The benefits of pre kindergarten education have now been widely documented, so if you’re the parent of a 3- or 4-year-old, it’s highly likely you’re on a mission to find the best preschool in your area. Online, there are lists of dozens of characteristics you should be looking for in a preschool, but sometimes it’s just as helpful to know what not to look for. Here are three factors that you probably don’t want to give much weight:
- The School Has a Rigorous Academic Curriculum
Preschool is an important time when it comes to children learning the concepts underlying math and reading (not to mention social and motor skills). But keep in mind that a so-called rigorous academic environment may not be the best way to set your child up for success in those areas. Young children tend to learn best through play, questioning and interactive programs, not through worksheets and memorization. If you’re touring a preschool and it looks like a miniaturized version of a high school with some brighter colors, it’s probably time to start looking elsewhere.
- The School Is Purportedly a Very Prestigious One
Especially in a world where parents are thinking about college for their children while they’re still changing diapers, it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of an “elite” preschool that claims to be part of some sort of prestige pipeline guaranteed to move your child all the way along to the Ivies. Quality education matters even at a very young age — there’s no question about that. But prestige doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality instruction, and there will be plenty of opportunities for your child to distinguish him or herself later in life if those prestigious schools truly are the ultimate goal. Judge a school based on its instruction, not its reputation (though of course some aspects of the latter may guide you regarding the former).
- The School Doesn’t Require You to Get Involved
Especially if you’re a working parent, then a “hands off, we’ll take it from here” attitude from school administrators and teachers might at first feel welcome. But it’s actually a bad sign; as a parent, you are your child’s primary educator, and you are the only one who can coordinate at-home and at-school learning in ways that maximize your child’s learning opportunities. It’s great to find a preschool that offers you a good deal of flexibility in how and when you get involved in your child’s schooling, but you should choose a preschool that is consistently working to integrate you and the other parents into the school experience.
Do you have anything to add to this list? Leave your feedback in the comments section.