Picking the right preschool for our daughter has been a somewhat daunting task. Mostly because where we live, the process to apply starts in December, a whole 10 months before they are due to start attending. It is difficult to know (at least for us) what your work life/hours are going to be that far in advance. It is also hard to know exactly what your child’s disposition will be, which could be a key factor in choosing an educational philosophy for your family.
Familiarize yourself with the options in your area. If you can, attend the education fairs attended by local preschools and speak to their representatives. It is also worth reaching out to some other parents you know, especially those with older children.
Research the different educational pedagogies. Where we live, just outside of New York City, the Montessori approach is very popular. Other common pedagogies include Emilia Reggio and Waldorf. If there are preschools near you that offer these types of methods or speak to them in their marketing materials, it is worth researching the approaches independently to see what feels right for your family.
Think about what your needs are. If you commute to work, choose preschools convenient to your life. If you have long hours, make sure they have an aftercare program. If the idea of making school lunches makes you want to cry, pick schools that provide food. Make sure that your needs are also taken care of because this is a choice that affects the whole family.
Attend open houses. I know that weekend time is precious, and this is probably not that exciting an activity. However, it honestly is the best way to see the schools and meet some of the teachers. I would suggest going to at least two open houses, although you are probably best to attend three or four depending on the number of options in your area. The ones we attended allowed us to bring our daughter along, and they had a room set up where teachers watched the children while the parents toured the facilities. She actually had a great time.
Apply to multiple preschools. This again depends on the demand for schools where you live. One of the schools we looked at could only take 12 children for PreK3. Realistically, you might not be able to send your little one to your first choice, so it is always best to have backup options. Keep in mind that wherever you apply will have its own process, and it will likely involve at least one interview that the parents need to attend. This can be a real juggling act for working parents, as it means multiple hours away from the office.
Relax. The pressure of picking the “right” preschool can be stressful. However, at the end of the day, they are all offering a very similar service. Plus, in the unlikely event you are unhappy with your choice, you can always apply to different schools the year after. So breathe, and release some pressure off yourselves. Everything will be fine.