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How to Choose the Best Kindergarten Program for Your Child?

Academics, Child Development, Elementary School, Preschool, Rippowam Cisqua School

How to Choose the Best Kindergarten Program for Your Child?

This is the third in a three-part series on Kindergarten readiness.

You’ve determined your child is ready for Kindergarten and have a good handle on the skills they should learn during that critical first year of school. Now, you need to determine the best educational environment for your little learner. Here’s how to pick the right Kindergarten program for your child. 

Look for play-based programs

Decades of research tell us that play is an essential part of children’s healthy growth and development. Early childhood experts have long agreed that rich play-based learning environments help students excel in all domains of development. Play helps children increase their memory, critical thinking skills, self-regulation, social skills, oral language skills, literacy skills, mathematical, and problem-solving skills, and lays the foundation for all academic learning. Play is truly the indispensable work of children. Do not mistake this for time wasted. When executed well by master teachers, it is the way young children learn best.

Expand your search

Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make, so look at both public and private schools when evaluating your options. Both have their advantages, but you want to focus on the environment that is the best fit for your child’s unique attributes. Private schools typically offer smaller class sizes, individualized learning plans, and put greater emphasis on developing student interests beyond the core academic subjects. With low student/teacher ratios and more flexibility with their curriculum, students develop and practice a broader portfolio of interests. Learning to love school at a young age will set your child off on the right path for years to come.   

Take a tour

The best way to get to know a school is to visit. Private schools typically offer tours year-round, and you can call your local public school to request a tour. Plan your visit when school is in session so you can see how the students and teachers interact. Here’s what to look for when visiting:

  • Are the classrooms organized?
  • Are the projects children’s actual work and not just glossy representations? 
  • Is there a block area or open-ended dramatic play area? 
  • Are there different types of seating to support different learners?
  • Does the teacher have visibility throughout the room? 
  • Is there a schedule that supports routines? 
  • Are there class jobs that support responsibility and a child’s autonomy? 
  • Are children laughing, playful, and engaged?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or talk to the Kindergarten teachers. After all, these are the people who will be with your child every day. You have a right to get to know them.

Talk to current parents

Happy children, equal happy parents. Ask current Kindergarten families about their experiences. If you talk to your neighbors, you’ll find that some families attend the local public school, and some attend private schools. Find out what factors influenced their choice. Also, ask online parent groups for advice. A simple poll can help you create a list of options, connect you with parents or administrators, or provide insider tips on how to select the right school.

Ask your preschool teacher

If your child is currently enrolled in preschool, ask the preschool teacher for advice. Teachers have their own network and will be able to suggest options that make the most sense for your child. If your child is a bright but shy learner, they may recommend a school where your child will receive more 1:1 attention as they may get lost in bigger environments where teachers don’t have as much time to spend.

Trust your gut

No one knows your child better than you. Curate the advice you receive from teachers, friends, neighbors, and other parents to determine what is most important to your family. Don’t limit your choices; today, parents have more options than ever. Public schools are getting better, and private schools are becoming more affordable than ever with flexible tuition models. The key is to focus on today, not ten years from now. Who your child is at this moment will be very different from the child they are in high school. Right now, you want to focus on the program that will help them discover and embrace who they are and develop a love of learning.  

To help you evaluate and compare schools, download this helpful checklist. 

Did you miss the last two posts in this three-part series? Read Is my child ready for Kindergarten? and What Skills Will My Child Learn in Kindergarten?

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