It’s that time of year again when nursery schools across our region open their doors for the public to come in and see if the school is a good fit for your child and family. As the parent of a small child or a parent who recently moved into a new area, these nursery school open houses can be a good first step in making an important decision for your loved one.
As with any prepared event, much thought and effort has gone into an open house. The school is showing what they want you to see. Therefore after attending an open house the best next step is to visit the school during classroom hours to get an idea of the atmosphere surrounding the children, teachers and administration. The open house event will help you get a framework of the organization, an opportunity to hear about their philosophy and resources. Here are our Top 10 areas to look for and consider as you attend nursery school open house events this season.
Teachers: The experience and education of the staff should be openly discussed and displayed. Look for teachers whose approaches are culturally, individually and developmentally sensitive towards all.
Philosophy and Curriculum: There are always buzz words regarding the latest trends in how to teach children. Be aware of what they mean so you can decide what makes sense to you and what to expect from the school. Ideally the curriculum will pave a clear path for the journey towards and the transition into Kindergarten.
Class Schedules: Its important to know what the school has set up as the flow of the day. Each program should have an age appropriate flow for the classroom and then within each class, individual children should have the flexibility to learn in a variety of ways.
School Appearance: When walking through an open house be aware of your surroundings. Cleanliness is important! We all understand that it is tough to clean up after the activities of a classroom of young children. The difference however is the environment must be clean for sanitary reasons but also as a model for the children. Look at what is being celebrated on the walls of the school. What does the school take pride in?
Classrooms: Do the classrooms have a variety of play centers? How do they reflect the curriculum and philosophy of the school? Ask teachers about the purpose of some of the centers. Listen to hear if their answers are aligned with the overall mission of the school and if they are related to Kindergarten preparation.
Safe Environment: Look for safety measures currently in place at the school. Are there multiple exits in case of emergencies? Does the school have a supervised front entrance? Is the parking and drop off areas safe from high traffic? How can the teachers communicate throughout the school in case of emergency?
Healthy Food: Be sure to learn what the school’s policies are regarding healthy food served, food allergy procedures and how the topic of eating a healthy diet is presented in the classrooms.
Parent Relationship: Listen to learn what the school does for the parents. How will they inform parents of school issues? Do they have parent-directed programs? What support is available for parents facing developmental issues? What resources are available to help parents keep up with their child’s developmental and emotional growth.
Outdoor Space: Playtime is so critical to development. Ask how much time is spent outside on the playground and elsewhere in the community. How does the play equipment appear? Is it torn up, jagged edges or safe for young children? Does the school offer other outdoor spaces for learning, such as a garden?
Community Involvement: Nursery schools are the first school models young children experience. Having their school be involved in its community and exposing them to the world around them can not only create discussion topics about civic support but also help them better understand peoples roles and the interrelation of a community.
When you leave an open house you should have a good understanding of these topics. If you walk away not thinking you have all the answers contact the director and ask for a private tour to get more in depth answers and experience the school during class times.
The goal is to find a school that you’re comfortable leaving your child in. If you are starting school when your child is the age of 2, that child will be there for the next 2-3 years depending on when they are ready for Kindergarten. Ideally you won’t have to change schools during this time frame as the children quickly make strong friendships with other children and their teachers. Take your time, go to the open houses, take private tours and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The school should be happy to answer your questions and give you the time and attention you need.