Choosing the Perfect Preschool
How to navigate the difficult decision of choosing your child's first school.
Preschool is a time of finger-painting, learning to share and learning letters and numbers. What sounds like an innocent, sweet time for children is often a difficult decision for parents. When we shopped around for a preschool, the options were plentiful and my head spun with the major differences between the schools.
To help other parents choose a preschool they and their children will like, I talked with the director of St. Luke’s Preschool and the director of Faith Lutheran Preschool, both located on Telegraph Road. The directors gave me their tips for selecting a preschool.
If you’re like me, you may wonder why preschool is necessary. When it was time for my oldest to go to preschool, I was reluctant to give up any of those precious days before kindergarten if it was not absolutely necessary.
Preschool offers the first opportunity for children to have the experience of taking direction from an adult other than a parent or grandparent, explained Melinda Austin, the director of Faith Lutheran Preschool. It gives children a way to practice listening to instructions and to share and make friendships with other children.
Planning a Visit
It’s very important that you take an opportunity to visit the preschools you are considering. Debbie Lampe, the director of St. Luke’s Preschool, said that while they have had many families enroll simply based on recommendations, she encourages parents to come in and look around. She said that seeing the facility and getting a feel for the atmosphere of the school is critical.
Austin recommended that parents visit a preschool while the classes are in session. She explained that by touring during the school day, parents have the opportunity to hear how students and teachers interact with one another.
Things to Consider
When we toured preschools, we found that there were many differences between the schools. Their curriculum, tuition and hours were varied, and some schools offered options like extended care or special field trips.
Curriculum: You may want to compare the types of curriculum being offered at the schools you are considering. St. Luke’s Preschool uses a theme-based curriculum, while Faith Lutheran Preschool does not use a specific curriculum, but instead teaches topics that they feel are important for children at this stage of development.
In addition, it may be important to you whether a specific faith is being taught in the classroom. For instance, while St. Luke’s includes prayers in their day, no actual Bible stories are taught. At Faith Lutheran, the schedule includes “Jesus time,” where classes discuss Bible stories and concepts.
Tuition: Several factors can affect the tuition of any preschool. The level of certification and education that the teachers have is a significant factor, as well as the teacher-to-student ratio.
Hours: One important consideration is the hours that the school meets. We like that St. Luke’s offers a three-hour session because it is often difficult for a mom to do much more than run a quick errand if the day is shorter. With three hours, I can take a younger child on an outing such as a trip to the Botanical Gardens or run several errands.
Other considerations: Parents should decide what they are looking for in terms of things like field trips. Some schools require that a parent accompany each child on field trips, and some schools like St. Luke’s opt to replace field trips with a schedule of special guests visiting throughout the year.
Faith Lutheran Preschool offers a perk that may appeal to many parents. They have an open-door policy, welcoming parents to pop in at any time to see what is happening in their child’s classroom. Austin explained that this gives parents a chance to observe the class as it truly operates.
Class size is an important consideration, depending on your child’s personality. When my son started at St. Luke’s, we were happy to discover that he was one of just six students in his class.
Make Some Calls
When we narrowed down our choices to two or three schools that met our needs for hours, pricing and curriculum, we asked for the names and numbers of a couple of parents. This exercise was time-consuming, but it was enlightening. Parents mentioned benefits and drawbacks of the schools that we might not have considered.
There were several aspects of the decision that caused us to favor St. Luke’s over other preschools that we toured. One thing that we liked about St. Luke’s was that in the case of rainy or cold weather, the students would not be stuck in the classroom. The school has access to a gymnasium across the hall from the classrooms, where the kids can burn energy. Many of the schools we visited had no alternative if rain prevented a trip to the playground.
Ultimately, we chose St. Luke’s because I had a gut feeling about the school. We have been incredibly pleased with our choice. Miss Stacey was my son’s teacher the first year we enrolled, and it was immediately evident that she was a good match for her job. She clearly loves children.
It’s easy to see that all of the teachers do. Often, when I pick up my daughter and get distracted while chatting with Miss Stacey, I turn around to find that Miss Frances is helping my toddler in her fascination with the drinking fountain. Little details like this give a good picture of a teacher’s gift with children.
If you would like to take a tour of either school, you can contact Melinda Austin at Faith Lutheran Preschool by calling 314-846-8612, or Debbie Lampe at St. Luke’s Preschool by calling 314-892-0002.