This wasn’t a topic that I originally planned on blogging about, but I’ve gotten quite a few requests for a post about finding a preschool. Livi started preschool last fall in Tucson -if you’re in Tucson and need recommendations, shoot me an email!- as a way to get some extra help two mornings each week as I worked on the book. When I first started looking, I was really overwhelmed with all of the options especially since I only needed her to go two half days. (Many schools or day cares will require payment of set hours, whether or not you intend to use them. This why was we didn’t end up using the CDC on base; it’s awesome, but you have to pay for full-time care.) The funny thing is that finding a school in Tucson was a piece of cake compared to San Diego. It’s even more competitive here, there are a ton of options, and they’re all insanely expensive.
Here are some of the things that helped me decide on a good spot:
-Go for word of mouth recommendations. I emailed pretty much all of the moms I knew here in San Diego to see if they could recommend a preschool, which helped to narrow down our search. I also had no problem asking locals for recommendations. I talked to some of the moms at Livi’s yoga class and they were able to suggest some more options. For all of the referrals, I Googled the area and read reviews online from other parents.
-Book tours. We had quite a few tours when we first moved here, and it was important for me to bring Liv with us, let her see the space, and also get a feel for it myself.
Some things I looked for:
Cleanliness. This is high on the list. I’ll take a nice deep inhale as we walk in and make sure it smells fresh. I also ask how often the school and toys are cleaned, and how often the kids wash their hands during the day.
How Livi responded. At a couple of schools, she just wanted me to hold her, which was a borderline red flag. At two schools we visited, she kept asking to go play with the kids, and the school directors let her play while we chatted about the programs. This was how we narrowed down our search. If Liv wanted to be there and play with the other kids, I knew she felt comfortable and that we’d found a good place.
I watch the instructors interact with the kids. It was surprising, but at some of my tours, I noticed teachers on their cell phones (!), ignoring the kids (gazing off into space blankly while a small toddler tried to tell them something), and off-putting tones. It was a huge turnoff for me.
Check out the supplies and the curriculum, even though they aren’t the most important factor. We wanted Liv to go to school for the socialization aspect and to be able to interact with other kids, instead of a mini-kindergarten-which-is-now-really-first-grade and being drilled on facts. Something I liked to check out when we visited various schools: the book shelf, and whether they facilitated creative play (like music, dancing, crafts, fun kid stuff).
The warm fuzzies. I really feel like when you know, you know. With Livi’s school in Tucson, we knew immediately that we’d found the right spot. We found a great school here in San Diego, and the driving distance was a little far, but something felt “off” about it to Tom and myself. So, we decided to wait until we found something that felt right to us. The following week, we got a call from one of our top choices that they had a spot for Liv. I feel like when it’s meant to be, it works out. She adapted really well to her new school, and I think she was so happy to be able to play with kids again.
Mamas: I’d love to hear any tips you have about finding a school for your kiddo(s)!