There may be nothing that instills more fear and apprehension in parents than the task of finding the right preschool in a foreign country. The choices can be overwhelming and the pressure to get it right is huge.
Here are a few tips that can help you make the right decision:
- Schedule a tour. Usually, you can tour the school while classes are in session, and sometimes you can even bring your child to spend time in the classroom (though sometimes having Junior along can be more distracting than beneficial). Be ready with a notebook on the tour, and bring a list of all your questions. We can help you schedule the tour on the week you will arrive for your pre-visit or whenever you will be moving.
- Know how often and how long you’d like your child to go. Children usually attend preschool for two years between the ages of 2.5 and 5 years old. Often, preschools run half-day programs around four hours every weekday or less for a nine-month school year. Some preschools have full-day programs (and some full-time daycares have a preschool component), and some half-day programs offer before- and after-school care. There are exceptions to the rule (for example, Montessori programs often have longer days). Children with special needs may qualify for 12-month programs if the nature and degree of their disability suggest that they might regress during summer months without preschool services. Some parents opt for a half-day preschool and hire a nanny if they need additional hourly care.
- Find out policies on potty training. Many, but not all, preschools require that children be potty trained. If your target school requires potty training, figure out what your approach will be to work with your child on using the potty.
- Know the recommended adult-to-child ratios. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends that infant groups should be no larger than 12 children with an adult-to-child ratio of 1:4. Preschool classroom groups should not be larger than 20 and the adult-to-child ratio should not exceed 1:10.
- Talk to the teachers.Spending a few minutes chatting with the teachers can give you valuable insight into their child-rearing philosophies. After all, they will have the most direct connection with your child, and his development.
- Check the calendar. The school calendar and your work calendar may not line up exactly. Make sure to check major holidays and common vacation days to ensure there are no surprises. If this preschool isn’t a full-day or doesn’t go year-round, make sure you have a backup care in place.
- Get real feedback. Talk to other parents who use the preschool. Look for message boards and online reviews. Or, ask the director for some phone numbers of currently enrolled parents. They will be able to give you a more accurate take on the whole experience. They might even have a few expert tips to help you in your search. Keep in mind though, what works for one family might not work for another, so don’t be pressured into making the wrong decision.
Know what’s important and trust your gut. Sometimes family needs will narrow your options down significantly, including considerations such as how far the school is from home or work, what your daily childcare needs are, and the cost. Ultimately, you have to trust your gut. Ask yourself when you’re looking at schools: Do they treat the children with respect? Are the school’s values in line with your family values? Will this preschool environment set your child up for success? Most importantly, can you picture your child happy at the school?