Choosing the right preschool for your child is an extremely important decision. Based on my professional experience as an early childhood educator it is as important as choosing the right college. You may be familiar with the saying, “All I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten”. I believe you learn it in preschool. When your choosing a preschool for your child there are some important words to know because they mean very different things.
Words to Know
All preschools have websites and printed brochures. These materials are marketing tools for the preschool. They are full of pictures showing happy children playing and fancy words describing the staff and curriculum. Sometimes the pictures don’t do the school justice and other times it is just smoke and mirrors. There are a handful of words to know so you can read between the lines when choosing the right preschool for your child.
Non-defined Marketing Language
These are words that are sprinkled throughout websites and brochures. If a preschool uses words like “nurturing” and “caring” they are saying in a very nice way that their teachers are not hold teaching degrees. Don’t let the absence of a teaching degree dissuade you from looking at the school though. A four year teaching degree may not be the most important part of making your choice. Experience goes a long way. I can tell you I have had teachers with degrees that have been awful and teachers that started out as teacher aides and became stars.
In the preschool world, certified does not mean teachers hold a 2 or 4 year college degree. Certified means the staff member has attended a 40-hour class that has been mandated, usually by the state. In most states the coarse covers rules and regulations and developmental appropriate practices. This certification is for childcare workers which is different than teacher certification required to work in public and some private schools. The childcare certification class is informative and necessary; however, it does not replace a teaching degree. Certifications require the employee to have background checks, health examines as well in service classes to throughout the year.
The other big buzzword you may see in a brochure or hear on your tour is “accredited”. This means that the school has met the minimum standards set forth by an accreditation board. The focus of these standards is on the facility, teacher student ratios, teachers and staff credentials and curriculum. The NAEYC, The National Association for the Education of Young Children is truly a very impressive accreditation. You can be assured that the preschool that holds this accreditation has been held up to the highest standards. Many states have their own boards that accredit teaching facilities. Check out their websites to understand what requirements are necessary to become accredited. Standards can vary greatly between organizations.
Any facility that you are considering enrolling your child should be licensed. This is a business license issued by the local health department and or child care services department. The focus is on child safety, facility safety, and staffing. Before a childcare facility can open there doors for business the health departments comes in with a team to make sure that the school has met all the standards set forth by the state.
This organization also determines how many children are allowed in the facility at any given time. This number is based on the square footage of the building. Child-size bathrooms and diaper changing areas are evaluated as well as student-teacher ratios. Ratios are a big consideration to child safety. Side note: religious facilities are exempt form the mandated requirement but many choose to be licensed as a selling point.
Before You Decide
There is a lot to consider in choosing the right preschool for your child. You should be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Now that you know what words to look for I am sure you will be better prepared to make the right choice of school for your child.
Protip: If you drive up to a preschool and the parking lot and grounds are not well maintained check that school right off the list. This is a big indication on how the school is maintained on the inside. Schools have an obligation to keep facilities well care for and ordered.
What words do you look for when you’re choosing the right preschool?