Choosing the Right School for your Child
Providing a strong educational foundation for your child is clearly one of the most important responsibilities associated with parenthood. A study published in 2010 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (which was initiated in 1991 and tracked the progress of children participating in this study from one month of age through sixth grade) demonstrates a correlation between high quality child care and higher levels of academic and cognitive achievement. One could argue that selecting the right early childhood program for your child should be given as much time and consideration as a young adult might spend evaluating which college or university to attend.
If your school, or learning center, successfully provides a safe and nurturing educational environment, inspires children to seek knowledge, and encourages appropriate social and emotional development, then you as a parent can take comfort in knowing that you are doing your best to position your child for future success. Here are four key categories to evaluate when choosing a program for your child.
Whether a program utilizes a Reggio-Inspired, Montessori, play-based/traditional, or other educational philosophy, you should select the approach that you feel will best suit the needs of your child, as well as reinforce your own values. When touring a school, you should feel comfortable that the Director can answer the following “philosophical” questions: “Why do we use this approach?” “How is it implemented in the classroom?” “What are its primary benefits for children?” “What makes ours the best/most appropriate early childhood curriculum?” Rest assured, if the leader of a program cannot clearly articulate the purpose, execution, and strength of the school’s philosophy, then it’s fair to assume that this lack of focus and direction will trickle down to the classrooms.
99% of your child’s experience (as well as your experience as a parent) is directly related to his or her teacher(s) in the classroom. When evaluating the teacher(s) for your child’s age group, try to gather information regarding the following: educational background, experience in the field, tenure with the school/center, training received, etc. Does the staff appear to be loving, creative, and respectful? If teachers are happy, passionate about working with children, and have the needed training and education to deliver, a positive experience is likely!
Health & Safety:
The number one responsibility of any program is ensuring that children are safe and properly supervised. Is the building secure? Are staff members available who have proper training in first aid and CPR? Do the building and grounds appear to be clean and well-maintained? Are compliance reports posted for parents to read? What is the school’s policy when children or teachers are sick? Don’t hesitate to ask questions to confirm that the school shares your expectations with regard to the health and safety of your child.
Parents want to be well-informed regarding their child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. They want to be “in-the-loop” with regard to what’s going on in their child’s classroom and for the school as a whole. What communication channels are available to keep you informed? Are portfolios and journals used to document your child’s work? How do teachers communicate the daily curriculum highlights for their classroom? Is there an “open door” policy with regard to visiting the school? How often are parent-teacher conferences offered? What tools are used to assess progress and how is that communicated? Is technology (e-mail, the school’s website, etc.) utilized routinely to share information? Does the school’s commitment to excellent parent communication facilitate a stronger sense of community? There is no such thing as “too much communication.” Make sure that the communication standards of the program are in line with your expectations, and that the proper channels exist to facilitate timely receipt of information.