It seems like the philosophies and types of preschool programs available in West LA are endless. It can be daunting sifting through all the various programs – Academic, Montessori, Play-based, Reggio Emilia – the list goes on! But regardless of what type of school you are looking for there are some signs of a great preschool you can find when you observe the school’s program and curriculum. Last time we talked about some of the signs of a great preschool, including things to look for on the campus and when meeting staff members for the first time. To catch up on last week’s post click here! As promised, this week in part two we are going to delve into curriculum and program content. Here we go!
Predictable Routine Regardless of the educational philosophy a school follows, great preschools know that children need a predictable routine each day. Time is an abstract concept for young children, and a predictable routine helps them feel safe and secure. Of course, the content of the day will be varied and sometimes special circumstances or activities adjust the daily routine, but on a day-to-day basis you will want to see that the school is providing children with a predictable routine for their daily activities. If it is not provided to you on your tour, ask the Director for a copy of the classroom’s daily schedule. Not only will you want the routine for your child to be consistent, but you will also want to observe and see if the school is providing well-planned activities for the children. An easy way to do this is observe in the classroom. Do children seem engaged, or do they seem to be “bored”? Are there enough materials prepared for the children’s activities? Are there procedures in place so that tasks such as hand-washing and snack time go smoothly?
Engaging and Active Learning Young children learn by doing. Research proves time and time again the more senses you can involve, the more you learn. Children need opportunities to try things out for themselves, touch and do and even get messy sometimes. The more actively engaged the children are, chances are, the more they are learning. If this is how children learn best, than you absolutely want to find a program that allows children to be active in their learning. How will you know if a preschool is providing an engaging and hands-on program? Look around the classroom… Do you see a wide variety of activities available for the children? Are they at eye-level of the children? Are they stored in a way that the children can independently access them and put them away? Listen while you observe… Is the teacher giving children opportunities to move, even during circle time or other group activities?
Developmentally Appropriate This goes hand-in-hand with engaging and active learning. It is amazing what children can learn when they are given the tools and opportunities to do so in ways that are appropriate for their developmental level. When you tour the school spend a few moments in the classroom. Are the children being provided opportunities to work at their developmental level, rather than their age level? For example, if a child is struggling with fine motor skills, the teacher should not expect him to be able to cut out a shape with lots of curves and edges without help or assistance. You’ll want to make sure that teachers are providing accommodations for children who are learning at different paces – whether slow or fast!
Curriculum Regardless of what type of program you choose, the school should be able to articulate to you their philosophy, curriculum and goals for the children. Don’t be hesitant to ask questions! There are many different philosophies out there, but you will want to make sure the preschool you choose has goals laid out and can tell you how they plan to accomplish those goals. In the end, one philosophy is not better than the other, but you need to choose something that is comfortable for you and your child!
Warm and Inviting When you look around the school, does the campus feel happy and inviting? Is there art and children’s projects on the wall? Perhaps pictures are displayed of what the class(es) have been up to? Do the children seem happy and smiling? These are all little things that are big indicators on whether the signs that of a great preschool that we have just talked about are being met.
Next week we will wrap up our series on Signs of a Great Preschool as we focus on teachers and school policies. If you find this blog helpful, please like and share on social media!