We are so happy to introduce Cribsters‘ resident educational consultant and mother of two, Debbie McWhorter, MST, MSEd. Debbie spent several years as an elementary school teacher and administrator in the New York City public school system before becoming an educational consultant. In her nearly nonexistent free time, Debbie conducts support groups for women suffering from postpartum depression, as well as acts as a co-head of her son’s Parent Teacher Association.
What Type of Preschool is Right for YOUR Child?
Any parent that has taken on the on the arduous task of selecting a nursery or preschool for her child has likely been hit with a barrage of information that seems both daunting and overwhelming. I certainly was when I was looking for preschools for both of my children, and I am a dual-degreed educator! All of the terms discussed at the numerous information nights were simply too much to process, leaving me and my comrades in search of the perfect preschool feeling like one false move would destroy our children’s educational future at the ripe old age of… 3. Yeah.
Montessori, child-centered, teacher-directed, nature-focused, religious-geared, play-focused, center-based… the list goes on. Essentially, these terms each name a strategy for instruction and interaction among the children. While at first glance you may not know the definitions of the above-named teaching styles, their meanings become obvious by simply observing a school classroom and seeing how the children interact with one another and the educator. By visiting the school and talking to the teachers, you should be able to get a sense of whether the school will be a good fit for your child.
If you have an active child, will he thrive in a quiet, calm atmosphere? He may, in fact, benefit from more structure. Alternatively, too much structure might put him in the time-out corner too frequently. The flipside is also true. Will your mild-mannered child need a quiet, structured environment, or benefit from a more active and engaging setting in order to help her develop her independence and social skills?
Guess what? You, the parent, with your child as a guide, are the only one who can answer these questions. And just in case that feels like too much weight on your shoulders, rest assured that this decision will not make or break your child’s academic future. The National Institute for Early Education Research (2008) found that many different pre-school programs, as long as they are well-designed and taught by qualified instructors, result in long term school success for students.
Is there a wrong kind? Unfortunately, yes. But, trust me, you will know it when you see it. What is non-negotiable is different for everyone and may even be different between your children. For example, my son needed to be able to play outdoors, while my daughter needed to do art everyday. You may find a basement classroom undesirable or the sense of professionalism to be inadequate. But let these ideals be your own. Don’t let your well-meaning friends tell you what is “wrong” with a school that you like. Each parent has her own vision of how a school is meant to look, sound, feel and even smell. Your friends’ non-negotiable may be far away from what you want and unintentionally sway you away from something that is a good fit for your child.
Like any good wine connoisseur would tell you (it always comes back to wine, doesn’t it?), it doesn’t matter whether it is the most expensive, oldest, tried and true brand – if it doesn’t taste good to you, none of that matters. Ultimately, what matters most is your child’s smile at the end of the day – and the lack of fights getting them to school in the morning. Trust your gut, ignore the buzzwords, and soldier on, parents of preschoolers! Next stop, college tours!