How to Find the Perfect Preschool
Deciding to send your child to preschool is a big decision! Choosing a preschool can feel like an even bigger hurdle.
But don't fret! We have gathered information on the most popular preschool choices out there. We want to help narrow down your search so that you can find the perfect preschool fit for you and your family.
Most preschools are private (and charge tuition), but not all of them.
Currently, 39 states offer some type of free preschool education. States like Florida offer free full-time preschool for all of its 4-year-old residents. Other states, like North Carolina, also offer a free preschool program, but it is income based, so it's not available to all of its residents.
Texas, however, only offers funding to half-day preschool programs in its districts that have at least 15 students that it considers to be “high risk.”
The bottom line? Even among the states that offer free preschool, the details can vary widely. Look into your state's specific benefits to see if you qualify!
Preschool Types and Pedagogies
It's time to choose a school, and there are a lot out there!
But before you get too bogged down with your choices, narrow your search. What type of school are you looking for? Namely, what teaching style do you most believe in?
Finding a teaching style you really believe in is vitally important when looking for the perfect preschool.
If you went to preschool, you probably went to a traditional one. It is what most people think of when they think “preschool.”
- The teacher is the center of the classroom. He or she gives the lessons and maintains the children's behavior, usually through praise and consequences.
- Classmates are the same age.
- Focus on social development.
- Focus on academics (alphabet, counting) and school skills (cutting along the line, sitting for a story).
- Traditional preschools can be public or private, secular or religious.
Montessori schools are all the rage today, but they have been around for over 100 years! In the United States, the first Montessori school was opened in 1911.
- The child is the center of the classroom; independence is encouraged.
- Students choose their own work and usually work alone or in pairs. They are given as much time as is needed to master a lesson.
- Multi-age groupings (usually 3- to 5-year-olds in one room).
- Focus on the “whole child” (physical, social, emotional. and cognitive needs).
- Montessori schools are usually private, but Montessori charter schools are becoming more common, and many of them have on-site preschools.
Waldorf schools strive to ignite a love and enthusiasm for learning in their students. Waldorf teachers believe they can achieve this by not only considering the specific needs of a growing preschooler, but also by transforming education into an art form that is exciting and hands on.
- The child is the center of the classroom. At the preschool level, teachers encourage learning through imagination, creative play, and the arts.
- Classmates are the same age, but students will have the same teacher for eight years (1st-8th grade).
- Focus on the “whole child” (physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs).
- Waldorf schools are almost exclusively private; although, I have recently seen plans for a Waldorf public charter school.
What used to be a rarity, homeschooling has now grown to be quite popular. The number of children homeschooled has almost doubled since 2009, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down.
- You decide what type of learning environment you would like to create and what curriculum you would like to follow.
- Your schedule is flexible. You determine when and where you teach.
- Every state has homeschooling laws that must be followed to homeschool legally. (In most states, these laws do not apply to preschool-aged children).
- Local homeschooling groups can provide teaching support as well as opportunities for collaboration.
A few things to consider when choosing a preschool:
- Consider cost. An amazing school that breaks the budget won't feel amazing for long.
- Think about distance. How long does it take to get to the school from your house? From work? Clock it during rush hour, not on Saturday morning.
- Seek out references. Talk to your friends and online community. Chances are someone knows something about the schools you are looking at.
- The thing that matters the most? The teacher. A bad teacher can ruin an otherwise great school. Take time to get to know your child's potential teacher. They will have more influence over your child's first school experience than anything else.