If you haven't noticed by the massive amounts of school supplies filling up every store, it's back to school time! Fall is here, and that means it's time for kiddies to get out of the pool and back into the classroom.
But what about those little ones who are just old enough to start their school journey? Preschool (or pre-k) is an exciting time for our kids, and some of them can't wait to get out the door and out of the house. *sobbing*
But how on earth are you supposed to pick the right school for your little? With so many options, it can be daunting to know the right fit for your school newbie. And don't even get me started on what they're supposed to bring with them once you do?! *fainting*
Before you start registering for every preschool within a 10-mile radius, it's probably a good idea to know what you're signing up for. Preschool is generally a pre-kindergarten program designed for kids under the age of 5 (when kids are generally required to start kindergarten). Preschools can be part of an elementary school, in someone's home, in churches, or have their own location.
Other programs, more often called pre-k (pre-kindergarten), will usually be centered around a loose "curriculum" to help prepare your child for kindergarten, and to give kids a better idea of the schedule and flow of a school day. While some preschools will function more like a child-care, some will actually focus on learning and developing specific skills. Each program will have a different teaching style, so it'll help to get an idea of some of the common ones you'll run into:
Teacher-Led is a program that is planned and run by a certified preschool teacher, and is going to focus on following directions, working with groups, learning things like alphabet, colors, numbers, and the other basics that will prepare them for kindergarten. This is the type of program you will find in an elementary school or private preschool.
Montessori is a child-led method that takes into account the kids' interests and strengths when designing a learning plan. These types of schools are definitely more go-with-the-flow, and will have looser schedules, more hands-on learning, and new experiences through play and interaction with other kids.
Faith-Based is common in areas that don't offer preschool through the school system, so they are taught in local churches. These types of programs will generally incorporate the doctrine or beliefs of the church/religion in to the curriculum.
Many programs allow you to choose full-day, half-day, or partial week options that will help acclimate your little one to this whole school thing. You'll want to choose something that suits your child, and also your wallet. If your preschool isn't run through the school system/offered as part of the early childhood program in your elementary school, it's definitely not cheap! Depending on your area and which school you choose, you can be paying anywhere from $300-$1,000 every month for a full week of preschool.
You've Picked a School-- What Next?
Reaching out to parents who have already gone through the process and have had a good experience at a given school can be a great resource! The mama community is your best friend, so ask around to help you decide whether a school may be the right fit for your little one. You can also go visit the schools to get a better idea of the teaching style, classroom set-up, and daily schedule that your child would be experiencing on an average day.
So once you've chosen the school (or type of program that you think is best for your child), what should you do now? Programs can fill up quickly, so all those jokes about registering your 6-month-old for preschool aren't completely ridiculous. Okay, actually they are. But just keep in mind that there might not be spots available if you wait until the last minute to register.
What Should They Bring?
It goes without saying that the most fun part of going to school is all the great stuff you get to pick out to take with you, and our preschoolers are no different! This is a fun time to let your little one express their personal style by choosing all the fun school gear. Which to be honest, isn't much...but we can still make it fun, mamas!
For starters, you're going to need to send them with a backpack. Duh. But if you haven't noticed, your average backpack is about the same size as your average 4-year-old. Not gonna work. So Skip Hop saved the school day by coming out with the most adorable ZOO Pack Little Kid Backpacks.
Not only can you let your kiddo choose their favorite animal, but you'll have the perfect-sized bag for all their important supplies. There's a big main compartment for anything from nap time comfys to books/toys. The front zipper pouch is insulated and great for snacks and drinks. The padded straps make them comfortable to wear, and the material is easy to wipe down in case of any colorful school messes.
You might want to consider sending your little one with a few things that will make school more comfortable for them, and make it feel a little less unfamiliar. Some of these things might include their favorite sippy cup, like the Re-Play No Spill Cup, or something soft to use during quiet time, like a Little Unicorn Cotton Security Blanket.
Not Quite Ready?
If you don't think your 3 or 4-year-old is ready for school, or that the cost for the preschools in your area is just too much, don't stress, mama! There are plenty of kids that head straight to school as a kindergartner and they do just fine! If your little one is in daycare, they probably are learning a lot of the socialization and scheduling skills that they would learn in a preschool program. If you're at home, you can do your best to work on the same academic skills that would help prepare them for kindergarten. Plus, there are plenty of community programs that will help your little one get used to the idea of following directions and listening to an authority figure. Try checking out places like your local library, or even city hall, for fun day programs that your preschooler can go to!