A good pre-school is critical!

Choosing the right pre-school is probably the most critical decision you need to make with regards to your child’s development into adulthood. It was Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Jesuits, who said in the 16th century: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the adult.”

Do you remember your pre-school days? For the life of me I can’t remember anything about mine, from an educational or development perspective that is. I do remember the rat that walked over my legs during a sleep period though. They tell me that we learn through play during this time of our lives and that’s probably why we don’t remember it consciously.

These days, depending on your budget, there are world-class pre-schools available in South Africa, and, regrettably, very badly managed pre-schools as well. A quick survey on my Facebook page had parents telling very scary stories about their experiences with their kids. One mom told of how she arrived at the school in the middle of the day to find a bunch of toddlers traipsing around the swimming pool with no adult supervision. Another shared a particularly sad story about a one-year-old dying of asphyxiation in his sleep.

The key to choosing the right school goes beyond their curriculum or academic track record. The first step is to shop around. Go and visit a few schools in your area and spend some time interacting with the teachers and kids. Happy kids are always a good sign of a well-run school. If the kids are skulking around, not making eye contact and looking miserable, you don’t want your little monkey there.

When we chose Hannah and Maddi’s pre-school and primary school, after being satisfied with the curriculum and academic issues, the deciding factor was how the kids expressed their confidence and happiness by greeting us warmly and even chatting with us. Pre-school teachers need a helluva lot of patience and commitment and passion to spend every working day of their lives minding other people’s kids between the ages of 1 and 7. Give the teachers a thorough once-over; find out about their qualifications and experience, and also how they present themselves. Grumpy miserable teachers are going to rub off that energy on your pride and joy, and that’s just not acceptable.

Another flaw in the selection of a pre-school, is basing it on proximity to home: traffic and distance are not necessarily the best reasons for choosing a school.

On the academic front, find out what the latest developments are in pre-schooling. A quick Google search will reveal programmes like PMP (Perceptual Motor Programming). PMP is one of the latest developments in pre-school education and essentially it contends that movement and motion has a direct bearing on various aspects of a child’s development, like writing, reading, the ability to pay attention etc. Ask the right questions, a school worth its salt will be up to date with what’s new.

These first 7 years are vital and you owe it to your little one to give them the best possible start to their lives by choosing a good pre-school. Join my guests and I this Saturday 3 December 2011 at 21:00 on DSTV Mindset Channel 319 on Who’s Your Daddy where we will discuss this very important topic! Don’t miss it.

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

What do you look for in a great pre-school, and what do you avoid?

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