Choosing a preschool for your child is no small decision. As a parent, you want the absolute best for your child, and the best preschools have more than outstanding faculty and a great facility. Preschool is a time where children develop socially and emotionally, build self-confidence, and are taught skills that serve as the foundation of future academic knowledge. Because of this, it’s also important to consider the curriculum used and if it meets your child’s developmental needs at this point in their life.
But how can you tell if your child’s pre-k curriculum is up to par? Here are some of the top factors to consider:
- Is it designed to help the child succeed in Kindergarten?
- Is it recognized, accredited, or authorized by a Third Party?
- Is it following the prescribed curriculum?
- Is there communication between the teacher and parents?
- Is there an opportunity to learn a second language?
- Are there special classes in the arts?
- Are there extracurricular activities for early learners?
Let’s look at these a little more closely.
1. Is It Designed to Help the Child Succeed in Kindergarten?
There are many types of curricula that a school can implement, but no matter which they use, it’s important that it’s designed to help the child succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
The curriculum should be focused on child-friendly ways to learn and develop socially, emotionally, linguistically, and cognitively.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) standards, the curriculum shouldn’t just focus on one specific area of development; instead, it should address all aspects of child development. There should be ample opportunity to learn through play and exploration, and teachers should be able to work with children on the individual or small group level. Activities should be designed to improve a child’s reasoning, problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, and language use. Academic wise, preschool is a time where pre-literacy and pre-math skills are introduced. Games and activities should aim at teaching the basics like numbers and the alphabet.
2. Is It Recognized, Accredited, or Authorized by a Third Party?
Just like other levels of schooling, preschools can be recognized and accredited by an unbiased third party. In this voluntary process, the school will be assessed on a number of different factors ranging from the physical environment to leadership and management.
With most accreditation organizations, the preschool’s curriculum is also evaluated. If the organization doesn’t feel that the curriculum is up to par, they will make recommendations of what needs to change in order to be certified. Because of this, accreditation lets parents know that the quality of education meets a specified standard.
Even if the preschool isn’t accredited, it can still utilize a recognized curriculum. There are a number of organizations that have preschool lesson plans designed by early childhood education experts and meet the standards of third parties, such as state governments. Don’t hesitate to inquire about the accreditation or certification of the plan used to teach your child.
3. Is It Following the Prescribed Curriculum?
Having a planned curriculum in place is important, but a plan doesn’t do students any good if it isn’t utilized in class. It can be hard to tell if your pre-k is following the prescribed curriculum since you’re not in the classroom with your child, but there are a few things to be on the lookout for.
One of the best ways to ensure this is through the mastery of goals set at the beginning of the school year. You can track your child’s progress by recognizing skills as they learn them throughout the year. Children are typically eager and excited to share what they discover, and parents should ask questions about their child’s day and topics they are learning about.
Another crucial component of this is effective parent-teacher communication, which we will discuss next.
4. Is There Communication Between the Teacher and Parents?
Whatever curriculum that the school implements, it’s extremely important that it is communicated clearly to the parents. Clear communication between parents and teachers benefits everyone involved. Parental involvement allows the teacher to focus more on teaching and student’s individual needs. And when a teacher lets parents know what is going on in the classroom, the skills can be reinforced at home, leading to mastery for the child.
There are many ways for parent-teacher communication to take place, and more than one method will often be utilized. It might take the form of:
- In-person parent/teacher conferences: These typically occur on a quarter or semester basis, or whenever deemed necessary by either party.
- Weekly take-home folders or packets: Teachers might send home the work that the child has completed that week with notes and an opportunity for parents to comment.
- Phone calls or emails: Even brief messages can be beneficial in updating parents on progress or potential problems.
- Curriculum nights/ open houses: Events like this give parents a chance to learn about the day-to-day activities and routine that their children go through.
- Parent-teacher organizations or school councils: Groups allow parents and teachers to come together collectively to voice and address concerns.
Your preschool may use methods different than these. The important thing is that the communication is clear, effective, and efficient.
5. Is There An Opportunity to Learn a Second Language?
You’ve probably heard someone say at one point or another, “I wish I was taught another language when I was younger.” While it’s never too late to learn a new skill, there’s no time quite like early childhood to learn a new language. In fact, according to Cornell University research, the sooner a child begins learning a second language, the more likely the child is to achieve native-like proficiency.
Learning a second language does more than just expand your child’s ability to communicate with others— studies show that critical thinking skills, creativity, and mental flexibility increase when another language is acquired at a young age. For some parents, the opportunity for their child to learn another language is extremely important, leading them to enroll their kids in programs like Spanish immersion schools.
6. Are There Special Classes in the Arts?
The arts play a crucial role in a child’s ability to develop ideas and express emotion. Participating in the arts does more than just stimulate your child’s creative side; it benefits their physical, social, and cognitive abilities as well.
Physically, the processes and motions of creating things with tools like paintbrushes, glue, clay, and musical instruments strengthens fine motor skills. Socially and emotionally, art is a time where a child can relax, focus, and build self-confidence. It’s also a place where they can express their feelings in a healthy manner. Sounds from music, colors and shapes from drawing and painting, and movement from dance increase neural connections and stimulate the brain. Process-focused art also gives young children a chance to problem solve and come up with creative solutions to problems on their own.
A preschool that recognizes the importance of creativity and offers specialized classes or designated time for the arts is one that is setting up your child for success.
7. Is There An Extracurricular Program for Early Learners?
Preparation for kindergarten and beyond doesn’t just happen inside the classroom. Preschoolers learn valuable lessons from extracurricular programs like sports, dance lessons, musical instrument lessons, scouting groups, and special art classes. Your little one will start discovering and understanding important life skills like goal setting, teamwork, and time management. Preschools that offer these types of programs give kids a chance to explore other interests and are taking that extra step to shape a well-rounded student.
Nice facilities and qualified teachers are only part of the equation of what makes a great pre-k experience. When choosing a school for your kiddo, consider the curriculum used and how it will benefit their emotional, social, and cognitive development. A great pre-k curriculum will allow your child to explore the world around them and prepare them for a bright and happy future!