My Preschool Search Checklist
My daughter is only two, but in West Los Angeles, where some kids have been on waiting lists since they were in utero, I feel like I’m late in the game in finding a preschool. I started my search a a few months ago. I did some research, made some calls, and went on tours. I still haven’t found “the” place for her yet. I learn more about what I want after each visit, so I compiled a list of “must-haves.”
How is the building or facility accessed, and how easily is it accessible by strangers?
Terrifying things happen all the time, everywhere. In 2013, there was a shooting rampage near Santa Monica College. That was a scary thing that happened not too far from where I live. It’s very important to me that strangers can’t get in easily, and, children cannot escape easily.
How is the commute going to affect the rest of my day?
I haven’t decided on full-time or part-time care, but that (and the traffic) will affect my decision.
Am I going to pay for time I don’t use?
Right now, we are late risers and I kind of like it that way. When real school (kindergarten) starts, I know I will have to adjust. In the meantime, I’m looking for late-start schools or afternoon programs. However, if I find a school I really like, I may have to adjust my sleep schedule!
Find the best suit for your child’s personality
My daughter is very different from me. I thrived in an academic setting, but I think my daughter would do well with play-based learning. An American friend of mine who lived in Switzerland when his children were preschool-aged, said their education was all play-based. In fact, in Switzerland, children don’t start primary school until they are seven years old. Personally, I believe people do better when they learn at their own pace and follow their interests. A good friend of mine in high school who had a learning disability is now a successful lawyer with multiple graduate degrees. That just goes to show it’s about interest, ambition, and drive when you’re ready.
It’s more than just ratios
It’s easy for a school or center to meet the standard teacher:child ratios, but how big is the space they are overseeing, and how is it sectioned off? One facility was a definite “no” when the two teachers in charge couldn’t find one of their students was during my visit! (P.S. It turned out the student was not in class that day!)
Required, voluntary or extracurricular
I’d like to send my daughter to a place with parent involvement. Community is important to me, whether through play dates or school events.
Vacations or other reasons
What is the school’s policy on extended vacations or if there is an emergency? Things come up, and it’s nice to know what the school’s policies are in detail.
The first choice isn’t always the best fit
Finding the right preschool is an enormous task. There probably isn’t a “perfect” fit for my child, and even if I think I’ve found one, I won’t know it’s a good fit until she attends. This is why it’s important for me to not set my expectations too high on one school. Variety and flexibility is important when compiling my list.