Summer went by in a flash!
I feel like we hardly had any down time before it was time to register for school again, get sized for uniforms and pick up the list for school supplies for the new school year.
Gellibean is ready with her new backpack and lunchbox, of course.
It seems like each school year goes by faster than the one before, and now that Gelli has made it through her first summer packed with activities, I’m assessing where she is now developmentally, with the help of her doctors, therapists, and of course her teachers.
The last school year with her Teacher Boom, and the entire staff of The Little Apprentice brought so many firsts to our album of developmental milestones, and I am proud to say that everyone involved in Gellibean’s life had a small part in making things happen for her. It truly takes a village to raise a little girl like Gelli.
Research has shown that 3-4 year old children who attend high quality preschools are more successful in kindergarten and beyond.
This is why as a teacher, (and Gelli’s Momma) I know that her school beginnings are so vital to her future successes as a student. There really are so many factors to consider when choosing a preschool for your little tyke, it can be overwhelming. I know that when my three big kids were ready for preschool, I was very particular about the schools that I chose for them.
When Gelli was born, she changed the playing field. I immediately thought I needed to veer away from what I knew and felt was right, for my three big kids. I thought that Gelli’s special needs would require me to look into special education, here in Manila right away.
I was actually wrong. At this age, Gelli needs exactly what most other children need, when it comes to building the base for her educational career. I have been wanting to share what I consider important not just for preschoolers, but also for Gellibean.
If you are considering schools for your toddler or preschool child it you might benefit from what I considered and looked for, when searching for the right preschool for my Gellibean. I’ve compiled a list of qualities that I looked for when deciding to enroll Gelli in school. I have found all of these qualities and more in the school that I chose for her, very close to my home. I have even found some Mommy friends.
Of course, this list is catered to what I believe is important for her…and your own personal list might include other factors to consider…but, I think this is a good place to start.
Whenever you are weighing your options, I think it’s safe to say that you would also ask friends, family, and maybe even crowd source on social media to see what others think. Aside from reputation, knowing that the preschools you are choosing from are all accredited and approved by DepEd is of the highest importance.
Attaining accreditation for these schools is not easy. They also have to make sure their staff is trained well. In Gelli’s case, I know that most of the teachers who work in The Little Apprentice have their masteral degrees.
I’m not sure if the managing partners of TLA remember the kind of letter I wrote 9 years ago before I moved here. Nino was living here already trying to pave the way for us to move our family, and I was still back home with the three big kids.
I had all my BFF’s help me put together a list of characteristics that I wanted to see in a preschool for Diego. (Yes…we have been going to TLA since we moved here, which is almost 9 years ago.) In fact, Miguel attended summer classes there because when we moved he was just 4 years old.
Teacher/Student ratio was my first question.
The teacher/student ratio in Gelli’s class last year? It was 1:6. And when her class grew…TLA added another teacher. This is in addition to the helpers who are always near by to assist with the lil ones needs.
Ok, I have said this more than once here on the blog. I’m a teacher. So I get it. I get the need for order in the classroom, exploratory play, sensory play, and all that jazz.
But I’m also a momma.
I LOVE being invited into the classroom for activities.
I love baking cupcakes and cookies and preparing birthday celebrations for my loves to bring into their classroom and to share with their classmates and their teachers. I LOVE coming to school on a very special day and seeing the kids who worked so hard with their teachers to learn dance steps and watch them shake their booties on stage.
I love parent teacher conferences. I love the texts that I receive through Viber when Gelli would mimick the teachers and sit in their spot in circle time and pretend to read a book to the helpers in the class.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE updates on her progress. I don’t love getting updates that Gelli bit another student. But we are working on that, I promise. (Olivia, she didn’t mean it. I promise.)
You know what else I love? TLA schedules a home visit at your convenience, as one of their PTC’s (parent teacher conference). I thought this was such a good idea. The administration believes that while a student behaves one way in school, that when their students are at home, that they might have a different personality, or they might behave differently.
Taking the time to visit my home, getting to know my child OUTSIDE of school, reinforces the fact that our school and the teachers in that school CARE about my kiddo. That caring leads to Gelli’s success.
P.S. If Gelli’s teacher comes to the house and spends some time with her…that nurtures a bond created for all GOOD things.
A LANGUAGE RICH ENVIRONMENT
A preschool is just that…an environment BEFORE BIG school… School is books, and pencils, and sitting at desks, and copying things from the chalk board. It’s rigorous, and strict, and not much play.
BUT the PRESCHOOL of MY CHOICE had to be based on PLAY. I don’t believe that any child should at this young age should be sitting at a desk in school.
A preschool based on PLAY with a language rich environment is what my little girl needs because her speech is delayed.
For all you non teachers out there who might be reading this, that simply means that everything the teachers do from how they decorate the room, to how they mark the children’s chairs with their “magic letters”, to keeping a library in the classroom, to how they read their books and ask questions afterwards….those are all key factors of a language rich environment.
Aside from a language rich environment preschools should have a curriculum that focuses on whole, small, and individual group instruction. This simply means that the kids will be taught as a class, in smaller groups, and if my child needs help, she can be addressed individually.
This ability goes back to that teacher:student ratio from before, remember? Surely a teacher cannot help my child individually, if the ratio of teachers to students is too high.
A photo posted by Michelle Aventajado (@mommanmanila) on
Ultimately, when Gelli was a toddler, the things I needed to see in her daily routine as she attended school were things like this:
- circle time
- quiet time
- time to work on her gross and fine motor skills (a.k.a. playground and art instruction)
- lots of singing and dancing
- snack time
- age appropriate toys
While Gelli was attending TLA as a toddler, these activities were part of her routine. And as many of you parents already know…kids NEED routine.
Let’s just expand for a minute on “age appropriate toys.” Gelli needs toys that will reinforce her understanding of colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. She needs toys that will help her develop her fine motor skills, and her understanding of the way the world works and her place in it. The photo up above is the perfect example of toys you would want to see in your child’s classroom at this age.
SAFETY AND RULES
Aside from the routine that we know children need, there need to be safety precautions and rules that the children must follow. RULES are good at this age. They are very good.
However, even more than that, I think that rules are also important for the parents at this time as well. From drop off and pick up, to identified care givers, guardians, or yayas who can pick up your child. Not just anyone can come and pick up your child.
This is important for me personally, and might not be on the top of everyone’s list. I understand this and embrace all the differences in how we raise our children. But, what this means for me, is that healthy eating is encouraged. From snack time to field trips to the grocery store to learn about where our food comes from and visits to Jamba Juice to learn about all the different fruits that go into a shake…I know that healthy living and healthy eating are not compromised when I send Gellibean to school.
I know that I’m very lucky to have a school which meets all of my needs for Gellibean, that is so close to our house, and run by really GOOD people. It’s been a perfect start in education for our lil’ girl. While my list may be a tad different from a list you might create for your own child, I think these are all very important aspects to consider when sending your most precious cargo off to school.
What do you look for in a preschool? Do you have anything else you can add to this list? I would love to hear from you!