Public or private? Full-day or half-day? Even homeschooling? While parents today have more choices for their children’s education, the options can be confusing. How do you make sure the school you choose is the right one for your child?
We’ve narrowed down the five questions every parent should ask to help you pick the right kindergarten for your child.
1. Is your child ready?
In Ontario, children are not required to attend primary school until grade one and in other provinces there is only one year of kindergarten. What are the signs that your child is ready? Is your child able to:
- go to the bathroom by him/herself?
- put on coat and shoes independently?
- count and recite the alphabet? Although not crucial, it will help to know the basics.
- spend time comfortably without having parents nearby?
- get along well with other kids?
If you answered yes, then your child is most likely ready and you can begin the countdown to kindergarten! If you think your child may not be ready for school, you may want to consider other preschool options like Montessori school or homeschooling, until your little Einstein is ready for the first grade.
2. Does the school address your family’s needs?
Separate school, private or French language school: the choice is yours. You know your child best and you would want a school — public or private — that builds on your child’s strengths.
What you should factor into your decision:
- School proximity
- School transportation, e.g. bus schedule
- Special interests like language, arts and alternative programs
- School curriculum structure
- Your financial situation
- School amenities, ie. playgrounds, gymnasium, physical activity time, etc.
- Talk to other parents in the community. Does the school have a good reputation?
Read on for more questions to ask when searching for the right kindergarten for your child >
3. Full-day or half-day?
Whether it’s Monday or Wednesday, Tuesday or Thursday, or mornings every day, your child’s learning time will remain the same.
“The days you choose to send your child to kindergarten really doesn’t matter,” says Irene Ioannou-Skanderis, a mom of two and teacher. “All kindergarteners get the same amount of time from their teachers.”
Here’s how you can help you child prepare for and adjust to a full-day program.
- Sign up your child for a preschool program to help them become familiar with routines they will encounter in kindergarten, such as sharing with other kids, taking turns and listening to instructions.
- Talk to your child about what they can expect, how their day will be and what sort of activities they will be taking part in.
- Reassure your kids that you will be there to help them through the transition.
- Volunteer at the kindergarten if your child is suffering from separation anxiety.
“Young children are not comfortable with change of routine so anything you can do, talk it up will have an incredible effect on your child and how they approach school,” Ioannou-Skanderis says.
4. Do you like the teachers?
What makes a good teacher and what makes a great teacher? There is a difference, especially for young children. Considering your child will be away from home for such long periods of time, it’s important that the student-teacher relationship is positive and nurturing.
Talk to parents at the school about their experience with the teachers and familiarize yourself with the school and the staff well before September rolls around. “You could put in a request for a particular teacher,” says Ioannou-Skanderis. “But it does not necessarily mean that the school administration will grant you your request.”
“The best thing to do is to make an appointment with the principal of the school to learn more about the programs currently in place, meet the teachers and get a sense of what the learning atmosphere is like.”
5. Is there a childcare option in the school?
Is there a daycare in the school? Some schools offer childcare in the school, assisting working parents by offering programs before and after school. At some schools that offer full-day kindergarten, you may choose to enrol your child in integrated programs before and after school hours.
If the school’s childcare offering doesn’t suit your family’s needs, look to your neighbours! I know a lot of parents in my neighbourhood who provide before and after school care. It really does take a village, so don’t be afraid to reach out to other parents who live in your area.
Good luck with your kindergarten search! If you can’t find everything that you’re looking for in one school, try not to worry. You can always change schools down the road.