Deciding what type of preschool your child should attend can be challenging, and the process of finding the right preschool in your area can require thorough research. Many schools approach their pre-kindergarten curriculums differently and tote different philosophies that can affect how your child learns.
Is Your Child Ready for Preschool?
Some important questions to ask yourself while you prepare to send your child to preschool are:
- Is your child the appropriate age? The Government of Alberta specifies that children aged 3 to 5 can attend pre-kindergarten services.
- Are they properly potty trained? It’s important that your child can go to the bathroom unsupervised when attending preschool — if your child is not properly potty trained, it can cause issues in the classroom for teachers and classmates.
- Can they follow instructions? If your child has difficulty understanding or following instructions, it may be difficult for them to get value from a structured classroom setting.
Next, you should consider their current level of emotional maturity. Consider if your child has separation anxiety and if they can interact positively with other classmates. If your child’s emotional maturity stands in the way of their learning and social development, you may want to consider alternative forms of child care.
Some Factors to Consider When Choosing a Preschool
While the various teaching philosophies present at different preschools can greatly affect your child’s learning experience, some universal factors exist when it comes to deciding what school you should send your child to. Among these factors are:
- Location: Choosing a location close to home or your place of work can be beneficial for both you and your child; It will make your commute much easier and will help to guarantee the safety of your child when taking them to and from their classroom. If you cannot find an appropriate location near your home or place of work, consider what options are available to transport your child to and from their preschool, and whether or not they are safe and affordable.
- Cost: Consider how much you are willing to pay to send your child to preschool. CareFind can help you find excellent childcare within your price range.
- Schedule: Do you want your child to attend a full-day schedule of 6-7 hours? Or a shorter half-day schedule of 3 hours? Both options have their benefits: a full-day schedule can prepare your child for their K-12 education by simulating the same hours, but a half-day schedule can be a more flexible, easier to adjust to option for a child attending school for the first time
Different Types of Preschool Teaching Philosophies
Many teaching philosophies utilized in preschools offer an academic approach to portions of your child’s daily activities. Academic activities are directed and organized by a teacher and involve learning basic skills such as developing your child’s vocabulary. Preschools that aim for an academic curriculum do so to prepare your child for kindergarten.
While academic learning is important, you should also consider that your child’s social development is going to be impacted at preschool as well; many preschools will have a balance of both structured academic learning as well as more socially dependent activities that are not directed by a teacher.
A primarily play-based teaching philosophy involves preschool students learning to socialize and explore their interests on their own without much involvement from a teacher. Play-based classroom settings typically involve different sections for children to learn in, such as kitchens, science areas, and reading areas. While your child explores their interests, a teacher will be there to guide and facilitate their learning, taking care to ensure your child is learning social skills and the ability to cooperate, as well as encouraging them to explore their interests.
The Montessori teaching method is a “child-centred” teaching method. The Montessori approach involves children learning at their own pace independently or in small groups, solving puzzles and other problems with minimal guidance from teachers. This philosophy mingles both academic and play-based learning.
Montessori classrooms will typically have children aged 3 to 5 in the same class, allowing older students to learn to be leaders. Younger students can look forward to their upcoming role as a leader in their later years and can find valuable role models in their teachers and older classmates.
The Waldorf teaching philosophy is primarily play-based when related to preschool classes. The quintessential aspects of Waldorf education are predictable and rhythmical routines, and learning through imitation. Waldorf preschool classrooms focus on developing your child’s understanding of art, music, and social skills rather than academics, which are introduced in grade 1.
With a focus primarily on creative development, Waldorf schools also do not have a formal grading system and instead provide year-end assessments relating to your child’s development. Waldorf schools will also keep your child with the same class and teacher for multiple years, allowing your child to form stronger bonds and give teachers a longer time to assess your child’s progress.
This teaching philosophy takes a project-based approach influenced by the interests of students. Children are encouraged to explore and develop their interests on a daily basis, and when confronted with an interesting issue or gap in knowledge, the teacher of the class will develop a project involving the problem for students to work through.
Most classes that use a Reggio Emilia approach involve the documentation of the classroom to allow teachers and students to be able to reflect on what has been learned throughout the course of a year.
What School is Right for My Child?
When choosing a preschool, it is important to consider what type of learning philosophy your child will benefit from the most and whether you want your child to experience a more academic-focused curriculum or a curriculum centered on play-based activities. From there, taking tours of potential schools can offer insights into how your child will experience their first years of formal education.
CareFind can help you narrow down the schools in your area that fit your child’s needs, and can help you research which approach to education that you and your child align with.