How to Evaluate Preschool Environments: 12 Steps - MakeSureHow
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You think picking a preschool is easy until you run into Supermom. Her dissertation comparing the local preschool coop with the Montessori school has your head spinning. Who knew picking a preschool could cause as much stress as choosing a college? Before you get caught up in the buzzwords, take a deep breath, pour yourself a cup of coffee and figure out what's important to you. A visit to potential preschools is one of the best ways to figure out if the school is right for your little genius.


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    Sort out what you want to see and situations that would send up a red flag. Do you want the kids romping and exploring with wild abandon or spending more time on academics? Is a large gym or a new playground important to you? If you have a clear idea of your expectations, you'll have an easier time figuring out which preschool meets most of them.
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    Turn those expectations into a checklist. Type each item out so you have it in black and white when you check out the preschool. You can get a general feeling just from sitting in the classroom, but a checklist means you won't forget to check out each item. If you're comparing several preschools, the checklist helps you keep them all straight and compare them on the same points.
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    Walk into each preschool environment with an open mind. It's not always easy, especially if you've already heard rumors about the school, but assessing as objectively as possible is key. While firsthand recommendations can help steer you in the right direction -- especially when they come from trusted acquaintances -- you'll benefit from setting those recommendations aside while you observe each environment, so you can form your own opinion.
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    Check out the physical environment of the preschool, inside and out. Look for a clean, safe space that makes you feel welcome. Note any potential dangers, like broken stairs or cleaners left out where kids can reach them.
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    Scan the preschool classroom to see what types of items are available to the preschoolers. Preschools typically have toys, books, art supplies, games and science tools. Look for some sort of organizational system with enough space for the kids to play.
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    Look for a posted schedule in the classroom. If you don't see one hanging up, ask the teacher to see her copy of the schedule. Checking out a typical day gives you an idea of what activities the school has planned, how structured the teacher is and how many transitions your child will go through each day. Some kids thrive in highly structured classrooms, while others are better off in a less formal environment. Find a preschool with a schedule that best matches your little learner.
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    Watch the interactions between the teachers and students. Look for enthusiasm from both the adults and the kids in the room, along with kind, respectful interactions. If the kids or teachers look like they'd rather be anywhere else, it could be a sign that the preschool isn't the best environment for your little one.
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    Think like your preschooler. Does the room appeal to preschoolers? Are supplies at child level for easy access? Would you like to play and learn in the room if you were four? If you can take your preschooler along for the observation, you'll get a good idea of how she feels about the room by watching her.
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    Ask about the class sizes and the student-to-teacher ratio. Small class sizes mean your preschooler has less competition for the teacher's attention. States set the maximum student-to-teacher ratio, but some preschools assign fewer kids to each teacher. This also means more potential for one-on-one time for your child.
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    Scope out the qualifications of the teachers and staff. You don't have to order a full background check -- the preschool probably already did that -- but you'll want to know what type of educational background and experience the teachers have with the age group.
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    Look around for parents in the building. Are other moms volunteering in the classroom? Do families seem involved at the school? If you can't tell just by looking, ask the director about parent involvement.
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    Poke around and ask questions. Don't worry about feeling nosy or stepping on the teacher's toes. If you're trusting the preschool to handle your child's education, you have every right to have your questions answered. Ask to check out the curriculum materials, or dig deeper into the discipline policies.

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