601 N. Parham Road Richmond, Va 23229   804.741.4118
Choosing the Right Nursery School
Questions You Wish Every Parent Would Ask
Choosing a preschool program is a big decision. Parents often aren’t sure what questions to ask or how to evaluate a school. The following list of questions, compiled by Lilian G. Katz, a respected authority on early childhood education and director of the Education Resources Information Center Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, is designed to help parents evaluate preschools.
Choosing the Right Preschool: Questions to Ask
Begin by planning ahead. Schedule preliminary visits to as many preschool programs as possible before making a choice. Don’t hurry this process. Try to visit the schools when they are not preparing for a special event. Call ahead and ask about the best times to visit. And be prepared: many preschools have waiting lists for enrollment.
The first thing you should expect – even during that initial phone conversation – is a friendly, helpful tone. Once you arrive at the school, give yourself time to absorb the general atmosphere of the classroom and the extent to which children appear comfortable and involved. (Tip: Schedule visits both with and without your child.) Most preschool programs must conform to state regulations and satisfy minimal standards of health and safety. Even so, it’s a good idea to check that each program is up-to-date with its state license, and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Ask as many questions as you wish so you may make the best possible decision for you and your child. The following list of questions should help:

  • Are the teachers trained in early childhood education?
  • Does the director have experience as a teacher?
  • Does the program have a clear, written statement of its goals and philosophy?
  • Do the goals address all areas of children’s development, including social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development?
  • Does the program offer a balance of individual, small-group, and large-group activities?
  • Does it offer a balance of spontaneous play and teacher-guided activities?
  • Are children provided regular opportunities for outdoor play?
  • Do the activities encourage self-expression, allow for the development of various fine and large motor skills, and expose the children to literature, language experiences, music, art, science and nature?
  • Does the program encourage and respond to children’s spontaneous interests in the beginnings of reading, writing, and counting?
  • Does the staff solicit and follow up on children’s interests in the world around them?
  • Do the content and materials of the program reflect cultural diversity and nonsexist attitudes?
  • Is there a balance among small-group activities, rest and quite periods, and vigorous outdoor activities?
  • Is the program licensed by the state of Virginia?
  • Does the program have a National Accreditation?
  • Does the ratio of adults to children comply with state requirements?
  • Has the staff been stable over the past few years?
  • Does the staff welcome parents as visitors and participants, and respect parents’ preferences and ideas?
  • In their interactions with children, do the teachers express warmth, interest and respect for each child?
  • Are the teachers engaged with the children most of the time?
  • Is there an attractive, spacious outdoor area for safe and vigorous play and activity?
  • Is there a sufficient supply of equipment for the size of the group?
  • Are the children always supervised indoors and outdoors?
  • Are the snacks and meals of sufficient nutritional quality?
  • Do the classrooms contain areas where children can sit quietly when they need a break?
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