Teacher Tales: By Ree Shapiro
As parents, we make many tough decisions for our children. We spend hours agonizing over our choices, wondering if we've made the right ones. Choosing the right preschool can definitely cause a few sleepless nights.
A few years ago when the government stepped in to help finance the cost of preschool or Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) for our four year olds, that certainly helped alleviate some of the stress. Now at least cost was not one of the top concerns. It also opened the door to a lot more schools; schools where cost may have been automatically deleted them from your list of choices.
The problem is more choices can in some ways make our decisions more stressful. What factors should you consider to ensure you are choosing the right place for your child? Some factors are of course, non-negotiable. You want your child to be safe, happy and well cared for. You also need the school to meet some of your needs in operating hours and convenience. Another extremely important factor is whether the preschool you choose will prepare your child for kindergarten. This can be discovered by learning about the preschools curriculum.
Not all preschools are required to follow the same curriculum. It is extremely important to ask questions about the curriculum at the preschools you are considering for your child. Kindergarten expectations grow every year. Parents are always amazed to learn at kindergarten orientation and open house that their child is expected to be reading by the end of kindergarten! This is easily accomplished throughout the kindergarten year, by those students who were academically ready when they started kindergarten.
How do I have my child ready? This takes us back to choosing the right preschool. Your child’s preschool curriculum should provide many getting ready to read activities through-out the day. These activities should include: letter and sound recognition, rhyming and sequencing activities as well as phonemic awareness (which are putting sounds together to form words), and lots and lots of read-aloud time. During read-aloud time, teachers should be asking comprehension questions and giving students opportunities to re-tell or act out stories. Preschools that help your child learn to write their name, use fine motor skills such as; cutting and gluing and teach beginning math skills such as; counting and shape recognition is definitely a bonus. In my kindergarten class, I am always amazed by the range of learning that some of my students have acquired from their preschool. It is interesting to watch their progress soar, after beginning school with such a solid foundation.
There are many families that choose not to send their child to preschool and I respect that choice, as long as they prepare their child for kindergarten. If you are spending time at home each day working with your child on the getting ready to read activities discussed above and taking advantage of your local libraries and other enrichment learning programs, your child will also prepared when they enter kindergarten.
Every year student expectations grow for each grade. You can help your child prepare for kindergarten, by either finding an academically rich preschool or by working at home with them. This will ensure a successful kindergarten year and give your child a firm footing on the academic path through all their school years.