Where to Begin?
Steps for Selecting an Early Education Program
We understand that every vision you have for your children involves helping them become the best people they can be. You know the importance of a strong foundation. You take a serious interest in selecting the right educational program and know it is a decision that is more important today than ever before. Below are some guidelines we have assembled to assist you in establishing your personal criteria when exploring which preschool will best meet the needs of your child.
- What are the needs of our family?
- How do we want a preschool schedule to fit into our family life?
- Is it important for the preschool to be near our home or our workplace?
- What are the school’s hours and are there expanded hour options at either end of the day?
- What are the hours that we will need for our child’s school day?
Once you have your answers, it’s time to do your research:
Determine the Preschool Options in your Area:
- Search listings of program options in your community. You will find options ranging from day care centers, to home care, to more fully developed school programs with varying curriculums and goals.
- Ask friends and family basic questions about their preschool selections, and hear about their experiences and general concerns. Keep in mind that every family has its own expectations and needs regarding the education of its children.
- As you zero in on the model that best fits your needs, start with a substantive website review and prepare a list of questions, likes, and concerns that will help more clearly define the educational objectives for your child.
Next, reach out to the school Directors and gather the answers to your questions.
Sample Questions to Ask School Directors:
- What is the structure and curriculum of the program?
- What is the school calendar and hours of operation?
- What qualifications do the teachers and assistants hold?
- What is the student/teacher ratio?
- What are the policies for napping, toilet training, etc.?
- What are the things that make the school special or stand out from other programs?
At the close of the call, if you are satisfied that the school might meet the needs of your child, you should arrange for a visit.
What to Look for During an On-Site Visit:
- Review the Qualifications of the Teaching Staff
- Review the Quality of the Teaching
- Observe the Classroom Environment and Structure Is the classroom environment welcoming and attractive? During the time your children are at school, it is their ‘home away from home’. Materials and furnishings should be accessible, well-organized, and appropriate for the age and size of the children. Classroom space such as that found within The Montessori Children’s Academy schools is laid out in an open floor plan with areas that encourage social interaction, increase concentration, and minimize congestion and conflicts.
- Review the Curriculum
Dedication and caring are traits most teachers were blessed with from the beginning. In addition, preschool teachers are required to possess certain credentials. In the state of New Jersey, a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential (135 hours of training) can fulfill this requirement. However most Montessori schools require their Head Teachers to be Montessori certified; a certification which requires over 800 hours of training. High quality programs will also provide ongoing training for their teachers throughout the year. This is what you will find with the staff at each campus of The Montessori Children’s Academy.
Just like in any other profession, the better trained and more highly qualified teachers are most likely affiliated with the better schools. During your review, and before your final selection, find out what your intended schools’ policies are for hiring and qualifying their faculty and staff.
What are the “soft” skills the teachers possess? Confirming a teacher’s mastery of soft skills is an imperative that can only be determined through thoughtful observation.
Are the teachers attentive to what children are doing? Observing children is just as important as leading children. An attentive teacher is aware of the needs, strengths, and interests of his or her students.
How do the teachers engage with the children and other teaching staff? Watch how the teachers communicate both verbally and non-verbally with everyone in the classroom and look for how others respond to the teacher. Better preschool programs nurture warm relationships among children, teachers, and parents.
Is the classroom time structured? A well structured environment helps preschoolers learn to make friends and play well with others. However, this does not mean the class is governed by lots of rules and only teacher-directed activities. In fact, the structure of a high-quality preschool classroom is largely invisible to children.
Does the program allow for the children to channel their interests in activities that nurture curiosity? Even a simple, chance event like a child’s discovery of a snail in the outdoor play area can be turned into an exciting learning opportunity. Good teachers observe these ongoing activities, ask questions, and listen to the way children are talking and reacting.
Does the curriculum promote exploration in a wide variety of activities that naturally lead the children to the acquisition of pre-math and pre-literacy skills? Young children show interest in these skills, particularly when they are introduced through meaningful, interesting activities.
Does the program allow the children autonomy in choosing their own activities or their own way of performing group activities? This practice aids the children’s concentration and promotes curiosity and independence.
Still Not Sure? Ask the Director for names and numbers of parents whose children currently attend the school. Seek their perspective on what makes their child’s preschool experience positive at the school.
Your Invitation to Explore The Montessori Children’s Academy
As you move forward with the preschool evaluation process, you will gain a greater understating of your options and an awareness of the benefits that come from a traditional Montessori education. By understanding Dr. Montessori’s objectives and reading how this methodology is supported by the most current educational research, families can make informed choices about their children’s first educational experiences that will benefit their children for their entire lives.
We welcome your inquiries and invite you to visit The Montessori Children’s Academy. Learn first-hand why we created what is considered to be one of the finest educational programs in New Jersey.
“The first duty of an education is to stir up life, but leave it free to develop.”