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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Registration For the Next School Year

Every year in May I get calls from frantic parents because they didn't realize registration for the next school year starts early. I am sure in different places, there are different times, but here at home--registration begins this time of year. NOW is the time to be thinking about school for the next year. I know it sounds early, but schools can fill quickly.

I would like to take some time and give some pointers to new parents looking for a school. I will forewarn you, this post may get a little lengthy. I wrote it out first, to make sure I hit all the points I wanted to and I was amazed at how long it got.

First and foremost I want to stress that searching for a school is a very personal matter. It depends on what you are looking for. What is right for your neighbor, may not be right for you. There are different types of programs: very structured, moderately structured, mildly structured. Each program will have it's pros and cons. It will all depend on YOUR reason for sending your child to preschool.

To give you an idea of types, I would say our preschool is moderately structured. Here is how a day would work: 30-35 minutes of opening time where we do the calendar, weather, counting, singing, show-n-tell, and discussions of our topic. 45-50 minutes of free play and craft time. During this time children are free to choose an activity that they would enjoy, and we also do our craft for the day. The rest of the 2 and 1/2 hour day is broken up into snack, story, skill, and if time music games or outdoor fun.

Our skill time is also very minimal, For the three-year-old class we discuss shapes, colors, use scissors, matching, and this year Handwriting Without Tears fun. For our Pre-K class they concentrate on letters, numbers, first and last names, etc. Skill time for the 3's runs for no longer than 7-10 minutes. Skill time for Pre-K runs about 15 minutes. If you want more information on our school you can check, how's that plug:).

I view this as moderately structured with social, emotional, motor, and academic skills all combined during the day. Your focus may be more social or more academic. You have to decide what areas you want your child focused on.


Our registration begins February 1 of every year. During the month of January we have many visitors. I allow up to two visitors at a time to come during the course of a school day. I feel they will get a much more accurate picture of how things work, and what the program and people are like.

A main point of focus as a parent, should be to notice the teacher/child rapport. Do the teachers interact with the children, or are they just watching? Do they listen when the children are speaking to them? What are the moods of the children? Do they seem happy, engaged in activities, at peace with their surroundings?

How are the surroundings? Are they safe? Is the room large enough to accommodate the amount of children there? Are there enough areas for the children to enjoy? Are the teacher/child ratios being followed? According to a chart by the NAEYC, ratios for 3-Pre-K can range from 1:7 to 1:10.

Speak with someone about a daily routine, and even an overview of the year. How does the school correspond with parents? Are parents free to view the room anytime they like? This last point can get a little sticky.

In today's environment, safety is the number one factor for many parents. Unlike many years ago, our school is now locked up tight after the children arrive. We collect all the children together at a meeting place when school starts, and travel to our room. At the end of the day, all the children are taken back to the meeting place where parents are waiting. After we have collected the children we lock the door. There is a doorbell for any latecomers. I also find this is a good way to have a uniform start and finish. Even though we do arrival and dismissal this way, I ALWAYS stress to the parents they are WELCOME in our room. I tell parents they should always feel free to drop by. "Ring the bell, and we'll be down to get you." A parent will want to feel welcome in the classroom.

Some common questions we receive every year are: our discipline strategy, teacher's degrees, does all staff have their clearances, do we have CPR training, how we handle snacks, how we handle allergies, and of course, the ever important tuition question.


I really recommend any new parent looking for a place for their child, to check a number of schools. A highly recommended school may not be the program you are looking for. Plus, if you visit, you will see first hand how everything goes. As a teacher, my favorite thing is when you have a visitor and all of a sudden the class goes haywire, but this is good if you're a parent. As a parent you will get to see if the teacher can keep their cool and how the situation is handled.

Remember though, anyone can have a bad day. If the program seems like one you might like, but are unsure about a few things, come back for another visit. It may feel better the next time.

So, I know it seems early, but now is the time to be thinking about registration for the next school year: check your phone book, talk to friends and family, look on the internet. Sometimes it can seem like a lot of work, but doing your homework now will be a huge payoff when you and your child have a joyful first school experience.

Happy Hunting!

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1 comment:

Anjanette Young said...

This is a very helpful article. Thank you for sharing.