How To Choose The Right One For Your Child
Elisa Medhus, MD
Not many things are as anxiety provoking as choosing the "right" kindergarten for your child. We parents seem so bent on giving our kids special advantages. If they aren't on the fast track to becoming a Rhodes Scholar, if they can't play Chopin's Ballade in G Minor, if they can't kick a goal like Beckham, all by the age of 6, we haven't done our best. So we seek for the schools that will all but guarantee these accolades. But a proper education has more to do with factors other than academic ones. If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken these factors into account when choosing the right kindergarten for my kids.
1) Teacher to student ratio: Usually, the better schools have teacher's assistants and no more than four students per adult
2) Communication: Good schools communicate with parents on a daily basis by sending notes home with the child, responding to phone calls and e-mails within 24 hours, and hold parent teacher conferences twice a year. The classroom should be open for parent observation, although this should be scheduled in advance.
3) Balanced emphasis on non-academic skills: Students should be encouraged to develop social skills like group cooperation, leadership, compromise, negotiation and conflict resolution.
4) Each child's learning style should be determined and honored so that he or she can be taught to that style.
5) Teachers should also guide children to learn at their own pace rather than cram information and new skills down their throats and expect them to learn all things at the same rate.
6) The curriculum should be flexible enough to adapt to the burgeoning and unpredictable interests of the student.
7) The curriculum should be geared to the development of the whole child rather than focusing only on the three Rs. Children should learn things like character development, personal health and fitness, nutrition, etc.
8)Regardless of the subject matter, critical thinking skills should be emphasized over rote learning.
9) Schools should encourage parent participation and volunteerism.
10) Playground equipment should be safe and inspire imagination, social development and creative play.
11) Good schools allow children to assess themselves by letting them choose pieces for their portfolios and determining their performance on various projects, what needs improvement, and reflects their personal best.
Be sure to visit a classroom or two before enrolling your child. See if the other students look happy and eager. See if the teacher incites enthusiasm and allows student interest to influence the day's learning. Finally, have faith in your child to accept and handle the inevitable imperfections that even the best schools have from time to time.