There are numerous studies that show the benefits of grade school readiness that children gain by attending preschool before they start kindergarten. In fact, the Perry Preschool Study, which has researched the benefits of academic preschool on a single group of children since the 1960s, has found that the group of children who participated in academic preschool programs– now in their 40s– had higher graduation rates, higher income rates, and lower rates of incarceration than the control group of children who did not get a preschool education.
Since preschool is often the cornerstone of a high quality education for a child, it is very important to research your options and choose one that is a good fit for your child. Finding the best preschool for your child depends on his or her temperament, your family’s lifestyle and religious beliefs– since a majority of private preschools have religious affiliations– and the educational approach that the school takes. While only you can determine the best fit for your particular circumstances, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has created the following guidelines that indicate a high quality educational provided by a preschool.
9 Qualities of a High Quality Education in a Preschool
- The teacher provides hands-on learning activities for the children to participate in. They aren’t just being babysat, but they also aren’t expected to sit and absorb information.
- There are a variety of activities for children to choose from. At the preschool age, a child should be allowed to explore his or her own interests, and gravitate to what they enjoy the most. This is only possible if the preschool provides a variety of activities to cater each child’s different interests. Some children will prefer exercising creativity by painting, cutting and gluing. Some children will be drawn to architecture and design activities like building blocks. Some children will prefer to “explore” the science of bugs, dirt and rocks.
- The structure of the classroom allows the teacher to work with the students in small groups and individually. If all lessons and activities are conducted as an entire class, the more timid children will be overlooked, and children who have a hard time focusing will get less out of it.
- The fundamentals of high quality education– math, science, reading, and writing– are conveyed through the engaging world around the children. An interest in science is piqued through observing a class pet, and the chemical reaction that occurs when butter hits a hot piece of toast. Math is comprehended by taking attendance and preparing class snacks. The subject matter should be interesting and fun.
- A preschool education should involve very little, if any, class work such as worksheets, homework, and testing. Children develop a negative affiliation with school if they are forced to function outside of how their 3-year-old brains were designed.
- Outside free play should be a priority in a great preschool education. There is so much brain development that occurs naturally when a child is free to explore, build, ang climb outside. Not to mention, free play encourages a positive perception of education.
- Reading time should occur frequently throughout the school day. It is important that the teacher reads to the students in a group setting, in small groups of two or three kids at a time, and individually. Gaining a love for reading will serve a child throughout their academic journey, and beyond.
- The curriculum is flexible enough to be adapted to meet each child’s needs and learning characteristics. Every child is different; every child learns differently. A great preschool recognizes that and creates a curriculum that can be molded to interests, strengths and challenges of each child.
- The most critical part of a successful preschool education is that the child enjoys it. If the child hates going to school, they will develop a negative association with education that will make them less likely to perform at their highest potential throughout their education. On the other hand, if the child has a great experience in preschool, they will gain a positive perception of school and will have a higher likelihood of thriving in school throughout their education.