Thinking About Preschool

When should you be thinking about preschool for your child? Believe it or not, the time is right now. Preschools are enrolling children for September as we speak, so you want to do your homework and find the right spot for your child.

Are They Ready?

Doris and Michelle are both parents of two-year olds. They’re neighbours and their children play together. Both children, Jasmine and Bradley, will be three this summer so their parents have been discussing pre-school.

Doris has decided that Jasmine is going to wait a year before starting, while Michelle is planning to register Bradley for the Fall.
What’s the difference? These two children come from similar backgrounds, play together nicely and are almost the same age.
Doris explains that Jasmine just isn’t ready. She plays comfortably with Bradley whom she knows well but is not good with groups of children. Bradley, on the other hand, loves to be with groups of children and is bored with drop-in programs and swimming lessons. He’s ready for more structure and independence.
When is comes to pre-school, age is not the only factor to consider. Some three-year-olds are ready for structure, can move in groups without one-to-one adult attention and want activities that require more concentration. Other children of the same age just aren’t ready. Perfectly healthy babies may start to walk as early as eight months and others as late at sixteen months. This variance in developmental readiness continues throughout childhood.
In the long run it’s better for a child to start a bit too late than too early. On the other hand, Jasmine’s mother would be wise to enroll her daughter now because by September she may be ready. But if September rolls around and she’s still not ready, it’s easy to release the spot for another child.
Children who are thrust into a pre-school or a Kindergarten environment before they’re ready, have a negative start to their schooling. This can translate into hating school throughout the elementary and secondary years.
How do your know whether your child is ready?
Watch her when you go to drop-ins, take swimming classes or play with neighbor children. Can she play without your constant attention? Is she comfortable relating to other adults? Can she participate is simple craft projects or singing games?
Most importantly, does she seem bored and ready for more stimulation and challenge?
If so, check out the pre-schools in your area. If not, involve her in group activities that include you and are of shorter duration like at Family Place, swimming lessons or tiny tot gymnastics.
Pre-school should be an adventure with the normal mix of anxiety and excitement. Once your child is ready, study the range of options, visit the schools. Talk to the teacher and other parents and watch your child reach a new level of independence and self-confidence.

Parent Participation Preschool
There are many choices of preschools and many offer a great experience for preschoolers. I’m a great supporter of parent participation preschools because they’re good for both preschoolers and their parents.

I can remember the days when my friends and I talked about our young children, sharing toilet training stories, first day of school and birthday parties. That was over thirty years ago. Now we talk about weddings, grandchildren and our children’s careers.

Different stories, but the same friends. I met many of my friends while my children were in preschool, a parent participation preschool, to be exact.

Busy parents often find the concept of participating in their child’s preschool to be overwhelming and don’t even consider the option. Let me talk to you about the benefits.

Parent Participation Preschools are run by the parents. There is an Association of 33 schools in the Lower Mainland and another six throughout the province. The Association has been in existence since 1946. Nine of these schools are on the north shore.

In these schools parents have the opportunity of having a say in the administration of the school, being with their child at preschool for a half-day once or twice a month and attending monthly meetings with other parents which offer free Parenting Education along with a business meeting.

Research shows that parent involvement is a major factor in child success. In my experience parents who start participating with their children at the preschool or daycare level continue to do so through elementary and high school.

The children are engaged in a quality program with a qualified teacher. Teachers who choose to teach in a parent participation school bring an appreciation for the role of parents into the school situation. They are not only committed to quality early childhood education, they are committed to partnering with parents to make the experience for all parties the best it can be.

Your involvement in the school will take into account your schedule and abilities. You’ll meet other parents who share many of your values about the importance of quality parenting, learn more about child-raising and work with like-minded and usually nice people toward joint goals. And, you will make friends for life.

Some of the advantages are:

  • you have direct input into the running and philosophy of the preschool
  • you can watch your child with others of the same age and see how he fits with his age group
  • it’s less expensive
  • you’ll meet other parents which reduces the isolation and loneliness often experienced by parents of preschoolers
  • you’ll work with parents who share your basic philosophy of involvement with your child
  • you’ll make lifetime friendships
  • the teacher is readily available of for advice and information about your child.

For more information and to find a school near you, call the Council of Parent Participation Preschools in Burnaby at (604) 435-4430.

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