1. Children spend most of their playing and working with materials or other children. They do not wander aimlessly, and they are not expected to sit quietly for long periods of time.
2. Children have access to various activities throughout the day. Look for assorted building blocks and other construction materials, props for pretend play, picture books, paints and other art materials, and table toys such as matching games, pegboards, and puzzles.
3. Teachers work with individual children, small groups and the whole group at different times during the day.
4. The classroom is decorated with children's original artwork, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by children to their teachers.
5. Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals and meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance, or serving snack provide the basis for learning activities.
6. Children work on projects and have long periods of time to play and explore. Worksheets are used little, if at all.
7. Children have an opportunity to play outside every day. Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.
8. Teachers read books to children individually, or in small groups throughout the day, in addition to group story time.
9. Curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help. Teachers recognize that children's different background and experiences mean that they do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.
10. Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel secure about sending their child to the program.
Also ask if the program is accredited or affiliated with NAECY or NAFCC.
This article was written by NAEYC- the national leading authority on Early Childhood Education. As this is the time of year that many parents are thinking about finding the "perfect" preschool for their child- I thought it would make a good starting point for discussion.
Today we live in an Early Childhood Education mecca- there are so many choices for parents; family members caring for a child, a neighbor watching just a child or two (a license is required for anyone caring for more than two children), family daycares (which can have as little as 4 infants, or as many as 12 school age children- always ask what the ratio of teachers/children is.), nursery schools (can have 12 children, but can not have a program longer than 3 hours), small facilities, to large mega centers. Some are tax deductible, some provide meals, some offer before and after school care. Its hard for a parent to know which way to turn, and often misinformation abounds. I personally have found that the more places that open- the more "rumors" are spread, and the less co-operative the programs are. It was never like this, and the new mentality that you need to lie and degrade your competition makes me sad. Aren't we all in the business of raising children with morals and values? I truly believe that we each are special and unique in our own way. Each program in Wells has something different to offer for all of the individual parents. There isn't one perfect program for everyone. What is important to you? Teacher education, experience, provider turnover, small numbers, large numbers, process or product, professionalism, staying clean or getting dirty, transportation, field trips, no field trips, holiday celebrations, hours of operations, program, curriculum, safety record, reputation in the school system and with other providers, nap time, ages, sibling care or discounts, bus stops, shorter days or longer days. There is so much to consider as a parent. Opinions of friends is very important and always a good place to start. But even your best friend may need or want different things, and what if you are new to town? As we have often heard in the media, things slip through the cracks with licensing. Even though licensing has helped to put an end to fifteen children in front of a television for 8 hours a day. So what does a parent do to start the search? One of the best things I can recommend is to go to the State of Maine website (or call them) and get the Quality Rating for places that you are looking into. While again there are no guarantees, facilities that hold a quality rating have gone the extra mile if you will. They are measured on education, experience, facility, etc. and in exchange parent get a huge tax incentive for using these programs. It is a good starting place to plan your visits. The most important thing you can do is to go with what your heart tells you- you will know when you have found the "right one" and you will never regret giving your child the best start you could.