Choosing The Right Pre-K or Kindergarten for Your Child

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Whether you are looking for a school for your pre-k child to begin their education or want to find the absolute best k-8 school to prepare your child to enter a top-notch preparatory high school, Mizzentop Day School should be on your short list.

We know that you want to make the right decision for your child. So we’ve put together a list of considerations. As you visit schools, consider each of these things carefully. If you do, we’re sure you’ll make a great choice.

Start Here for All Students

Safety and security have to be the starting point. Before you even concern yourself with delving into academic, emotional and social enrichment, find out about a school’s plans for your child’s safety and well-being. Here are a few questions to ask.

  • What is the school’s policy on visitors and how is it enforced?
  • How do they determine who may and may not pick up your child from school?
  • Is there a plan in place in case of a power outage or other system failure that may make it necessary to shorten the school day?
  • Does the school have a protocol in place that can be quickly implemented in the case of an unknown or dangerous individual on campus? This is an unpleasant topic. But it is very important. We recommend that in addition to asking administrators about this, and the other policies, that you ask individual teachers about them. If there is a policy in place, but teachers and other staff don’t know what it is or how to follow it, the policy is useless.

Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten Education

The relationship between teacher and student is one of the most determinant factors when it comes to your child’s happiness, academic achievement and overall emotional and social development at this stage. Meet the teacher whose class your child would be placed in and determine if you think they would make a good match. If your child has any particular special needs or challenges, have a frank and honest conversation with the teacher and ask for specific examples of what steps they would take to make sure your child got the right kind of start to their educational career.


Arts, Science and Play Are All Must Haves

Look carefully at each classroom and extracurricular activity room. What kinds of books are on the shelves? Are the rooms set up to encourage a love of learning?

Words count. Your child’s vocabulary upon leaving kindergarten is a strong indicator of future academic success. Are there books on the shelves? Is reading and writing a big part of daily activities? Is reading or writing integrated into non-academic activities designed to strengthen emotional and social skills?

No one expects your kindergartner to do algebra. That being said, it is important that math is not an afterthought for your child’s early-educational experience. In additional to learning basic math skills, a child that leaves kindergarten having developed a curiosity about and desire to explore math, has a tremendous head start

Standardized test scores are not a useful tool. If you find, during your search process, that a school you are considering relies on standardized tests to determine your child’s early-educational success, we suggest you keep looking. A school that structures its days around test scores cannot provide the well-rounded experience your child deserves.

All work and no play is not the way to go. Look at each prospective school’s pre-k and kindergarten curriculum. Ask about how the school achieves the critical balance between structure and flexibility. Do they keep to a schedule for the sake of keeping to a schedule, or are they flexible enough, and experienced enough when to know when for your child, a little extra creative time or self-determinate activities may be best?

Let Your Children Be Themselves

If you ever feel like you have to coach your child to be someone they aren’t in order to fit in at a particular school, stop and think about what you are doing. If the school in question doesn’t value diversity in all of its forms, is that really somewhere you want to send your child every day? Next, think about the message you are sending to your child.

Certainly, we need rules to maintain order. But rules and conformity are not the same thing.

As adults we can lose sight of the difference between belonging and fitting in. You should be looking for a school where your child, with all of the traits that make them uniquely them, will be welcomed just as they are. That is the kind of place your child will learn a sense of belonging, a sense of being wanted simply for who they are. A school that doesn’t appreciate your child’s particular form of whimsy, or their personality quirks, or whatever it is that sets them apart from the crowd, and expects them to conform to an artificial standard, is not necessarily a great place for your child to start their educational career. Any school that uses negative means to enforce normative behavior is definitely a school to avoid.

Don’t be Taken in By a Name

Just because a school has the word “charter,” “private” or “preparatory” in its name, doesn’t mean it is a good school for your child. As a matter of fact, charter and private schools are only very loosely regulated. They set their own standards, curriculum and requirements for their staff. You might be surprised what you’ll find in some schools with the most impressive-sounding names. Do your research.  

Trust Your Own Judgement

The best pre-k and kindergarten experience is going to provide your child with an integrated socially, emotionally, and academically enriching experience. Consider the values of each school you are looking at. Are those values expressed in the classroom, on the playground and across all arts and activities? If your answer is a resounding, yes, we think you can be confident that your child will have an outstanding experience.

Give us a call or join us for an open house to learn more about early-childhood educational opportunities for your child at Mizzentop Day School.