Just before I got pregnant with my second baby, I had these grand plans to visit as many pre-schools as possible to determine which would be the best one to send Gavin to. Of course at the time I wasn’t planning to send Gavin to school until he was older – at least three, perhaps even four years old.
And then I got pregnant. The fatigue and morning sickness symptoms of first trimester were not as bad as they were during the first pregnancy, but they were enough to keep me from visiting the schools. In the end, I conceded defeat and agreed to send Gavin to school earlier than I had originally intended.
To help ease a transition I knew would be difficult for Gavin, I gave up trying to find the “best” school and selected the school where his godbrother and godsister were attending. I figured that if he could see some familiar faces at school, it might make it a little easier for him to adapt. Even though I didn’t do the research as thoroughly as I would normally have, I felt that the benefits of having familiar faces at school outweighed any other benefits that could be have been derived from a “better” school.
That said, recent events have reassured me that the school we chose to send Gavin to was a good choice after all. Not only have the teachers been patient and understanding towards Gavin, the principal has also been proactive about meeting his needs. For instance, she was willing to change him to a class he was happier in rather than insisting he remain in the class he was originally assigned to.
For me, the primary focus for Gavin and school has been the ease of his transition through what I know must be a very difficult time for him. He has never been away from me consistently for four hours a day, five days a week. At two and a half, I feel this has been a very big step for him to take. Regardless of whether it seems overly protective on my part, I still believe that anything that can be done to ease his transition should be done.
Although you can look at a school’s educational program, the style of teaching, the type of teachers, etc., I feel that for children at this age, the more critical features of the school a parent should consider are whether the child will be happy at the school and whether the teachers are likeable (from your child’s point of view, not yours). Of course there are also other things you should also consider, such as safety concerns, the ratio of teachers to students, etc. which I do feel is equally important, too.
I used to want the best of the best school for Gavin – Montessori trained teachers, the top programs, the best equipment, etc. If you can find such a school for your child, I still think it’s great, but I no longer see those as essential criteria that a school must meet. Regardless of the programs offered at school, toddlers can learn so much more than what is taught in class.
At school, toddlers are learning about social interaction, making friends, sharing, caring, and a whole host of other non-academic lessons. They are developing emotionally to a new situation that they have never encountered before. That, in itself is a huge life lesson. And learning about life itself is a large part of growing up and understanding the world around them. As long as a child is happy and willing to engage his environment, you can rest assured that he will be learning something.