Where do I enroll my child? What is the best school for my child?
These are common questions that parents often ask other parents when their child is almost ready to enter school. Parents who want only the best for their child should not only base their decisions on what they read or what their peers have encountered – they should do their own research and visit these schools as well. Nothing beats a first hand experience when looking for a preschool for your child.
Prior to visiting any school, it is best to reflect on the following questions: What are my goals for my child? What are my child’s interests, hobbies and unique characteristics? What is my child’s style of learning? Dr. Evalyn G. Hizon, a professor from the University of the Philippies-Diliman, Department of Family Life and Child Development advises, “know your child first and foremost, from head to toe if possible. Parents should not insist on the child where to go but rather, they should know the child’s learning style to make her/him happy.” Using this as your reference can help you determine what your child needs at present.
After you have gone through the initial questions, these 10 considerations can guide you when deciding a school for your child:
1. What is the school’s philosophy? As there are different approaches to education, it is best to be informed about these program approaches. Ms. Charla G. Santiago, an instructor from the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Department of Family Life and Child Development emphasizes that a school’s philosophy should reflect the school’s belief and principles on educating children. A school’s philosophy should clearly reflect the following questions: who is the child? How does the child learn? What is the role of the school? What is the role of the teacher? Ask for a copy of their brochure or their website address so you can read more about their philosophy.
2. Is the school’s philosophy manifested in the school’s program practices? It is important that there is integration between what the school believes in and how the school implements its principles. For example, program practices are obviously seen in how the classrooms are arranged, the number of teachers per classroom and the different learning activities given to the child (i.e., if the school leans towards providing more play opportunities and creative activities or if there are too many worksheets or sit-down activities for them). Observe how these are manifested in the school.
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3. Does the curriculum support the child’s holistic development? According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Curriculum is “an organized framework that delineates the content children are to learn, the processes through which the children achieve the curricular goals, what teachers do to help children achieve these goals and the context where teaching and learning occurs.” To know more about a class’ curriculum, ask about the learning activities given to a child and inquire about a typical day or a classroom routine.
Herr (1998) points out that “quality programs focus on the ‘whole child’” (p.19). She further explains that the “physical, cognitive, and emotional development are all emphasized” in a particular curriculum. In addition to this, she states “such programs can provide long-term, positive differences in the lives of young children”. Bredekamp and Copple (2009) stresses the value of developmentally-appropriate practices in every childhood program. This means that, “all teaching practices should be appropriate to children’s age and developmental status, attuned to them as unique individuals, and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which they live” (p.xii). Since curriculum is crucial to a child’s development and learning, it should then be composed of both child-guided and teacher-guided learning experiences.
4. Are teacher-child interactions positive? Do teachers use developmentally appropriate strategies? Herr supports this by suggesting that parents observe how teachers interact with the children. She points out that there should be “frequent and supportive staff contact with the children” (1998, p.37).
Note how teachers talk to children - do they stoop down when talking to the children? Do they smile and express care as they communicate to them? Are they doing activities with the children or simply observing them from afar? Bredekamp and Copple (2009) noted that “curriculum is very important, but what the teacher does is paramount” (p.xiii). Bredekamp and Copple points out that effective teachers exhibit the following: “acknowledge what children do or say; encourage persistence and effort rather than just praising and evaluating what the child has done; give specific feedback rather than general comments; give assistance to help children work on the edge of their current competence; ask questions that provoke children’s thinking” (p.36-37). Note if teachers model most of these characteristics as you observe.