Choosing the perfect preschool for your child is no easy feat. As an educator, I know how important the formative years are, and I also know that with the amount of pressure our children are subject through out their educational careers, we need to make sure our kids get exactly the right start to learning and growing into what will be their most important job as kids…
I have always told my big kids that the only job they have to be really good at is being a student. (Uhm. I’m repeating the words of my father again, there.) I have encouraged good study habits, stayed up long hours fostering these habits, and hope to be able to say that I have encouraged my kids to be critical thinkers.
BUT…we are talking about PRESCHOOL here, and preschool should be nothing but fun! It should be singing, and dancing, and running, and reading, and clapping, and FUN. Learning through play was always the most important criteria for choosing a preschool for ALL of my children.
When we moved to Manila 8 years ago, I realized that many parents sent their lil’s to school much earlier than I am used to. In fact, Gia’s first experience in school was at the ripe old age of 4, just like her brothers. When we first moved I entertained the idea of sending Diego to preschool a little earlier, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Funny thing is-Nino’s good friend Melissa owned a preschool in the area that we wanted to live in. While there was (and still is) a TON of preschools to choose from when we moved, we obviously leaned towards one where there was a personal connection to as well. Melissa was super patient with my long list of questions that I emailed Nino when I was still in NY buttoning up our affairs with the selling of our house and our tidying up our responsibilities.
I asked about the reading program. I asked about manipulatives. I asked everything a teacher (with teacher friends) would ask to help us make the right decision for our little boy. But, I did not make the decision to enroll Diego all those years until I visited the preschool for myself.
1. The History
The Little Apprentice opened with five partners way back in 2003. This same group of ladies opened a preschool even before that which is still in existence today. So, if you calculate the years that they have been molding minds, we should start with their first school (Child) which opened in 1999.
These teachers are the same teachers who taught Miguel when we first arrived in Manila, and Diego after Miguel moved on to “big school.” I have a history with this school and they know my family. The level of caring and concern that comes along with that personal history cannot be compared.
As a teacher, I will always value the education that I received when I was handed my degree, however, I know that there is nothing that compares to the practical life experience of doing something you love for this long. The teachers LOVE what they are doing…and it shows. It shows in the patience that is afforded my daughter when she is having a bad day and doesn’t want to let Teacher Boom go from her embrace, and it shows every time there is a program put together for the parents to enjoy.
2. The Playground
Not many schools here have a covered playground complete with sandboxes, water tables, jungle gyms, and toy cars. These are all important when educating little ones, because you are not just facilitating social skills, and learning through play, you are helping each child reach the gross motor milestones of jumping, climbing, skipping, hopping and pedaling.
Preschool should be a sensory experience. The kids who attend TLA have an outdoor playground that stimulates all of their senses. This is what we want for our 3 and 4 year olds!
3. The Friendship
Kids need friends.
And so do Mommas!
As our children move from independent play (side by side playing but not necessarily playing together) to playing together, we can see that many of our kids have developed a preference for one or two friends. In Gelli’s case, she always asks for Maddy…and it warms my heart when she does.
But even more than that…I have become friendly with the other parents whose children attend the same class that Gellibean does simply because we see each other all the time. We have a viber group where Teacher Boom lets us know any important information that the forgetful Mommas (like me) might have overlooked. One thing I can see is how each Momma is willing to help the other from something as simple as putting together the kids’ holiday costumes for the Christmas program or in planning something special for Teacher’s Day as well.
4. The Field Trips
Learning takes place every day…every where…in every way…
TLA plans fantastic learning experiences OUTSIDE the classroom for the kiddos and I love this.
So far, Gelli has been on three field trips this year.
We visited her classmate’s house and learned about our Family.
We went to Jamba Juice and learned about Healthy Eating.
We rode a jeepney and a tricycle and learned about different modes of transportation.
5. The Bulletin Board
Every classroom has a bulletin board for the kids. The kids can see pics of themselves, their teachers, letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. But the bulletin board OUTSIDE the classrooms is for us 🙂 It’s a great resource for busy mommas like me who like to look at things for quick ideas, information, and for what to expect in the coming month’s theme for the classroom.
When I think back to all of my big kids and their preschool experiences, it was just as exciting for me as it was for them. Choosing the right school for my kiddos was an important start for their educational careers. Initially, when I started thinking about where to send Gellibean, I was wondering if I should send her to a “special” school. I am so glad that I went with my gut and decided to enroll her in TLA. When the kids are learning at this level, there’s no need for extra special attention since everyone is learning the same way…
By choosing a school that facilitates learning through play, I know that Gelli will continue to enjoy herself and her friends as she reaches the goals we have set for her with her therapists. It’s through the love and support of her family, friends, and teachers that she can explore the world and reach her full potential.