Many parents, when seeking out a daycare or preschool, have no idea where to start, when to start looking, and how to choose between the myriad options. We hope to help, with a new series of posts about how to choose the best Austin preschool for your child!
When do I start?
When you’re pregnant—no kidding! With the numbers of people moving to Austin every day, many schools already have waiting lists!
While you may have no idea what sort of child is coming your way, you may have a sense of what kind of school you can see him/her attending. Maybe it’s the type of program you were in, or maybe you want something entirely different. Either way, starting the search when you’re pregnant will put you ahead of the curve. Checking tuition prices, inquiring about waiting lists, and studying the differences in pedagogical theory are all great starting points. You don’t want to be the parent who misses the application deadline, or ends up at a school not of your choosing!
So what’s the difference? Day Care or Preschool?
Most daycares are for infants to 2-year-olds. After daycare, some children enter a preschool to begin learning early math and literacy, exploring the arts, and skills like taking turns, straightening up after yourself, and functioning in a group setting.
This will depend on the school you choose. Some will accept your application right away, though many only accept them the year before your child will attend. Others take applications in January for the coming fall. Here’s what matters: apply to all of the schools that you like. There’s no harm in keeping your options open!
What’s best for my child and me?
1) Each child has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as a certain disposition. Some children are “observers” who learn best by watching; others are “explorers” who experiment in their environments to learn. Knowing what you do about your child’s behavior and personality will help you pick a school that both plays to his/her strengths, and challenges him/her as well.
2) Now consider your family’s values. Do you want the preschool to focus on art, or teach your child about religion? Would you like for your child to speak a second language? What values are you trying to instill in your child, and how will the preschool that you choose help reinforce those values?
3) Location- Preschool becomes a big part of your daily routine as well as your budget, so think carefully about the location of the school. Would a facility near your home or office work best? Will the location of the preschool allow you to get there on time without creating stress for you and your child?
And now for some advice…
Be sure to inquire about the school’s accreditation status. The highest possible accreditation for preschools is NAEYC, but there are several others equally excellent. If you’re looking at home-based child care, be sure to ask whether it’s licensed by the state. Always ask about the teachers’ backgrounds—years of experience, training, and degrees. Finally, find out how many years each teacher has been with the program. When the teachers are happy, they stay longer. When the teachers are happy, your kids will be happy.
Stay tuned for our next post in this series: What type of school is best for my child? In the meantime, be sure to check out our free Austin Preschool Guide!