf, etc.
  • Religious Affiliation
  • Mixed age classes
  • Potty training requirements
  • Co-op/Parent Participation or drop off

In general, I think a developmental or play-based approach is the way to go, but my little girl is already showing an interest in reading and counting, so I do want to make sure those skills are not neglected. I’m a big fan of the Jewish preschools, but probably mostly because that is what I had growing up, and of course they are not all the same. I doubt she’ll be potty trained yet, and fortunately most of the 2’s programs don’t require this. (This is one thing experts agree on. Don’t push your kid to be potty trained if they aren’t ready just so they can go to a particular preschool. And don’t send your child to a school that requires your child to be potty trained if he or she is not.)

The parent participation schools tend to be wonderfully nurturing environments, and have the added benefit of being much less expensive than the drop-off programs. But I may have trouble with the commitment, especially since I’ve got an older child with a complicated schedule. I’m also, quite honestly, trying to get some free time for myself.

I’m planning to educate myself on the various philosphies, go to the Las Madres Education Fair (open to the public) this weekend, then attend a couple of open houses after that. I’m hoping I’ll be able to identify a few that seem to fit our style and budget, and are places my girl will be able to learn and especially have fun. I’m sure she’ll do well wherever we send her, and I don’t believe that the preschool she goes to will determine the rest of her academic future. But I can’t help but feel a little stressed about this decision. I just hope we get our applications in early enough. I’d hate to find the right school and end up on the waiting list.

Are you thinking about preschools for your little one? Have you found a preschool you absolutely love? Tell me about it! Leave a comment or find me on Twitter, @wantapeanut.

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  1. January 20, 2011
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