Choosing a PreK Program

Choosing a daycare or PreK for your child? Shalom Christian Academy Elementary Principal Jaime Keller shares what you need to know.Are all daycare or PreK programs the same? 
No, not all programs are the same. Some are governed by larger corporations, some are run by churches, others are part of a larger daycare, and still others are held within the walls of a school. Some may offer a Biblical focus, while others focus strictly on academics. Others may not have a heavy academic focus at all, rather choosing to allow for more play.
Why is a PreK better than a daycare for 4-year-olds?
Getting your child involved in a structured setting during the early childhood years has many benefits. They can be exposed to a variety of personalities and build their social-emotional skill set. Most PreK programs desire to grow the whole child. This can be done by offering special activities like field trips, art class, gym time, and music by trained professionals. Children thrive on structure, and good PreK programs provide a structured schedule and staff that students can rely on.
Thoroughly preparing PreK aged students for the next step of kindergarten is very important. By enrolling a child in a quality PreK program, questions and concerns can be addressed early. In some situations, the Lincoln Intermediate Unit can offer speech therapy or other itinerant services directly in the classroom to meet your child’s needs.

prek student hops off bus on his way to school

What elements make a good PreK?

A good PreK offers a balanced approach. Many say that PreK is the new kindergarten, so some academic preparation is important. Good PreK programs allow students to learn through a balance of play and structured activities. By offering structured activities, teachers can teach the problem-solving skills students will need when learning through play with their peers.
There are some important things to look for when choosing a PreK. What is the ratio of teachers to students? It is wise to follow a 1:10 ratio. This is a manageable size. What is the background and education of the teachers? Is there a set curriculum in place? What “special” activities are available to students?
What is important for parents to look for when they visit a PreK classroom person?
The feel of the classroom is very important. How welcoming is the teacher? Are the students all engaged in something? Is the classroom inviting? The look of the room should be engaging, but not overwhelming to the senses. Children’s artwork should be on display. Ask the teachers to see a copy of their schedule. Ask to see the curriculum. Make sure there is a playground. Gross motor activity is very important to the development of students at this age.
Should I visit an Open House? 
Open houses are a great opportunity to see a classroom in action but you should always feel free to ask for a private tour. I highly recommend a visit during the school day—this offers an excellent opportunity to see the dynamic of the classroom and how the school runs on a day to day basis.
What’s the bottom line?  
Early childhood education is a critical piece in the development of children. Habits and practices are essentially set by the time a child reaches 3rd grade. Starting a child in a developmentally appropriate program at an early age is key to setting them on a path to success.

students study a worm
students smiling with laptops
prek student plays