It is that time of year again when parents begin the long and stressful process of determining where they would like their little bundle of joy to attend preschool for the Fall.
I remember when our eldest was 2-1/2 years old and I started to collate information on the various preschools located in our city. I remember thinking all the crazy thoughts that moms think. Like, how the heck am I supposed to just leave her with teachers I had only met on a couple of occasions? What if something happens to her there, I would never forgive myself. What if she is thirsty and the teachers don’t understand her and she becomes dehydrated and then has to go to the hospital? (Okay, I would like to say this is an exaggeration but unfortunately it was something I had actually pondered). What if she has an accident and all the children laugh at her and she then becomes socially scarred for life? What if the teachers aren’t paying attention and she pulls a sneak attack out to the parking lot? The thoughts were never-ending. Friends and family tried their best to ease my worries but it didn’t help. The only thing I knew that would make me feel comfortable was thoroughly researching the various preschools, talking with the teachers, taking tours, seeing the children in action, etc.
So, I began my search by looking for the top ten signs of a good classroom as suggested by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- Children spend most of their time playing and working with materials or other children. They do not wander aimlessly, and they are not expected to sit quietly for long periods of time.
- Children have access to various activities throughout the day. Look for assorted building blocks and other construction materials, props for pretend play, picture books, paints and other art materials, and table toys such as matching games, pegboards, and puzzles. Children should not all be doing the same thing at the same time.
- Teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day. They do not spend all their time with the whole group.
- The classroom is decorated with children’s original artwork, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by children to teachers.
- Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals and meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance, or serving snack provide the basis for learning activities.
- Children work on projects and have long periods of time (at least one hour) to play and explore. Worksheets are used little if at all.
- Children have an opportunity to play outside every day. Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.
- Teachers read books to children individually or in small groups throughout the day, not just at group story time.
- Curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help. Teachers recognize that children’s different background and experiences mean that they do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.
- Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel secure about sending their child to the program. Children are happy to attend; they do not cry regularly or complain of feeling sick.
Also ask if the program is accredited by NAEYC. NAEYC accredited programs complete a rigorous self-study and external review to prove that they meet standards of excellence in early childhood education.
So, after careful review and tours of preschools I decided I wanted something in-between home with mommy and preschool for 3 days a week. And we found precisely that at Epworth’s Child’s Day Out program, (CDO) thanks to a referral by a friend of my mothers. Child’s Day Out is a program located in Toledo, Ohio for two & three-year-old children. Its purpose is to provide a good, reasonably priced, child-care program in a safe and caring environment that enables parents of small children to feel confident about leaving their children for 2-1/2 hours one day a week. They provide, within a safe and caring Christian environment, an opportunity for children to participate in activities, enjoy stories and music, and develop social skills. CDO was precisely what we needed; it was like a steppingstone between being at home with mom and going to preschool.
We took a tour during the day so that we could see children in the classroom and observe the activities and get our daughter acclimated with the space. I brought my camera along and took pictures of the classroom, the kitchen play area, the puzzle area, the rug where the children sit for circle time, the playground, the art area, and even the toilet where she would be going potty. Later that week I then put together a poster board for her of all the pictures and hanged it in her room. We would talk about our visit to CDO and I would have her point to the various activities and the potty. I made certain I only said positive things about CDO with an enthusiastic tone. Sure enough the first day of CDO came and she was so excited. While other children were crying and clinging to their mommies for dear life my little lady was running to the kitchen area and then the rug for circle time, she was so excited. To be totally honest I was a little disappointed that she did not even seem to miss me but I was so pleased to see her run off with an expression of pure joy. Even though she was safe, comfortable, and having fun I still stayed in that building for the first month of CDO. I was experiencing separation anxiety.
My daughter and son have graduated from the CDO program and our youngest will start in a couple of years. Child’s Day Out is the best program around because it allows children and parents to become acclimated with the idea of being separated. And thankfully in small spurts, only one day a week for a couple of hours. This Mom on the go in Holy Toledo highly recommends the Child’s Day out (CDO) Program at Epworth United Methodist Church. For more info check out, http://www.epworth.com/ministries/children/childrens-day-out
If you do not live in the area ask around in your community. Moms are always dying to share their thoughts and experiences, inquire about a similar program in your community.
So what was, or is, your worst fear about preschool?