Not all preschools are the same. The best programs help young students get a solid educational foundation before heading to school full-time, says Sandeep Chada, founder of The Goddard School in Rochester Hills.
“People underestimate how much learning goes on from ages 1 to 5, so they don’t give them enough stimulation,” Chada says. Here are three key factors to consider.
“In a preschool setting like ours, all of our lead teachers have a bachelor’s or at least an associate degree in early childhood education,” Chada says.
He says many in-home daycare providers can say they run a preschool program, but they don’t necessarily have that expertise. Trained educators know not only how to teach, he says, but also how to evaluate kids on educational concepts and developmental milestones.
This is the biggest missing element, Chada says. “A lot of people will teach colors or basic numbers to children, but they don’t make sure that the child understands it. At the end of the day or week, everyone in that class should have a good idea of the concept.”
However, Chada adds, a child’s intelligence can’t be judged in one or two skills. Teachers should look at the whole child and determine if he or she is making progress.
“Teachers look at children individually and make sure, at the end of the year, they are more well-rounded than at the beginning of the year.”
Structure + free play
Chada says there isn’t a set amount of time that a preschooler should be in school each week. Rather, the structure of the day counts. At Goddard, most students attend all day because their parents work, but Chada says content matters more.
His preschoolers have typical classroom activities for about three hours per day, which include crafts, music, yoga and movement and reading time.
“The rest of the time is play. We make sure they learn different routines during the day. Preschoolers should learn what they do when they come into class, how to sit in circle time, manners and how to get along with other children,” Chada says.
No matter what program you choose, Chada adds, “You should set high goals for your children, and you should ask that your preschool has the same expectation.”