How to choose a preschool: Here are 10 questions to ask and things to consider to find the best preschool for your child in your area!
Choosing the Right Preschool
I was pretty amazed when my oldest baby’s first birthday came and I had people start to ask me about preschool, and choosing the right preschool.
Huh? Isn’t this still a few years out?
I was quickly indoctrinated on the fact that many great preschools have waitlists that are 1-2 years long. Oh boy, I couldn’t believe it, but it is something you need to start thinking about when your child turns one!
For the record, I’m not saying it’s a requirement to put your child in a 2-year waitlist preschool with tuition the rate of a college education to find a great one. But in case you think one of the more popular preschools in your area is right for your child, you may want to think about it early! And you’ll definitely want to choose a preschool that works best for your family.
I’ve put my son in two preschools at this phase, and we’re about to start a third. One just fell in our lap, and the other I really had to go through networking to get him in. Neither had a two-year waitlist, but both were a bit competitive and we were lucky to get in!
The first was through the Gymboree Music and Play program. We started around his first birthday and kept moving up in their offerings. I never planned to have a two-year-old in preschool, but he started asking if he could go. We tested the waters with one hour program. Then two. And once a week he went for three hours while I worked nearby. It was a good fit and a natural progression since we’d started so early.
Preschools Near Me: Finding the Best One
When the little brother came, I knew I couldn’t drive him 30 minutes and wait for three hours nearby. So we started the search and I couldn’t believe what a challenge it was! Preschool was months away, and so many preschools were full with huge waitlists. This is never a great thing to realize when you’re very pregnant and overwhelmed with life as is.
He ended up at the perfect one for him! Although, they are closed their doors and the teacher retired this year. With the need for a new school, I moved into the process all over again early in the year.
Choosing the Best Preschool for Your Child
He’s only three, and I can’t believe how much effort we’ve put into choosing the right preschool! I have learned a few things to look for when choosing the right preschool, and for any parent with a baby or toddler in their life, I want to help you too!
Let me preface, choosing the right preschool is going to vary for every single child! What’s best for one may not be best for another. So please keep these preschool questions in mind so you can find the perfect fit!
How to choose a preschool: The top 10 things to consider
What are you hoping your child gains from preschool? Are you looking for academic preparedness? Is this just a way to get your child used to a school system before kindergarten? Are you hoping for socialization, manners, learning to listen, etc.? Every parent wants something different, and most schools offer something different.
Choose what philosophy you have, and find a school with one that matches.
Along with the philosophy, take a look at the curriculum. If your child starts a Montessori school and you have no idea what that means, you may be shocked to hear how their day went.
Most are going to cover the ABC’s, but find out how they teach them (in order, with units, type of reading and phonics methods) and choose one that fits your kid.
I’ve had friends choose a school only to realize their small three-year-old will be in a school close to 20 hours a week. I’ve also had friends hoping to have preschool double up as daycare while they go to work.
Sometimes school is too much, too little, days that don’t work with your family schedule, or just fit perfectly into your life. Double-check schedule offerings before you decide and commit to a year.
For many, preschool costs are a huge shock! Because public school is free, many American families find the price tag of preschool to be pretty surprising. There are all types including in-home, educational center, and even public preschools with scholarships. Double-check your costs and make sure the right one fits your budget.
For the record, my mom did a co-op preschool where every mom took turns teaching so she could afford school for six children. This just isn’t something I’ve prioritized to do. But I’m forever grateful for free options like volunteering at a school, hosting a co-op, and looking into tuition grants and scholarships. I think every kid deserves a form of preschool. Be sure to research cost options.
- Proximity to Your Home
I would have stayed with our first program forever had 30 minutes of driving each way not been a factor. Preschools near me can outweigh even the best preschools in my book! I love that we drove 10 minutes to school, and I’m going to love the 5-minute drive next year even more.
If you can find a local preschool you can get to easily, or your spouse can drop them or pick them up, it will make your life so much easier.
Questions to Ask Preschools
- Social Factors
Do you want your kids to go to school with the same kids they will enter kindergarten with? Are you hoping to expose them to more diversity?
These are all things to consider when you choose the right preschool for you.
- Age Grouping
This year my son is in the 3-4 class. Technically, he was 2-3 but he started a year early. If the teachers weren’t retiring, he would go to the 4-5 class next year. Some schools allow all children ages 2-5 to attend the same class together. There are clearly pros and cons to each. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for and what will happen each year.
If your child is going to attend two to three years of school, I’d plan to investigate the transition. Do they move days and times their second year? Is there a curriculum transition for kindergarten? Does the school offer different programs?
Is it the same curriculum each year, or does it vary?
Does that make a difference to you? Sometimes the same isn’t a bad thing, and sometimes it can be.
These are all important questions so you can choose a school that grows with your child, or stays consistent.
- Parent Involvement
In our first school, they only required I pay monthly and was there for a dropoff song and pickup review of the day. It did mean parking the car and being physically there for about 10 minutes total. There wasn’t homework, and it truly was a low commitment level.
Many preschools do drop off only. Some walk a kid to the car so you never have to get out. As lazy as I may sound, that was heaven sent with a newborn baby. These are excellent questions to ask preschools.
Our last school has quite a few supplies to bring, posters to make, field trips to chaperone, and programs to attend. It was a bit of a shock coming from a school without much involvement.
It takes time to be involved, it’s also really darling to be involved. I’d ask what that looks like and make sure you get the right amount of involvement for you and your child. But there’s no shame in knowing your limits or your desires to be more involved too.
When it was time to choose a new school, I turned right to the moms in my area whose opinions I trust most. They have similar philosophies of school, preschool, and what they hope to get out of it. I had a list sent to me and spent a day at the playground with one mom hearing why she loved a particular program.
Guess what, that’s where my son is headed next year! I highly value her opinion, and it was easy to see all the things she loved when we toured his new school.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to know friends in your area, don’t be afraid to research the school! You can find school ratings online. Also, many great schools are happy to connect you with a teacher or parent of a student to do some research. A recommendation can make all the difference!
I know this may sound like a lot just for preschool, but I’m a firm believer that choosing the right preschool sets your child up for success. When they love their first experience, it’s a foundation for the rest of their education. That’s why even though the two-year waitlists may sound crazy, they are there for a reason.
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