Written by Calgary's Child Magazine; Photo: Fotolia.com
With hundreds of pre-kindergarten programs to choose from in the Calgary area, the options can be overwhelming for most parents. The bottom line: finding the program that works best for you and your child requires research. The best place to start is by asking questions. If possible, attend an open house, or arrange for a visit. Find out everything you can about the school. Don’t forget to take into consideration things such as convenience, class times, fees, location, field trips and excursions, and recommendations from other parents, types of toys and equipment available, etc.
When interviewing a prospective preschool, here are some questions to get you started:
- What type of program is it (i.e. play-based, learning objectives-based, Montessori, community co-op, religious, etc.)?
- What are the qualifications of the staff? Teachers and staff in any pre-kindergarten program should have some level of training in Early Childhood Education and Development.
- What is your maximum class size?Group size can be important when determining the best placement for your child. A small class size can be a benefit to some children, while other children may thrive in a much busier setting.
- Do you require parent volunteers? Some programs operate with one hired teacher and a variety of parent volunteers who follow a schedule. This is wonderful for those parents who can commit the time, thus affording them an important place in their child’s early education. Other schools have both hired teachers and teacher’s aides, thereby offering the children consistency of care, and the benefit of experienced staff. Most schools have the need for volunteers for field trips or special activities.
- What are the school’s policies on behavior and discipline? How do the teachers mediate conflicts between children or deal with difficult meltdowns? Choose a school with policies that reflect your own beliefs.
- What is the school snack policy? With the increasing percentages of children with food allergies, you need to be assured that your child is safe from possible harmful food and that the staff is aware of their allergies. Many schools have adopted a ‘No Nuts’ policy, which protects children with severe allergies to nuts. Some schools also require all snacks to meet certain nutritional standards.
- Are there field trips or other extracurricular activities, and what is their average cost?
- What is the teacher/aide to child ratio, and is extra attention or funding available for children with special needs?
- Does the school have an open door policy? (Can parents drop in and observe?)
- What does an average day look like? (Circle time, music, art, large motor skill play, etc.).
Whichever program you pick, it should be a wonderful time for your child and a positive start to their education. Attending a preschool, pre-kindergarten or school preparatory program helps teach children the social skills necessary to get along successfully in a group, respect for themselves and others, and how to achieve and grow in a structured environment.