Monday, January 9, 2012

Montessori Preschool Interview

I can't believe this day has come... Tomorrow, we are going for our tour and interview of the local Montessori preschool.  It's not just nerves about how the kids would do in that setting (remember the Bible study fiasco last fall???) because they will be 3 years old when beginning, but there's also our strong preference for homeschooling (along with our desire to have the kids in a setting where they can make new friends and interface with adults other than us, hence the idea that a few hours during the week wouldnt be that bad and would actually be a good thing).  Montessori is what we do at home and is a style we really like, so in that regard, too, it's a good thing.  (While I love the idea of Waldorf, the closest school is over a half hour away).  And the school is highly recommended by folks we've talked to.... Still... I'm nervous.  I've got questions (of course!) and concerns (the price tag is a big one!).

  • School stuff... We know it's Montessori, but which association certifies them?  What are their standings in the state?  Are their teachers certified (both in Montessori and as early educators)?  Do you do fire drills?  Do you have an emergency/disaster evacuation plan?  Who can pick up the kids if, for whatever reason, I cant?  Do you have a videocam so that parents can check in and see what is going on in the classroom?
  • Classroom stuff... How many classes?  How many kids? (They are mixed age groups, which is a principle of Montessori)  What's the teacher-to-child ratio?  How many aides are in each class?  Are all the people in the school cleared by the state and FBI with child abuse clearances and are they updated? (Hey, Peter and I have these- they should too)  Will the kids be in the same class?  Will their class have the same teacher daily?  How often due teachers leave (find other employment)?  What is the behavioral problem management style of the school?  How do they discipline (ie is it a type of isolation, physical punishment, etc)?  What's a typical day like?  Is there TV (and if so, how much)?  Is there naptime?
  • Education stuff...  How much reading/writing learning takes place?  Is there daily art/music/play-gym-recess?  Do the kids go outside daily, weather permitting?  Are there field trips of any sort?  When are the kids evaluated on skills?  (kids develop at differing paces, but if there are learning delays, we'd like to know sooner rather than later so that we can get some intervention)
  • Hygience stuff... Kids must be potty trained, but will there be someone there to help to ensure cleanliness?  (I know kids in elementary school who still struggle with their bottoms being clean).  Hand washing?  Is there a snacktime and, if so, are hands washed first/after?  Do we provide snacks?  Do they?  Are children required to have certain immunizations? (We use Dr. Sears as a guide and dont follow the AAP guidelines)  Sick policy for kids? 
  • Is the director onsite?  Who teaches a class in the event a teacher is sick? 
  • Is parental involvement encouraged?  Can I visit the classroom unannounced?  Do you communicate with parents on a regular basis?

What am I missing?  As someone who has A) never done this before and B) never really planned to send my kids to a preschool, I'm at a loss.  The other big thing we are discussing is time.  We know that we want no more than 2-3 hours away from home, and in the morning (since we do nap in the afternoon and I'll want to 'homeschool' a bit with them still, in addition to hearing about their day, playing, etc).  How many days?  Some places, like the Friends (Quaker) preschool offer 2 and 3 days, while the local Catholic school offers a 2 day, but the Montessori offers 3 day and 5 day.  Which is best?  And then, of course, there is cost...  While the Catholic school is $3260 for both for the year and I havent heard back from the Quaker school yet, but the Montessori school is (gulp) $4140 (or about $3700 after discounts for 2 kids and paying in full) for 3 day or $5400 (or about $4750 after discounts).  (Waldorf: $1040 for both kids...  4 days, 4 hours a day, but we could apply for financial aid).  So, still, we're looking at several thousands of dollars... For a few hours a day...

So, there's a lot to think about.  While I'm still not 100% sold on the idea, we do think that the kids could benefit from it. And I want that for them.  I want a good, academic environment that still allows them to be children.  I want them to forge new friendships and make connections with folks...  I'd like to meet other, local parents of kids Bobby & Maya's age...  So, there are positives.  But I'm nervous... 

Share your experiences- good and bad...  And, if you have them, any additional questions we might want to consider.  Our appointment is at 9:30 tomorrow, so I'll let you know!

(Unsure about what the heck I'm going on and on about???  Here's a link that explains the differences between Montessori and Waldorf preschools)


Queenie. . . said...

Good luck! This is what I'm doing right now. . .except I'm trying to conduct the interviews from Europe. It's hard to get a good feel for a place you can't visit, so I'm relying heavily on recommendations. I never thought we'd send my daughter next year, but I think she's going to need the stimulation/different experiences than being home provides. We're also struggling with how many days a week, and the cost--yours sounds downright reasonable. You should see the DC prices!!! It's shocking (double or triple your price for twins, and you'll get to the price for ONE child!).

Please post on how it goes, and what additional questions might be helpful. I'm interviewing my top choice later this week, and could use the help!

timesgirl910 said...

Ask about who has access to the building during the day.
When you go, check out how the building is accessed - key pad, or key. Also look to see if there is a sign in book so you can see who is coming and going. (Former Early Childhood Educator student had to sign in and out at all my placements, and the reason for being there).

Debbie said...

Forn financial reasons, we have sent all of our children to public "Nursery and Preschool". When they are three, they go 2 days a week for two hours. The focus is on socialization, learning how to behave in a classroom setting, art, storytime, and letter recognition primarily. At age four, the program is 4 days a week/3hours a day. The above themes are still reinforced, but added is more writing (name especially), letter sounds, site words, etc. My girls were completely prepared for kindergarten after two years in this program. I think at age 3, a lot of academics is too much too soon. Let them explore, socialize, so when the time is right, they are ready to learn

schnitzelbank said...

Good luck! The prices you describe for the year is eaten up in 2-3 months in Los Angeles.
I would suggest asking if you can stop in anytime (you should be able to). And ask about policies for guests in the school (sign-in, sign-out procedures for the kids, too) and screening of teachers (crime screening, fingerprinting).
How do you contact the teacher if there are any questions? How can you contribute/volunteer?
How is discipline handled, say if a kid bites another? How are injuries handled and other emergency situations (severe weather? lock down? evacuation?).
Actually, a lot of these and more should be covered in your tour. :)

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