Choosing Your Child's First Preschool
Instead of being daunted by choosing your child's first school, see it as an exciting opportunity for your child and family. Start by talking to other parents to get first-hand feedback about schools. Some preschools don't advertise, getting all of their applicants by word-of-mouth.
Then, make a list of options, checking out the schools' accreditation with the nonprofit organization National Association of Early Childhood Education. Use simple logistics: Do you want your child to go to school five days a week, or just three mornings a week? Do you want to be able to walk or ride a bike with your child to school? Are you looking for someplace close to your office? How important are extended hours?
Next familiarize yourself with various philosophies, such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf -- at times it can sound like a menu at a restaurant, but don't get too bogged down by titles, as individual teachers have a strong influence on a school. Also, preschool is largely about play rather than strict learning, reminds esteemed child development expert Penelope Leach.
Finally, plan a visit during school hours and observe the children. Ultimately, go with your gut instinct.