This is the third and last instalment of How I Chose Preschool. In Part I, I touched on how preschool hunt is a very subjective matter and discussed some factors that I considered very important to me. In Part II, I continue with many other factors of consideration. In this 3rd part, I will touch on the actual steps and method I used for my preschool hunt.
Exactly How I Did My Preschool Hunt
1.Get a Listing and some recommendations
A very handy tool to have for doing Preschool hunt is the Young Parents magazine’s Preschool Guide. It contains a listing of a lot of preschools (kindergarten, childcare centres and enrichment centres) organised by area. If the Preschool Guide is not available, pick up any issue of the Young Parents magazine. There is a less extensive listing of preschools at the back of the magazine. Besides these two, you can also rely on the Yellow pages for a listing of preschools. However, the listing is by alphabetical order, so you will have to go through the whole list to pick out those that are within the area of your choice.
Other than listings, you can also get recommendations from friends. Not every school is listed in the Preschool guides and the Yellow pages. A lot of the popular schools don’t advertise because they already have a long wait-list and don’t need to advertise. You might just come across some schools through word of mouth which are not listed. Other than all these, you can also refer to MCYS website for a listing of childcare centres, or MOE website for a listing of kindergartens. Enrichment centres are not covered in both lists.
2.Shortlist a few based on my critera
After going through the listings, I shortlisted a few based on my criteria. E.g. I dropped all the centres that were situated at the void decks of HDB flats, and those situated in commercial buildings. This left me with a less daunting list to follow up on.
3.Note pad and Pen!
I got a notepad and a pen. Don’t rely on pieces of scrap paper because you will need to refer back to the information and you probably won’t be able to remember the details clearly once you start calling a number of schools, so don’t just rely on your memory.
I wrote the names of the preschools and their addresses and contact numbers, one on each page, leaving a page or two of blank pages between each school. This was to give me extra space to jot down extra information.
It will be handy to have a notebook with pockets for loose items too. You will get lots of handouts and notes from the schools so it will be great to have such pockets to keep everything together securely.
4.Start calling and asking
Next, I started calling every school that I shortlisted. I asked all the questions that I needed to ask and jot down all the information in the relevant pages. This made it easier for me to refer back to my notes later on, especially when I actually visited the schools.
5.Shortlist a few to visit
After calling a few, I eliminated a few more unsuitable choices. I then made arrangements to visit the few left. You will need to call ahead to make appointment for the visit.
6.Visit the Schools
The best time to visit childcare centres is a weekday morning, when the main part of the teaching takes place. If you go on a weekend or in the afternoon, you won’t see much action.
When I visited the schools, I referred to the notes that I took earlier when I called the schools, checked out the facilities, looked at the classes in action (especially the class that Dominic would be in), looked at some portfolio and work done by the children, asked more questions, double checked on the information I was given earlier, got brochures, hand outs, menu, sample lesson plans, enrolment form (in case I decided to enrol Dominic in the school), etc.
During my first visit to the schools, I didn’t bring Dominic along because he would be too distracting for me to make a fair assessment of the school.
7.Attend a Trial Class
After visiting the schools I shortlisted for visiting, thankfully, I had at least one school that I was keen on. I then made arrangement for a trial class. The purpose of the trial class was to let Dominic visit the school and see whether he liked the school. Some schools charge for trial class, so please check.
Honestly, one trial class is not enough for you or your child to tell whether the new school is suitable. Nevertheless, to go through one trial class is still better than none. At least you rule out the obvious – if your child is clealy unhappy with the school or with the teacher on the very first encounter, you probably want to reconsider your choice. Another thing is that going through one trial class will give you an opportunity to sit through a typical school day, so that you can get a feel of what your child’s school day is going to be.
8.The administrative details
Once everything was a-ok, the administrative details followed – decide on a day for Dominic to start school, fill up forms, pay up money, get new uniform, make bus arrangements, etc.
And so, this was how I did my Preschool Hunt.
Long Term Relationship
You relationship with the preschool you chose will be a long term one, so be prepared to work things out with the school, especially during the initial settling-in period. It goes without saying that if there is any major issue with the school, you should consider pulling your child out of the school. Nevertheless, this should be a matter of last resort. Where possible, you should try to work things out with the school through open communication and discussions. In the beginning, like taking on a new job, things won’t always go smoothly. You , your child, and the school will need to learn about each other and get over the initial hiccups. Do not be afraid to tell the school about your expectations and voice your concerns. A good school will be happy to work hand-in-hand with you. So, give the school a chance if things don’t quite turn out the way you expected. However, if things cannot be worked out to your satisfaction, you can go back to the 2nd choice on your shortlist. This is where all that note-taking and record keeping comes in useful!