Play school, Kindergarten, Montessori – what should you choose? When should you start looking at preschools? Use this easy 5-step guide to help make your decision simpler.
So, you have a young child, the apple of your eye, the core of your existence, the light of your life. Chances are you haven’t even begun to think of the “S” word yet. I am talking about “school”.
Most parents are thinking,”School? My baby? Too young, I say! I mean she has just started crawling after all, well maybe she walks a bit too, but the point is, she is still a little person. School is for big kids, right?”
I say, “Think again”.
My lil one, Gy, had completed two years back in July 2008 and I was sitting back, saying to myself, ‘Hmm, another year and I can start the hunt for the preschool’.
Then, a casual remark from a friend triggered the hunt. She said, ‘Have you thought about which school your daughter will be attending from grade 1’? I was a bit amused and pointed out that Gy was only 2 and grade 1 was 4 years away. She looked at me wryly and said, “Trust me, the hunt starts early. Where they do their pre-schooling determines which school will admit them into first grade”.
I sat up and looked her in the eye. She was serious. The scouring had to begin, and soon!
So, armed with the easiest weapon at my disposal, the Internet, I commenced the search. My detailed post on the list of preschools/daycare/montessori schools in Sarjapur road area is now available for reading.
There were a few things to consider:
1. Pre-school vs Montessori
In the preschool idea, it is pretty straightforward. The child is usually admitted around 3 years of age, to the nursery or pre-kg stage. She then graduates to kg-1 followed by kg-2. Most often, kids who attend preschool can exit after nursery or the Upper Kindergarten stage, post a year or two, and get into other schools for their ‘higher studies’.
However, in the Montessori method, the program is designed for a full 3 year schedule. The idea behind this is that each kid learns at her pace and is not pushed to conform to the syllabus as set forth by a school. Here, kids have more interactive activity and learning is on a ‘no-pressure’ basis. Most Montessori trainers recommend that the child completes the entire 3-year programme, as then she will get the maximum benefit from the methodology.
The child is eligible for grade 1 from the age of 6, having completed 3 years of montessori OR a year of nursery plus 2 years of kindergarten. Specific schools and boards have different cut-off ages. Anything from 5 years 8 months could apply where Grade 1 admission is concerned, so check accordingly.
One thing to be wary of is that many schools slap on the label “Montessori” irrespective of whether they actually follow the method. A certified list of Montessori schools in Bangalore by the Indian Montessori Centre is viewable at this link. They give a list of the schools, some have a small write-up and all have full contact details such as phone number, address and website.
This may seem like a negligible factor, but in reality, it isn’t. We don’t want our young kids to be travelling for 2 hours one-way on a bus to spend 3 hours in a play-school. That kind of defeats the entire purpose. So you may want a school that is, ideally, walking distance from your home/place of work.
If there isn’t one that is close by, look for a good school within a 3 or 4 km radius. Schools are everywhere these days. Make sure that you can either pick up and drop the child yourself (by private vehicle) or ensure that the school has transport facility. Check with other parents as to how reliable and safe the transport option provided by the school has been so far.
“Schools in my day never charged this much”, is a common refrain you are likely to hear from your peers and your parents. The era has changed. More and more schools are now charging a minimum fee of 25k per year for a 3-hour stint at the preschool stage. The higher end schools can range from 75k to 1.5 lakhs per year. (Yes, we are talking about preschools, not IIT admissions)
My advice is have a budget which commences at 25k per year. Then, you can modify that according to your personal income/expense capability.
Check to see what are the facilities that come within the fee structure. Find out if the following are included/not:
1. Snacks/ lunch/ milk
3. Books/ other supplies
4. Field trip charges/ celebrations of festivals
5. Medical aid/ first aid on campus
Although this depends largely on whether you go the preschool way or choose the montessori method, do demand to see the curriculum that your child will be following. When the child is close to 5.5 years of age, a certain degree of writing must be incorporated into their daily routine, as the Grade 1 demands are higher than the KG/M-3 stages. So ensure that it is part of the curriculum at that level.
However, one criticism I have heard from teachers and other academicians is that parents these days try to pressure the teachers into giving pre-schoolers ‘homework’ so that they are ready for the rigours of school.
Parents, please note: teachers know what they are doing. And yes, you do have a say in what you want your child to do, but don’t tell the teacher how to do his/her job. Also, do not impose homework on a child when the situation does not demand it. It will only encourage rote learning and kill creative thinking.
5. Feedback from other parents
Whichever school you decide upon, ensure that you get the feedback about the facilities, the teachers, the support staff, the school environs, the transport system, the food quality (if lunch/snacks are offered by the school), the policies that the school follows regarding taking snapshots at school events (I am not kidding-check it out! ).
And make sure that this feedback comes from parents of kids who are already in the school.
That about sums it up for the first part of the hunt for the preschool. Now the ball is in your court. Are you ready to get out there on the ground and figure out the nitty-gritty of pre-school admissions?
A version of this post originally appeared on Diary of a Doting Mom.