It seems like life is coming full circle. The very first Montessori teacher your young girls ever had is sending travel notes to your teenage daughters about an upcoming visit to New York City. Still connected through social media after all of these years the two freshmen, one in high school and one in college, have convinced their parents that they can skip the expense of a rental car and use the money that otherwise would be spent on rental and parking for show tickets. No car, however, means that the family of four will completely rely on public transportation for their three day weekend in the city.
How fun that the girls themselves are texting and messaging their very first teacher about the upcoming trip. Seems like the Montessori preschool program you selected all those years ago really has created independent learners who know how to find the best resources for answers to their questions.
Why Is Preschool Important?
Whether you are a parent who selects the more than 100 year old model of a Montessori classroom, or you are a parent sending your children to the newest trend of outdoor learning environments, studies indicate that children who attend preschool perform better in kindergarten. In fact, a recent research study compiling evaluations of 84 preschool programs concluded that the average average preschool child will gain nearly a third of a year of additional learning in the areas of language, reading, and math skills. Whether you select an extended care setting at a church preschool or an established program in a public school system, preschool opportunities provide benefits that last for years.
While some homes can provide an educationally rich environment, most students will show more progress in a normal or extended care preschool education program. Trained and certified teachers understand the importance of language development and strive to increase children’s vocabulary through the daily use of conversation. In fact, most research indicates that between the ages of three and five, a toddlers vocabulary grows immensely. Showing an increase from the recognition of 900 words to 2,500 words during this three year period, a child’s sentences also become longer and more complex. In a home setting that often involves fewer adults and obviously fewer peers, these language goals are not always met.
Even worse than not being in a preschool setting with peers, some children who remain at home with parents who do not have, or do not take, the time to spend with their children, a screen can become a substitute. Unfortunately, even though many families allow and even encourage screen time, the American Pediatric Association (APA) suggests very limited screen time for toddlers. Furthermore, the APA recommends no screen time at all for children younger than two.
How Do I Find a Good Preschool?
Seeing is believing. Rather than simply relying on family and friend recommendations, the best decisions are made through observation. Visiting an early learning program and watching the interaction between staff and children is key. In the best preschool and extended care settings, children are treated with respect while at the same time expected to act respectfully toward adults and the peers. In addition, the best child care or preschool settings should have adults who are using precise language with the children who are in their care.
Obviously, the best preschool settings will also be clean and orderly. Rather than heaping baskets of toys and books, a well organized center will make use of shelves to encourage children to put things back in their proper place when they are no longer used.
Does My Child Need to Attend All Day Preschool?
While some preschool environments provide extended care hours for families who need to drop their children off early or pick them up late, many preschools are offered as a half day option. For families who have the advantage of a parent who is able to say at home, these half day options can be a perfect solution.
Preschools are as varied as the children they serve. Before deciding on the best setting for your child, make several visits to make sure you understand the environment, the philosophy, the schedule, and the staff expectations and styles.