Preschool GPS

How to Navigate Your Way to the Ideal Preschool for Your Child

By Courtney Daly-Pavone March 15, 2018

When choosing a preschool there is a lot to consider.  Kindergarten readiness is taught at some preschools, while others are play-based and focus on socialization.  There are different educational philosophies like Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Bank Street, and Waldorf.  There are religious based schools, Headstart for those that meet income requirements, Cooperative preschools where parents volunteer part-time, Homeschooling, and programs like Families Learning Together at City College and Mesa College that are free, but parents must volunteer daily at the school and attend classes with their child.

It is a lot to consider, and finances often control our options when you look at the hefty price tag of early education.  If you are considering a private preschool, here is an explanation of some basic school philosophies:

Waldorf- based on the teachings of Philosopher Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf aims to educate the whole child and instill a life-long love of learning.  Science, Art, History, and English are infused in every subject.  At the preschool level, Waldorf is play-based children learn through games, singing songs, creating art,  storytime, and discovering nature.  This is a time to be a kid and make friends.

Montessori-founded on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, this method "follows the child."  Children work independently on complex tasks.  Teachers introduce materials and children can choose to do them again and again, and learn through the joy of self-discovery.

Reggio Emilia-This education philosophy is inspired by students and children take the lead.  If they show an interest in a subject than a curriculum is designed around their interest. The belief is that students will be engaged since this is a subject they are interested in.  Reggio Emilia started in Italy after the second world war when parents wanted to form a new kind of school where students were treated with respect and parents would be active participants in their children's education.

Childtime uses the Reggio Emilia approach to education.  Kelly Parry Director of Childtime in Chula Vista states, "Our program is designed to provide a customized learning experience for every child.  My favorite part of our curriculum is the assessment based planning.  This allows teachers to meet a child's specific needs and track progress in their system to create not only age appropriate lesson planning, but individual lesson plans.  No two lesson plans are the same because no two children are the same." According to Parry, the formative years are crucial.  She advises parents to make sure preschool teachers are accredited, that classrooms are clean, and that the school provides a safe learning environment for children.

Rachel Eden Preschool Director at Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School says, "A parent should be mindful of their own child when choosing a preschool.  How much structure does my child need? How much socialization? When does my child feel most confident and when most insecure? A parent would be wise to trust their gut while also asking probing questions from the teachers themselves.  For example, a parent may describe areas where their child excels would the teacher be able to challenge that child sufficiently to stimulate development? What about the child's challenges? How does the teacher handle the classroom management situations? What kind of communication can be expected from teacher to parent?"

Ms. Eden also states that Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School mixes educational philosophies of Montessori and Reggio Emilia,  "Our preschool philosophy focuses heavily on children as individuals.  We have the benefit of offering an integrated classroom and environment where teachers have the flexibility to choose from the most beneficial aspects of Reggio, Montessori, or traditional, and play-based educational models."

Preschool comes in many forms and models.  I chose to send my child to City College's Families Learning Together Preschool Experience Class.  In this program, children have the opportunity to learn science, math, even cooking with other children, and parents actively volunteered.  There was also a component of the class that included parenting lessons which I found to be most helpful.  My son looks back fondly at those times, and I do too!  I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything.  I have also met parents that formed their own home-based preschools with friends and neighbors and they found that experience to be intellectually stimulating for their kids.  Headstart also offers a Kindergarten Readiness program that prepares children for that next big step in their education.  Preschool is not mandatory, but it does allow children the opportunity to socialize with other children, learn in a structured environment, and transitions them from being home with a parent to away at school.  This helps alleviate separation anxiety later on in Kindergarten.  By sending your child to school early, you are setting up the building blocks for their education later on, and that is something that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.