Your child is going to school for the first time. What an emotional time this is! There is so much on your mind. How he or she will adapt? How he or she will be treated? Will he or she eat or drink enough? All these questions can be summed up in one: How do I find the right preschool or child care for my child?
What kind of child care is there available?
Listed family homes: People who must list with the division are those who are compensated to provide regular child care (at least four hours per day, three or more days a week, for more than nine consecutive weeks) in their own homes for 1-3 unrelated children.
Registered Child Care Homes: Registered Child Care Homes provide care in the caregiver’s home for up to six children under age 14; they may also take in up to six more school-age children. The number of children allowed in a home is determined by the ages of the children. No more than 12 children can be in care at any time, including children of the caregiver.
Licensed Child Care Homes: Provide care for less than 24 hours per day for 7-12 children underr 14 years old. All types of licensed facilities have published standards they are required to follow and are routinely monitored and inspected.
Licensed Child Care Centers & preschools: are any operation that cares for 13 or more children under 14 years old for less than 24 hours.
Do not make the mistake to choose a facility based on proximity or cost alone. The closest school to your home might not necessarily be the right choice for your child. Also, keep in mind that the highest cost doesn’t always guarantee the best teacher and facility. Likewise, the least expensive rates do not necessarily mean poor teachers and facilities.
Since I’m a former preschool teacher, I thought I knew exactly what to look for when I had to make this decision, and even for me it was a little tricky. I visited a few preschools that were the closest to my home with the hopes of finding the right one for my son among those. I decided to try one that presented itself very attractive, even though I was a little uneasy about this one school: It was so close to home and it look so good as far as appearance goes, that I decided to give it a chance. To make a long story short, I was right about “my gut feeling” I had about this school. My son only lasted there two weeks, and he was miserably unhappy for the whole time.
And that is why I think “your gut feeling” is so important, and the first thing I would recommend when looking for the right school for your child is to pay attention to your instincts.
1. Pay attention to your instincts
You know your child best. Pay attention to any feelings of uneasiness you may have experienced during site visits or interviews. Could you picture your child in this setting? Were the toys and activities you observed the kinds your child would enjoy?
2. Look and listen
You can tell a great deal by observing and listening to what is going on in the classroom. Did the children seem happy and were they enjoying activities? Did the teachers seem to be loving, nurturing and responsive to all children in their care? Were problems handled promptly and appropriately? Did the teacher seem like the kind of people you can trust with the health, happiness and well being of your child? Is this a place where you would feel good about your child spending many hours each day?
3. Professional Qualifications
What is the lead teacher’s level of education? Research shows that children whose teachers have more education have better outcomes. Increased education and specialized training in early childhood education produces higher quality programs and positive child outcomes. Formal education plus annual in-service training equals higher quality levels.
Every state has mandatory hours of training required for childcare givers to attend, for teachers and helpers as well. For instance, in Florida, there is a 30-hour-childcare training that is mandatory for all childcare workers, teachers and helpers to attend, and then a 10-hour-Age appropriate-training thereafter. You may inquire whether your child’s teacher and/or helper have completed this mandatory training. The number of hours varies from state to state. To find out more about this you may visit your state’s DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY & PROTECTIVE SERVICES or CHILDREN’S SERVICES Website.
4. Curriculum & Daily Routines
Do they use a curriculum? What curriculum do they use?
A curriculum based on developmentally appropriate practices should be utilized and teaching staff should have been trained in implementing this curriculum. This is extremely important if you are interested in your child being educated and not just being watched. Implementation of a developmentally appropriate curriculum is a strong predictor of children’s success in school.
Not only that, you don’t want your child in an environment where there is nothing planned to do. He or she is going to be bored out of his or her mind after he or she is done playing with toys, and most likely will engage in misbehavior and disorderly conduct due to lack of organized and planned activities. This is when children begin to hit and push each other and become aggressive to one another due to lack of planned activities. The day has many hours. We can not expect children just to play for 8 hours. And I’m a teacher, I know all about children learning by playing, but even play needs to be planned and guided by the teacher.