Sooner or later we all have to face the great challenge of finding a place we trust for our little one, and the process is not at all simple. Questions are emerging in our heads and even though you will be able to find answers for a few, still too many remain. What is the best age to start preschool? How can I be sure I have chosen the right one? How I will be able to help my child adapt to the new situation? You start your preschool search with so many questions that you will not even know what you are looking for.
No recipe exists that answers all the questions, but taking into consideration the most important aspects may give you a little help. Here are a few tips to help you find the preschool you need!
The fewer questions you focus on, the easier your school search will be. It does not mean you have to be careless. Just set up your priorities and follow them!
2. Speak to as many parents as you can!
Others who already went through the process are the most important source of information! Ask not only their positive but also their negative experiences. By doing so, you can gather first hand information on what you have to be careful about or what you do not have to worry about at all. Besides, it’s a great opportunity to feel that there’s nothing wrong with you; you’re not worrying more than the average parent, every mother out there is going through all these stages, just like you!
3. Check whether the preschool you want to visit is licensed or not!
Even though it might not seem all that important now, if you are planning to send your child to Hungarian elementary school, you will need official documents from the preschool you used. Thanks to lots of new and strict regulations, preschools that do not follow the new rules may be shut down at any time, and than you can start your search all over again. The license also gives you a kind of guarantee that the school is providing quality education and staff members have the required experience and qualifications.
4. Ask about the system of monitoring children’s development!
You are a parent, not necessarily a trained professional in early childhood education. You cannot find answers to everything; there are certain things the school is responsible for instead, issues they have more experience with. Do not hesitate to ask for an appointment and sit down with the possible future teachers of your child! It’s more than natural that you want to be familiar with the monitoring system and the opportunities for extra help or support in case it becomes necessary. Unfortunately, we live a world when your child has to go through his first ’entrance exam’ at the age of 6, if you want him or her to participate in a bilingual or any other special program in a state elementary school. These ’exams’ are for testing children’s skills in all areas of development, so kindergartens do have an extreme responsibility to prepare children for elementary school.
5. Check how much time children can spend with free play and/or outside!
No matter how important directed learning is, nothing can replace the developmental impact of children’s free play! The school has to find a balance between ’wanting too much’ and ’doing nothing’. While playing with their peers, teachers or by themselves, children are practicing and developing all those skills they will confidently have to use later on in life.
6. Last but not least, LISTEN TO YOUR HEART!
After visiting ’hundreds’ of schools, you will arrive home exhausted and carrying a huge bunch of papers, fancy documents, schedules and calendars. Yes, they are important to read, but when you are finished, put everything aside, close your eyes and relax. Most probably you will be able to do this only after putting your little monkey to bed! Try to forget all those important professional aspects you were so keen to follow, and just trust yourself! You know your child much better than anyone else and will know which school will fit his or her personality and individual needs the best!
No matter how old your child is, which educational system you choose, whether you like the teachers or not, you will have to learn to somehow manage with the feeling that school is a kind of ‘black box’ in your child’s life. Before the moment your precious little one steps through the school gate, you were always there and knew every second of his or her life, every smile and tear, every new word or amazing question. But from now on, you have to learn how to let go: you drop off in the morning and pick up at the end of the day. What is happening in between you will only know from the teachers or from the short stories your child is able to tell (which won’t be too much :)). Besides all this, school is a new adventure for everyone, your ‘not-a-baby-anymore’ will soar, make friends, learn and develop extremely fast! Be at ease, there are good schools out there that you can trust, teachers who are responsible and are glad to share with you all those important moments you are so happy to hear about at the end of the day!
I am Emese Paragi Ébel. I am Hungarian living in a small village close to Budapest with my husband and my three boys. I am the owner and educational director of Under the Rainbow Preshool and Kindergarten, and I truly enjoy my work. Coming from a family with lots of teachers, education has been always my passion. I also love dancing, sports and playing board games with my kiddos!