Finding the best preschool for your child requires research. There are several different learning philosophies within the field of Early Childhood Education and you may feel only one is right for your child and his or her style of learning. Asking relevant questions is the most important aspect of selecting a preschool for your child.
Other important aspects come into consideration as well such as convenience, class times, fees, location, recommendations from other parents, types of toys and equipment available, etc.. Be sure to take all of these into consideration when interviewing a prospective school.
To get you on your way to a productive interview with a prospective preschool, here are some relevant questions to ask:
What is your school's philosophy?
Find out what their beliefs are regarding young children and play, and ask how they impart this philosophy to the children.
Is your program licensed?
The licensing of Preschools and Day Care Centres is governed by Alberta Social Services, Social Care Facilities Licensing. Programs must meet stringent criteria to obtain and maintain their license, and they are inspected yearly prior to re-licensing. A licensed program assures parents and children of a safe and clean environment with toys, equipment and policies necessary to ensure children's healthy growth and developmental needs are being met.
What are the qualifications of the staff?
Teachers and staff in any preschool program should have some level of training in Early Childhood Education and Development. Alberta Family and Social Services Day Care Licensing has adopted Certification Levels for Day Care and Preschool Teachers. Level One requires a 40-hour orientation program and some experience. Level Two requires a one-year program in Early Childhood Education and relevant experience. And Level Three Advance, requires a two-year Diploma in Early Childhood Education and relevant experience.
What is your maximum class size?
Group size can be important when determining the best placement for your child. A small class size (less than 20) can be a benefit to some children, while other children may thrive in a class of 28.
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 is the school discipline policy?
A written copy of the school's discipline policy should be posted clearly for parents to read. A licensed program will have a policy that offers children guidance and support, consideration of individual needs and respect towards all children in the classroom. Differing views and opinions abound about discipline, so your chosen school's policy should 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.
How do you handle toileting the children?
Children should be encouraged to be independent, but still supported in their individual development. Many schools will not accept a child unless they are fully toilet-trained, but some are now adopting a more relaxed attitude, thereby accepting that children are not all trained by the preschool age. Toileting accidents should be handled with consideration for the child's dignity.
Laura Kew is the past owner of Childsplace Learning Centres Ltd. (www.childsplacelearning.com), and the President of the Calgary Preschool Teachers Association. She can be reached at 241-6232.
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