If you think that nursery school or preschool is in your child’s future, you should know that January kicks off School Shopping Season. Generally, these programs are for kids who will be 3, 4, or a young 5 in September 2011.
I remember going to a play date back when M was still two years old, and the mom I was with had already checked out, like, 6 or 8 different schools. I had a little mini-panic attack right then and there, sitting cross-legged on the toy-strewn carpet. Lucky for me, I managed to stumble my way into the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School, which was not just a great school for the kiddly-winks, but also a wonderful & supportive community for me.
Anyway, the oh-so-brief nursery school 101 is that you should ponder: what schedule works for you, whether your child will be more successful huddled over worksheets or playing in a sandbox, and whether you’d like to go to a school where you can basically slow the car down while your child jumps out or a school where you’ll volunteer and bring a snack occasionally, as well as all the variations in between. I actually have pretty strong opinions on this, but I will not subject you to them in this post. If you’re curious, you can check the Useful Information tab on that nursery school site, because compiling that research was one of the many things I spent time on before I spent time writing this blog. Ah, memories! I sound facetious, but I do miss it. A little bit.
If you want more general information about nursery school, here are a couple of helpful sites:
- Care.com’s Choosing a Nursery School
- Ezine article on Choosing a Nursery School: keep in mind that she talks about options that might not be available close to you
Once you get the lay of the land here at your computer, ask your friends with older kids about their nursery school experiences. From what I’ve seen, I’d say that about 5 out of 6 people you ask will love-love-love their preschool, and 1 out of 6 will have a harrowing horror story to appall you. So, you know: good luck with that.
A Preschool Fair is awesome because you can meet with a whole bunch of folks at one time. It makes it easier to distinguish between what your actual options might be. Ask them what makes them different from the people at the next table. Chances are, they’ll glance anxiously to each side and then lower their voices and give you the dirt. Check with parenting groups near you to see if they’re having a Preschool Fair. The Niskayuna Moms, I happen to know, are having a fair for their members this week. Local libraries will also often host Preschool Fairs. Two I’ve found are:
- Saturday, January 22nd from 10 am to noon at the Saratoga Springs Library–this one’s not listed on their website because it’s being run by area preschools, but here’s the listing
- Saturday, January 29th at 10 at the William K. Sanford Colonie Library—this is listed as an “adult only” activity. Huh.
Finally, many preschools and nursery schools (and it’s basically semantics, but tends to reflect more “academic” vs. “play-based” schools) will have Open Houses where you can come with your child, explore the classroom, meet the teacher, and speak with other parents. Many of these are scheduled in January (including “my” school, Thursday, January 6th from 6:30-8 pm). You can visit an Open House without committing to registering just yet, and it’s a great opportunity for you, really. Your child can play with some new toys, and you have an opportunity to chat with an early childhood education specialist. Sure, ask about if there’s an Emergency Plan and how they deal with food allergies and all that, but if you have a chance to visit a few places, why not ask each teacher about some current parenting challenge that you’re facing? You’ll get free advice and some insight into what kind of person the teacher is.
And, if all of this talk about preschools has you hyperventilating with stress, may I recommend Academic vs. Play-based Nursery Schools: Honestly, Who Gives a Shit? It will give you some perspective.