08 February 2021
By: Sharon Sherry, Director of Jewish Education Initiatives, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Choosing a preschool program for your child can be an exciting and intimidating process. There are so many programs available! The most important quality to look for in a preschool program is ensuring that it is the right fit for your child and for your family. It is important to tour the school to observe the relationships, activities, and space. Schedule a time to tour the school and meet with the director. Before visiting, make sure that the school’s hours, costs, sick, and weather policies and location work for your family logistically.
- Is the school warm and inviting?
- Is the atmosphere exciting with lots of learning opportunities and activities for the children?
- Are the teachers involved with the children?
- What kind of work is up on the walls?
- How do you feel when you enter the school?
- How do you feel when you exit?
When meeting with the school’s director, come prepared to ask questions. A preschool has a responsibility to provide information and an informed parent makes a much better partner. In addition to speaking with the director, ask for parent references so that you can hear other perspectives and gain additional insights. Open Houses are another great way to learn about the school and to meet current parents.
A good place to start is by asking about the school’s educational philosophy. Familiarize yourself with a few of the more common early childhood educational philosophies before your search such as Play-Based, Reggio Emilia, Constructivist, and Montessori. Understanding the school’s philosophy can guide the way the day is structured and shape the curriculum. To this end, asking about the curriculum and what a typical day looks like will provide important information about what you can expect for your child. A quality preschool will provide many varied opportunities for cognitive, gross motor, fine motor, social-emotional, and spiritual growth for your child.
Furthermore, ask about classroom size and teacher-student ratio. This speaks to adequate supervision but, more importantly, it can tell you if the teacher can provide time for both group and individual attention. It also speaks to the relationships that your child will develop at school both with their teachers and their peers. Along these lines, it is important to inquire about how the teachers help the children resolve conflicts. This addresses the import the school places on the children’s social and emotional development, which should be at the forefront of all quality preschool programs. If your child has any special needs or learning differences, it is important to determine how willing the school is to work with you to best meet your child’s needs and what types of support the school can provide.
It is also important to inquire about communication and community involvement. The communication and community building activities of the school reflect the team efforts of parents and teachers.
- How does the school communicate with parents about their child?
- How does the school communicate with parents about school happenings?
- What types of family programming are available?
- How can parents get involved in the school?
- Are parents welcome to drop in or visit the school at any time?
In addition to strengthening social skills, preschool provides a place where children explore, play, learn, and build confidence and where children can discover that they are capable and competent. Preschool offers families the opportunity for a shared deep and meaningful early childhood experience which is why it is important to ask the right questions and find the right fit. You need to be comfortable with your choice so that your child will transition well to their new school and learn, grow, and thrive.
For more information on Jewish preschools in Greater Washington, visit the Preschool Directory at The Jewish Federation’s JConnect at www.jconnect.org.
For individual questions and guidance, feel free to contact Sharon Sherry at [email protected] or 240-283-6230.
Originally published in Kol Habirah, January 26, 2018.