• Why preschool is a good place to start

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    JOCELYN LAUREL

    I am a believer of early education. This belief stems from the fact that I have lived and breathed child education for more than half of my life. I have witnessed first-hand how children, as young as 1-year old metamorphose into confident, young and inquisitive individuals—like little caterpillars turned into flying beauties—with an unending appetite to learn.

    Preschool is truly a good place to start your kids as it offers children a valuable group experience before they enter kindergarten. In preschool, children will learn how to wait and take turns, share their teacher’s attention, and eventually, separate from mommy.

    Moreover, preschool is also a place where they are allowed to explore, play with other children and discover that they are capable and can do things for themselves. Here, children learn and strengthen their socialization skills, which forms a major part in the development of life skills: getting along with other children, sharing, learning how to compromise, being respectful of others.

    The initial benefits of preschool are many and varied. Aside from providing a head start in emotional and social development, it develops positive behavior and fosters self-esteem.

    Early learning also fulfills curiosity, which affects brain structure positively, and ultimately influences academic performance, leading to overall academic achievement. Statistics show that children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.

    Oftentimes, however, high on the priority list of a parents’ motive for enrolling their child in a preschool is for their child to achieve academic excellence: to be able to read, write, know his or her numbers, etc. This is sad, because, although young children can (and will) certainly learn letters and numbers, they should be taught through interesting activities, like story time, circle time, even playing with the blocks.

    For small children, preschool should be all about having fun and acquiring social skills. They need to use their imagination and socialize, and develop a well-rounded personality, rather than spend their school days reciting and memorizing numbers or writing letters.

    How often I tell the parents who come to our preschool, that their children will learn their ABC’s and 1-2-3’s for years to come, but they will only learn how to be children once in their lifetime, so let them be children.

    Because the early years are critical learning years, and qualified teachers accelerate how our children learn, develop, and build the skills needed to get along with others and succeed in school and life, it is so important to choose a safe, nurturing, and stimulating learning environment for your child.

    Here are a few tips to assist you in selecting the right preschool for your child:

    * Research, research, research! You can start by asking for recommendations from other moms.

    * Decide on location. With the traffic situation nowadays, proximity to home should be a major consideration for the well-being of your young child.

    * Have more than just one school in mind. Call each school you are considering and ask about its fees, admission policy, and curriculum. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, schedule visits.

    * Meet with the directress or preschool principal and spend time in a classroom to observe the teachers.

    * Visit each school with your child and see how he or she responds to the classroom, the teachers, and the activities.

    Meanwhile, below is a short list of what you should look for in a preschool program:

    * Teachers acknowledge the children for their individual accomplishments and helps them feel confident and control of their actions.

    * Teachers recognize that very young children (1- and 2-year olds) are not yet able to communicate all their needs though language and they respond promptly to their cries or other signs of distress.

    * Teachers are warm and carrying and are frequently engaged with all children in the class.

    * Teachers recognize that frequent testing of limits and saying “No!” (especially with toddlers) are a healthy part of a child’s development; they establish and maintain firmness with gentleness and may offer options or alternatives (for the older children).

    * The physical space and activities allow all children to participate.

    * There is a variety of materials for children to play with and engage in.

    * The class environment is clean and well-organized and free from clutter.

    On the other hand, the following are the things you don’t want to see in a preschool program:

    * Teachers are overly protective of the children, making them feel that they are not capable of doing things by themselves.

    * Crying is ignored: teachers do not respond, or they respond coldly, with the excuse that they are “big boys or girls.”

    * Teachers ignore the importance of touch to children’s healthy development.

    * Teachers punish or control the aggressive behavior of children

    * Teachers constantly say “no”

    * Indoor space is cramped and unsafe, with a lot of clutter.

    * Group size ration (teacher-yaya, aide-child ratio) is too large to allow adequate supervision and individual attention to each child.

    All childhood experts agree that attending a high-quality program prepares children for kindergarten and beyond but finding the best option for your child takes time and research.

    Often, parents equate a “good preschool” to the tuition fee: high tuition fee means high quality preschool. This is not always true. A good preschool does not have to be lavish or expensive to be good. You need to check references and make sure that the school is properly accredited and the teachers are licensed.

    While there is no perfect school, parents should identify traits that point to either a high-quality learning environment or an environment that should be avoided. Most importantly, a good preschool should offer a positive environment that will be an extension of all the good things you yourself would give your child.

    Starting preschool is a significant event for your child. It is that first big step away from babyhood and toward childhood so, be particular when choosing a preschool.

    Finally, it does help that you start your search at least a few months before you want to send your child for you to have many options to choose from.

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