Starting formal schooling is one of the most intimidating parts of childhood for both children…
Research shows high-quality preschool education positions children for academic success for years. It explains why more parents enroll their kids in early school programs as soon as they turn three years old. Studies show the number of three and four-year-olds enrolled in preschool programs in 2012 was higher (41% and 66% respectively) than in 1990 (33% and 56% respectively). However, finding a good preschool program can be daunting, given the numerous institutions offering the same service. Effective programs are identifiable even on a brief introductory visit. Here are some features parents should look for.
1. The Quality of Teaching
Good teaching should be purposeful, respectful, and kind. Gone are the days when teachers instilled fear to compel kids to obey or prepare them for learning. On the contrary, the teacher should get down to the kids’ level and talk to them in a kind and respectful manner. Studies show that speaking to children at their level improves communication, as the students feel heard. The quality of education is also evident in how teachers teach their students. As such, the teacher should articulate why students are engaging in a particular activity and its objective. For example, an activity involving kids building structures using wooden blocks is for students to learn about spatial reasoning, cooperation, and basic physics.
2. The Class Spaces Allow Independence
Since kids spend a lot of time around adults, preschools should be tailored to their explorative nature. This means adopting an open floor plan with low tables, chairs, and shelves to allow easy access. Also, the spaces should have plenty of supplies and materials for play. They should also be organized and accessible to help foster independence and empower kids to take responsibility. On the same note, parents should inspect the spaces for general cleanliness and safety features. Electrical sockets should be covered, and toys should be kept in safe storage but also be readily accessible.
3. Open-Ended Learning Materials
High-quality preschool programs allow kids to experiment with materials, not worksheets. The idea is to encourage them to explore their environments and think creatively. The National Association for the Education of Young Children encourages parents to choose a school equipped with toys or other learning materials that can be used differently. The same idea applies to art projects. The art displayed on the walls should help parents assess the effectiveness of the program. A good teacher knows that kids have a short attention span and the best way to help them concentrate longer is to allow them to choose an activity. If the wall art comprises identical pieces of art, it shows that the activities are teacher-directed, not student-driven. While preschool programs follow a curriculum, they should allow a mix of teacher-supervised and self-directed activities.
4. Teachers Have Formal Post-School Training
Studies show teachers with higher formal education provide a higher quality of care. As such, when choosing a preschool, inquire if the teachers have formal post-high school training, like early childhood training, or a four-year college degree in child development. Such training equips teachers to address the kids’ developmental needs effectively.
5. Keep Track of a Student’s Performance
Schools offering high-quality early education are devoted to tracking the development of individual children. The assessment evaluates not only their academic preparedness but also their social and emotional growth. Most Coral Gables preschool programs use non-academic assessments to measure a child’s developmental traits, such as self-esteem, the ability to keep trying a new task, and the ability to understand and follow an adult’s directions. Identifying developmental delays, health problems, and learning disabilities is another part of the preschool’s job. The school should notify parents about such concerns and work with the teachers to identify ways to address the problem.
6. Ensure the License is Updated
In the U.S., child care facilities must meet a set of safety standards to obtain a license. Before enrolling your child in the institution, check if their license is up-to-date. If the school hasn’t renewed its license or is unlicensed, it raises a red flag.
Knowing what to look for in preschool programs is essential for parents and educators alike. The points highlighted should come in handy when choosing a school and identifying its educational values.