If you have been following me on instagram, you would already know that M started her preschool a few days back.
A mom once told me how she relishes the quiet, silent time in the morning when she gets to sip her mug of ‘chaaye’ in sheer peace and solitude, having sent kids off to school. Can’t believe i am that mom now! 😀 Not only this but an hour dose of work-out and all those small works can be squeezed in so easily. But on the top of it all is the happiness i get from the fact that my lil one gets exposed to a more structured learning environment with professionals there to support her growth and kids her age to socialize with.
My hunt for a great preschool in twin cities began a year back. I believe any sensible parent would start looking around early. For me, I keenly stalked forums and support groups for some clues and directions, bombarded my small bunch of friends with questions on teaching methodologies and their pros and cons, approached some educationists for their expertise and what not. The more i dived in, the more i found myself LOST…..until one day, I finally made my decision.
Does your child NEED a preschool at all?
If you are sending your hyper little toddler off to a preschool because that silent facebook friend of yours got her 2-year-old enrolled already, think twice! Also, while you do get to enjoy that special steaming mug of tea all by your self, snap a finger and its ‘off-time’ already so ‘me time’ is not something you would get a lot of. Before you embark on the journey, ask yourself whether your child and family is ready for it. Preschool is totally optional usually for kids between 2.5-5 and can be skipped if you choose to work on your kid back at home to prepare them for a formal school. I know some women who home-schooled their kids and created some gems.
What should you keep in mind while you look for a Preschool?
I would suggest you are clear-headed about these few things before you begin:
1. EXPECTATIONS VS REALITY
You would be paying a fee equivalent to half your university semester fee, this must mean your kid would be a pro in writing love letters to you by the time they are 4 right? WRONG! Preschools are designed to develop a foundation for your kid by preparing them for the formal school and most of the work done is through structured play, arts/ crafts, activities to develop fine/gross motors, outdoor play etc. (An year back when i started the blog, i wrote a layman’s guide to babies developmental skills, please give it a read to get an idea about basic skill sets). Focus here is on PREs – pre-writing, pre-literacy, pre-scissors skills, but this all leads to a strong foundation to help them ace the school level. No writing or solving theorems at this stage, i promise!
If that doesn’t sound a value for money to you, you can opt to do it at home by following blogs like mine with access to million of activities & resources online. The biggest plus of a preschool for me is the fact that kids, especially those living in a smaller family set-up like mine get to socialize, interact, work in groups and play with friends their age.
2. PEER PRESSURE!
Peer pressure is NOT RECOMMENDED at any stage of life, but most importantly when you are a parent. Education has become so commercialized and most schools are simply no value for the money you pay, especially at a Preschool level, you definitely don’t want to be wasting that hard-earned money by jeopardizing the peace and comfort of your family. Bear in mind that each family differs when it comes to their requirements so if sending your kid at 4 suits your family, go for it. No rush. Also, Some people have excellent support system and can home-school their kids while managing personal breaks in between. Don’t fret if that’s not you. Do what suits your family and your inner peace as a mom BEST!
I started my preschool hunt a year back and the naive, ignorant mom in me was all adamant to choose the fanciest-shamanciest one for my girl, even if that meant driving an hour for it. The desperate mom in me took a couple of drives all the way to city center and beyond to those couple of ‘highly prestigious preschools’ only to be consumed by terrible fatigue by day end.
This was before i had started accumulating opinions from surroundings. And once i did, the single most advice i got from EVERY place ‘sane’ was that the best preschool is the one CLOSEST to your house.
The logic is simple. The best preschool methodology in my eyes provides ‘basic’ learning opportunities keeping kids ‘comfortable’. As long as there is a lots of learning through play opportunities in the form of arts, crafts, puzzles, toys, pretend play etc, i don’t think you have a lot to lose. I am positive that at least one school near you meets these requirements.
THIS one is surely a DEAL MAKER/ BREAKER. Your little one’s happiness, their take on separation anxiety, their learning output…..about everything depends on THIS one person. So why not meet this person and have a heart-to-heart beforehand to see if it would click or not?
Becoming a ‘preschool’ teacher in particular is NOT everybody’s cup of tea. Some people have an in-built, god-gifted motherliness when it comes to handling kids. If you are lucky to find such a teacher you mustn’t blink an eye.
Second to this is the school management. It’s great to have a couple of visits to know if they are receptive and flexible towards parents input/ feedback.
5. TEACHING METHODOLOGY
A few famous teaching ideologies are Montessori, IB/ Project-based learning, Reggio Emilia Approach, Waldorf method or religious schools. Preschools here are predominantly focusing on the first three methodologies, whereas some follow a mixed pattern.
If you are particular about the teaching methodology, you might want to push yourself a little to find the preschool of your liking, however, in my humble opinion, the level of education at preschool stage is very, very basic, and your child should be good in any of these. I definitely wouldn’t sell my kidneys and my peace of mind to pick a high-cost preschool at a remote location at ‘this’ point!
6. FEE STRUCTURE
Speaking of kidneys, do you know that an average ‘decent’ preschool can pretty much cost you an arm and that not-so-skinny leg?
Plan ahead, set a budget or find a school that falls within it. To give you a rough idea, an average a preschool in twin cities charges a month is 10,000/- easily, however i know friends paying lesser than or even double than that so do repeat your cost/benefit analysis.
Last but definitely not the least, give a special attention to the environment. Children love bright, cheerful open spaces and get intimidated by dark, dull, crammed spaces. Teacher/ child ratio is important to consider. One Play Group teacher should not have more than 8-10 children (and trust me i have heard of a fancy school with 30/teacher :/). Look for a happy place with fun indoors, a proper outdoor area (don’t ignore), neat toilets, safe and secure premises.
I would give brownie point to a preschool that promotes ‘healthy eating’ inside the preschool, although that is a wishful thinking O.o
Personally speaking, DISTANCE was a big concern for us since i live an hour drive from the city center so i chose a decent preschool 5 minutes drive from my house, slightly high on the fee end but with an excellent preschool teacher (that my girl loves). A perfect trade-off at this stage.
Lastly, make a BIG DEAL out of the first day at preschool. Have a lot of fun, make it special, take a lots of pictures, radiate excitement and so your preschooler does too 🙂
BEST OF LUCK for your preschool hunt! 🙂