Preschool. For starters, I was underprepared for it. I was a naive mom who imagined you pick a school and away your little one goes to learn life lessons. I had not accounted for waitlists, classes at capacity and so much more.
Thankfully this was eight years back. When this rough patch of parenting was over, I learned valuable lessons. I now know that preparation, organization and educating oneself are vital when choosing a preschool. The good news is that parents in New York City have options to wonderful preschools. What is “important” is knowing when and how to navigate the preschool process. So deep breaths, you got this!
When is the best time to think about preschool?
Unless you are a seasoned parent, you may wonder when you should start thinking about preschool for your child. Erica Young, an early childhood educator in New York City, says “depending on your personal factors, it could make sense to look at preschool when your child is a year and a half out from when they would attend.” Once you have decided to look into preschool, Mrs. Young suggest you then need to ask what your needs are. “Is your child in daycare and you need childcare to continue? Are you home with your child, or are they with an outside caregiver and preschool is more about a consistent social experience?” she says.
How does the application process work?
Your family has decided that preschool is the next step for your child- now it is time to think of schools. When my son was one, I was politely informed by my choice school that I should have waitlisted my child immediately after birth. I was barely keeping my sh*t together, and I was to plan two years ahead? Yes- fellow parent for preschool does not have to be a fool’s game. Where to even start? “Most application periods are a year out. Some programs require a tour before you can apply, some allow tours and applications. Others have lottery systems. So start looking at your options in the spring before you’d have to start touring and applying” says Mrs. Young.
Contacting your list of schools
Start with a phone call. This step is easy – contact the schools you are interested in and ask for a school tour. If the school suggests to contact them when your child reaches the required age, add the reminder to your calendar. Wait! Before you end the call ask if there is a waitlist. Don’t forget to sign up to the school’s newsletter or email list. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook. You want to keep abreast of all information the school shares especially when enrollment or school tours pop up. If you are looking for a more insider review on the school- post on your local community Facebook page or mom group. No need to not be shy; ask away. Seeking your fellow parents’ opinion will provide the first-hand experience that will be beneficial to your family.
Going on a school tour
An important step is touring. I have found that this part of the preschool process can be a bit nerve-racking. Since a preschool may be your child’s first experience in a school setting, it makes sense you feel vulnerable.
Know that the teachers and administration are there to support you. Ask questions, voice concerns, bring a list of questions if this helps. Checking out a school can be anything from learning about the teaching philosophy to visiting current students in their classrooms.
Is the school’s educational philosophy align with your approach?
Try not to stress if school tours leave you feeling unsure of what will work for your child. I toured six schools with my oldest and recently for my youngest I visited five. As ill-prepared I was with my first child I was a mom with a mission this last preschool round. I showed up equipped with lists and questions for each school. Meeting the administration at a school is your opportunity to interview the school. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in this initial conversation. If hours of operation are essential to your family, ask when the day starts and ends. If costs are a factor inquire on tuition cost or a payment installment plan. Being prepared will help you in deciding if a school will be a good fit.
Questions to Ask:
- How long is a normal school day?
- What types of security measures do you practice?
- What teaching credentials does the teacher hold?
- Are there early drop off times?
- Does my child need to be potty-trained?
- Do the kids go outside?
- Is this a nut-free school?
- What does circle time look like?
- Is there a blog or Instagram that shares on daily class activities?
- Can I drop by anytime to check on my child?
Remember, New York City is unique in its schools. Parents have many choices which require a bit of work. Preschool is an excellent experience for both the kids and parents. At the end with my oldest, I found the perfect fit. This school was instrumental in forming an education plan that worked with his personality. With my youngest, it was the last school I toured. I sat waiting in the lobby and my eyes started to well with tears. I knew this was it and felt it immediately. I found the school and so will you!
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