Yesterday I wrote an email to a friend who is debating whether (and where) to send her 3 year old to preschool this fall. Then it occurred to me that a lot of moms might be having this same internal debate about choosing a preschool, because enrollment starts this month in a lot of areas, including ours!
So I wanted to share the letter I wrote to my friend (slightly edited for blog purposes).
Here are some thoughts to consider when choosing a preschool…
– Length of the day. I’m glad I didn’t choose one that is less than 4 hours per day. At about 8:45am I frantically get both girls in the car and head to preschool, and by the time I unload both girls at school, get Clara in the door, then get Isabelle back in the car, drive home, unload Isabelle again… it’s already 9:45am. Then I put Isabelle down for a nap which takes us until about 10:30am. Then I have some blissful time until Isabelle wakes back up and we leave again around 12:30pm so that we’re a bit early for Clara, who is done at 1pm. Basically, even though she’s gone for 4 hours, I am lucky to get 2 hours ‘off’.
– Whether lunch is provided. If you can, find a preschool that makes and feeds the kids lunch. I am so thankful that I do not need to pack a lunch for Clara every day. They feed her organic and vegetarian food and she eats it, loves it, and when she gets home in the afternoon I just put her to bed for a nap without having to deal with the normal lunchtime chaos and mess.
– Distance from home. I wish I could have found a preschool within walking distance. I would have LOVED that but it wasn’t meant to be for us. Instead, we drive about 10 minutes to her preschool, which I think is still doable. If we had to drive more than 20 minutes it would absolutely not be worth it to me, even if it was a 4 hour school day.
– Teacher turnover. I was advised to find a preschool with low teacher turnover rates, which I think makes a lot of sense. The school that Clara attends is run by a teacher who has been running her own preschool for about 20 years, and now that Clara has formed a bond with her, I love knowing that she will still be around for the months/years Clara will be at the school.
– Environment. I think you should love the school’s environment or find a different school. I really feel great about dropping Clara off at school. We toured one other preschool and I got a very ‘meh’ feel about it. The school I didn’t love had little classrooms, the kids were separated by age, it was very structured, and there was a tiny outdoor space. I just found it kind of depressing. The school Clara goes to is completely unstructured, has a huge outdoor space with logs to play on, a fort to climb in, kitchen tools to make mud ‘food’, garden supplies, and then the inside area is two floors of a big house and has old couches, play areas, all wooden toys, comfy reading nooks, craft tables… it’s like a mini-wonderland. Clara can choose what to do for her two free hours there (two other hours include lunch and circle time) and she can always go outdoors. If it’s raining, they put the kids in boots and rain suits and out they go! If Clara needs more structure when she’s four years old I’ll re-evaluate, but at her age I love the unstructured time. Plus, I am sure that she is going to be intellectually ready for kindergarten when the time comes so I’m more concerned with her learning social skills.
I’m sure there are other more-practical things to take into consideration when choosing a preschool, but to be honest, I was more focused on the convenience and feel-good factor than the cost. If you can find a preschool that is nearby, affordable, and has the type of environment you value, I totally think it’s worth sending your kid to! I cannot even put into words (although I tried with this post) how much I love my toddler-free mornings twice per week. It has been a total game changer for our family.
Happy preschool searching!