Two that usually make it to the list are proximity and tuition. The first is due to the traffic situation. while the second is dictated by the family's financial means. There's also the teacher-to-student ratio, learning program, teaching methods, parent-teacher communication, facilities, safety and security, and more.
The factors don't necessarily have to be of equal importance to all parents. To some, tuition isn't an issue at all. Some are okay with whatever school is near their home, while others want their child to go to the same school they did. If you're scouting for a preschool for your child, you may want to focus on just two factors above all else.
A comprehensive review of research published in the journal Child Development that looked into the quality of early childhood education showed that the instructional practice used by teachers has the most substantial impact on a preschooler's academic and social skills. What counts are what teachers teach and how they teach it to young kids.
One of the most effective ways to teach young kids, according to the study, is through lessons that use engaging activities in a variety of learning settings via whole group and small group instruction. In intentional teaching, all activities done by the children aims to teach a particular skill which would help the child understand and learn a topic in, say, math or language.
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Intentional teaching is not just one way, but several ways, and it depends on how the child best learns. It's not to say that lectures are discouraged, because to some people and certain topics, it may be the best method to teach the young ones. But using it often leaves less room for other hands-on activities and experiential ways of learning. Young students do learn more through play
Another teaching method that offers a lot of benefits to preschoolers is scaffolding practice. It's when the teacher "talks with and models a learning activity for the child, making the activity fun through conversation that builds on and extends the child's interest and knowledge about the world," Margaret Burchinal, senior research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina, explained in a statement.
The practice makes learning fun for the little ones. The teacher does not talk down on the kids or automatically assumes she's right because she's the adult. That warm relationship between teacher and student and their fun conversations helps keep the kids' interest and encourages them to learn more about the world. It's a first step to instilling a growth mindset, or a drive to learn.
"These prekindergarten impacts are larger than impacts from traditionally-measured dimensions of quality," Burchinal stressed. "Ideally, our new models of quality will encompass evidence-based curricula and intentional teaching within content areas, as well as professional development that focuses on the teaching practices that promote the skills young children need to succeed in school," she suggested.
It may not be a groundbreaking study, but it does add weight to why parents should put more thought on where to send their preschooler when she starts school. Factors mentioned above, such as teacher-student relationship and ratio, as well as the teaching practices and education program can already give clues on the quality of the preschool you're eyeing for your child.
Do due diligence: visit the school and do your research; ask for feedback and meet the teachers. If possible, ask to sit in a class or do a practice class with your child to get a sense of how teachers and students interact.
At the end of the day, you should choose a preschool that compliments your child's learning style, not the other way around. Yes, proximity and price cannot be ignored, but don't make them your only consideration.