How to Pick the Right Preschool

It can be as easy as 1-2-3!

Back in 2005, my son, John, was one and a half and starting to get bored. My older and wiser sister told me to look for a Montessori preschool, so I toured six child care centers, some Montessori, some not, while on one of my long teacher breaks (I was a math teacher at the time).  What I observed quickly made me realize that I could open a higher quality preschool myself (a story for another time!), but until then, the hands-on Montessori curriculum that instilled independence seemed like the best fit for my son.

Here is a guide of what I consider the most important things to look for that can help you find a high quality school for your family!

What kind of environment is right for your child? What curriculum are they using? What’s their overall reputation as a place of learning?

A Montessori school isn’t for everyone. For example, children who need specialized care such as severe ADD or Autism should be looking for child care centers that offer smaller class sizes and teachers with different educational backgrounds. Most child care centers are not academic, even if they say they are. If you suspect they are not, ask for parent references of those who have a child who has graduated.  Were they ahead of their peers in Kindergarten? At Sunrise and most other Montessori schools, we graduate children who are reading chapter books and adding four digit numbers, which is more than a year ahead of their peers. Checking the reviews of schools on Google and Yelp are also beneficial.

How long have the Teachers been at that school? What is the background of the Teachers?

How do you know if your child’s teacher is going to treat your child lovingly while learning their ABC’s? One way to find out is to meet the teacher or observe her working in the classroom. As you walk around the school, look at the faces of the teachers…are they happy? Friendly? Or a little miserable? Ask your tour guide how long the Lead Teacher has been employed with the school, how long she’s been a teacher in general, her educational background, and what the school offers in benefits. At Sunrise Montessori, we foster a positive, upbeat workplace culture as well as offer three weeks of paid vacation, medical insurance, paid training with catered lunches, bonuses and free child care, to name a few. This results in high quality teachers, low turnover and happier team members, which means a more stable, loving classroom experience for your child.

Communication is KEY. How is information shared with parents?

I consider this one of the most important and yet most overlooked…How does the school and your child’s teacher communicate with you? At Sunrise, we have Montessori Compass so parents can see what lessons their child has been given. We have Preschool2Me which texts pictures and messages directly to the parent from the classroom teachers. If a child is diagnosed with a contagious illness, Administration emails all of the parents in that classroom to let them know. We have Parent-Teacher conferences twice a year and send Weekly Updates to our families to let them know what has been going on. You should feel like you are receiving a steady flow of communication and comfortable enough to ask when you have questions. If you ask Administration for something, they should get back to you within a business day. Great communication makes for less worry and more trust.

Are they licensed? What is their record like with inspections from the State?

Whether you are looking for homecare, a daycare, or Montessori preschool, look them up online to see if they have a license and how their inspections have been. Flesh out your final impressions by finding out what they were cited for, how many citations, and how often they were visited in a year. The best centers are visited only about once a year (new schools by law have to be visited four times in the first year). To help you, here is the direct link to Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services, the governmental authority who licenses and monitors child care centers and homes: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

What is the school’s maximum class size and teacher-child ratios? Does the school look and smell clean? Is the school warm and well-maintained?

The State of Texas has some crazy high numbers for what they consider maximum teacher-to-child ratios. For instance, for children ages 1 ½ to 3 years old, the State says child care centers can have up to 22 children in one classroom with two teachers. At our school, we cap that at 16 with two teachers. For 4 – 5 year olds, it rises to 36 children with two teachers, but we stop at 24. At the home care level, one caregiver can have up to 12 children between the ages of infant to 5 years old. Make sure you ask what the maximum number is. Another thing that was important to me as a parent and still is today is the welcoming factor…is it clean? When you walk in, is it warm? Does it smell like dirty diapers or is it pleasant? This is where your child is spending the bulk of their day…it shouldn’t make you uncomfortable. It should make you proud.

By putting all of this together, you’ll find the perfect fit for your family!

Sunrise Montessori Preschool has two locations in Round Rock. Interested in learning first hand what we can offer your child? Then book a tour on our website at Sunrise-Montessori.com or call us so you can discover why Sunrise Montessori Preschool is where YOUR family belongs!

References:

8 Questions to Ask When Looking at Preschools

Signs of a Good Preschool

What makes a preschool great: 4 things parents should look for

Choosing a Preschool or Childcare Center