23 March 2009 04:34 PM

How to Choose a Kindergarten

by Dr. Rick

Choosing the right kindergarten for your child is one of the first major educational decisions you’ll be making, and of course you want to do it with care and good judgment.  What should you look for in her kindergarten?  Whether you choose a neighborhood or private school, there are some things you can easily check out. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process.  I’ve simplified it to an easy formula: A squared + C Squared = Good Choice.


The As are “Atmosphere” and “Adults.”  The Cs are “Curriculum” and “Children."

  1. Atmosphere.  Visit the school.  Are you greeted warmly?  Do the children appear to be enjoying themselves and learning?  Are the children playing and learning together?  Is there children’s art work on the walls?  If the weather’s nice, are there kids out on the playground?  Does the playground appear safe?  Trust your Mommy and Daddy instincts – does the place “feel” right?  Relax.  If your child senses you’re stressed, she will be, too.

  2. Adults.  Does there seem to be a good teacher/student ratio?  Recommendations vary, but a good rule of thumb is that there should be one adult – a teacher or a trained assistant – for every three or four children.  Do these adults seem to be genuinely devoted to the children?  Do they seem to like being there?  Do they take an interest in each child?  Do they read books to the children regularly, enthusiastically, and frequently?  What do other parents say about the school?  Does the school communicate regularly and concisely with parents?  If you choose this school, commit to two-way communication.

  3. Curriculum.  You may not be an expert, but most reasonable adults can tell within a few minutes whether there’s learning going on in a school.  Does there appear to be a good balance of academic and social skills?  Yes, you want kindergarten to be nurturing the “whole child,” but you also demand the beginnings of the 3 Rs.  They should be taught with joy, encouragement, and an eye to building future skills and knowledge.  These earliest school days are when healthy attitudes and values about learning are set.  Do there seem to be accommodations made for lots of different learning styles and levels of readiness?  Any parent with more than one child knows that kids learn at different speeds and in different ways.  Does the school take this into account?  One size does not fit all.  Are the kids learning in large groups, small groups, and individually?  Is there a lot of reading going on?

  4. Children.  The most important factor of the equation.  Are the children the most important people in the room?  Does the school seem to be running for the benefit of the children and not the convenience of the adults?  Do the children seem to be happy, eager to learn, excited to be there?  Are they supported and encouraged?  Do the activities inspire, challenge, and stretch their creativity, imaginations, and natural curiosity?  When your child comes home, does he want to tell you excitedly what he’s done today and tell you he can’t wait to go back?  That’s the ultimate recommendation.




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