Updated January 23rd, 2023
It’s never too late to enroll your child in preschool. The preschool experience is worth the effort. Early enrollment begins in January and February, and if the program is in high demand it can fill up on the first day registration opens. So, be prepared with dates and times for open enrollment at your favorite schools. You can expect to pay registration and enrollment fees in early 2023 for a September start of the 2023/2024 school year.
Make A List
But before you are ready to register, you will want to tour a few schools and gather information. Start by making a list of programs close to your home. Driving a long distance each day cuts into your mom time and can make for cranky kids at the end of a school day. Next, determine your childcare needs and your child’s needs. Some preschoolers prefer to be close to home and need more time with Mommy before going to school full time. Others require more stimulation than Mom or Dad can provide and thrive when given the opportunity to go to school as often as possible. A good preschool will take a child’s needs into consideration and offer programs suited for each type of child.
There are several different types of preschool programs. Some are built into a full daycare experience. Others are church preschool programs with a limited number of days and hours available. There are also Montessori schools that offer a unique curriculum and program that extends through the elementary grades. A few private schools offer preschool which provides an easy transition into an elementary program. This is a great idea if you have already decided to invest in private education. Some public schools also offer a pre-k program.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to two or three schools, schedule a tour to become familiar with the setting, enrollment process, curriculum, and culture of the school. Knowing what questions to ask during the tour and what to look for in a preschool will help you find the perfect fit for your child. Ask about teacher to child ratio. The lower the ratio of children to caregiver the better. Check out the playground, classroom space and indoor play areas. Is the equipment worn or well taken care of? Is the classroom set up to be accommodating to children with kid-friendly play areas and plenty of space to move around? Are bathrooms easily accessible? Another good idea is to look at class schedules. Is the day broken down into short intervals appropriate for the age and developmental stage?
Asking about curriculum, monthly themes, and teaching goals and objectives is a great way to understand what your child will learn and be exposed to in the classroom setting. However, having a specific curriculum driven by learning goals is not always the best type of environment for littles. The most important goals should always be exploration, fun, and exposure to all types of new experiences. Preschoolers learn best through play. A lot of parents want opportunities to participate in their child’s learning experience so asking about parent participation is important as well.
Look for a program that offers more than 2 days. Programs with 3 or more days are regulated by Texas Health and Human Services. They require centers to meet certain standards including background checks for all employees, and 24 hours of professional development for teachers each school year. They also do regular inspections which means the center is held to a high standard.
If given the opportunity, talk to the staff and ask if they enjoy working at the center and their background and experience in early childhood. Some centers require teachers to be certified but most train the staff themselves. Certified teachers are great, but this isn’t always the best indication of the teacher’s abilities or rapport with children. If possible, watch a teacher in action and see what procedures and protocols she has established for the children in the classroom. Children feel safest when expectations are clear and consistent.
Be Ahead of the Game
Preschool is an important first step to helping children become independent learners. Learning to function in a structured environment with rules and social protocols prepares them for the constraints of elementary school. The social and emotional development learned in preschool also gives your child an advantage. Being able to self-regulate in these areas prior to the start of kindergarten or first grade allows a child to focus more on cognitive development, learning to read and write.
Making friends, building community, feeling loved, along with learning basics create the perfect preschool experience. An exceptional preschool creates a strong foundation for your child’s educational journey. So, take time now to explore your options for your child’s first learning experience and be ahead of the game!