Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's a Preschool time of year!

For those of us parents with kids older than 5, we know that January and February are cutthroat months! It's Preschool registration season or if not yet, it's coming! The intense battle for getting THE all important spot in THE all important preschool is an amazingly stressful experience.

Some of you may be reading this thinking, "It can't really be all that stressful." Oh.. you just don't know the half of it! Finding the right preschool become a near Hunger Games experience for some families. There is major wheeling and dealing to get kids registered into "elite" programs. My wife (Machc Photography) and I actually had a little celebration when we realized that we didn't have to worry about preschool for the next school year. Our twins will be moving on to Kindergarten!! No more private preschooling for a few years!! Then we'll have to get back into the preschool hunt for littlest. 

Having done this several times, I'd like to share some of the ways that we've made preschool hunting work for us!

1) Take the time to jot down your own expectations for your preschooler. What do you expect preschool to be like for your kiddo? What do you hope your kiddo will gain from their preschool experience? How big do you envision the class size? Do you want volunteer hours? What does pick-up and drop-off look like? Will there be field trips? Is daycare necessary? How about electives (e.g. Spanish, dance, music)? What does your monthly budget look like for tuition? Does your kiddo need special services, and if so, what specific support is needed? Is Religion a factor? How far away is it? This may seem like a lot, but in answering these questions my wife and I were set as to what we wanted for our kids. 

2) Research all of the local preschool options. Hit the internet, talk to neighbors, look for fliers and signs in the neighborhood or at church. Check with the local school district. Talk to anyone with kids to see what they did. Write it down, write it all down!

3) Go to any and all open houses or Preschool fairs.  This is a super MUST! You have to find a way to to see each school and really get a feel for the teachers. My wife is a part of the local Mom's Club, so when they hosted a Preschool Fair, we made sure to go! It was the deciding factor for us when we met the school staff of the school we decided to go to. You really need to meet the people you are going to be sending your 3 and 4 year old to! 

4) Apply to the top 3 schools. You are going to narrow your search down to the top 2 or 3. At this point, you have to stay on top of registration dates, and get materials in on time! To be safe, register for the 2 or 3 programs that will work for you and your kiddo. There is always a chance that you don't get into the school you want, so it's good to have a backup. Yes, you loose the deposit for the school you decide to not attend, but it's best to be safe! We applied to 2 programs this past year for our twins. We got into both, and picked our top school. 

This process has worked for us in two different states, and 4 different kiddos. The key to remember is that you really should go through a version of this each year just in case what you are looking for changes, or your kiddo's strengths or interests change. The school we had our twins in last year is not the school they're in this year. We re-evaluated what we were looking for, and found a better fit. Try not to get too wrapped up in the little things like location of the school. If the closest school is just convenient, but the best option is a 20 minute drive, consider which is actually best for the kiddo. We.. ok my wife.. drives 40 minutes round trip to take our kiddos to and from preschool 3 days a week. Is it a pain in the butt (is she a saint for doing it?)? Of course!! But man, they love the school, and WE love all that they are gaining! 

I hope this helps you first time preschool hunters! And re-enforces the work some of you parents have been putting in for a few years! Please share this with anyone you think might benefit from the advice from this father of 5! And use the comments section below to tell us about your favorite preschool and where it is! 

Our favorite in Alaska was Young Learners! Our oldest daughter had an amazing experience there!