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How to select a preschool is something most parents often give little consideration to, when this may be the foundation of which a child’s life is built.
The Indian education system has taught us that getting into a prime ranked college governs ones entire career, and that schooling till the primary and sometimes even middle school level is just a part of the game. This is a myth long believed, and is still governing the decisions of modern parenting.
A lot of parents do not even consider sending their children to play schools, feeling that they are money munching businesses that impart no real education to a child. This along with the lack of good preschools in India that are accessible to everyone, is a big hazard in laying the initial foundation of habits, character and personality development that could alter a child’s understanding of the world. Also, while many preschools boast of teaching systems like Waldorf, Montessori, etc. being applied in their teaching style, most of the teachers are unaware of their exact differences and application.
The first exposure that a child gains about the world outside the care of parents or other caregivers is the preschool. A good preschool works hand in hand with the parents in shaping a child who is just beginning to realize their position in the world. They help in developing building character and good habits. They understand a child’s psychology and attend to them by helping them understand, reach and maximize their potentials.
Preschools also actively guide and mentor parents about their own behaviour around the children and lifestyle, and habit changes that would help the child in developing a better personality.
Preschools serve as the first impression of society for a child. Mingling with other kids, discipline, communication and social norms all make their first appearance in their lives in a preschool. Not just the emotional and psychological, but also learning to understand instructions, coping with change, motor, gross and fine skills, effective communication come as an important aspect of a preschool.
A preschool can actually set a child on the path of learning even without teaching the fundamental reading-writing. Being inquisitive, asking the right questions, trying to do things in a different or new way, having the right attitude towards failure or blockage are the basic blocks of learning that a preschool can lay the foundation of.
An important factor for selecting a preschool for a child as young as 16-18 months of age is proximity.
Avoiding traveling time of more than 10-15 minutes or having a geographical distance between the parent and child less than 3 km. The other factors are open space, ample sunshine, teacher to pupil ratio, better availability of transport, medical facility nearby and clean hygienic environment.
Once all these physical factors have been taken care of the most important one that remains to look for is the kind of teaching principles followed and the methodology. Once we have a basic idea about these terms we can ask questions and know whether a school genuinely practices these in their curriculum.
Every child is an individual with a different learning pattern. Organized play activities aimed at specific purposes where teachers are guides to learning. Making children independent to cater to their needs by themselves, and learning at their own pace are basic principles of the Montessori method.
A very interesting approach that first seeks to know a child’s interest and then help them pursue it by means of curriculum customization. Children learn by making mistakes and experimenting with their day-to-day activities. Helps them become creative and artistic.
Predictability by giving daily routines are a major highlight of the Waldorf method of teaching. There is consistency in programs, and familiarity in terms of teachers/mentors. This helps the child to connect to them and make a trust bond along with knowing the processes that he/she is about to encounter on any day.
Bank Street method depends on the world around for teaching. Toys etc are minimized, while nature and other things are the inspiration for learning. An unstructured learning environment with focus on art, culture, social sciences, and focusing on on educating the whole child — emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually, gives an edge to this method.
While one methodology could suit one child it may not be very useful for another. Also, at a very young age it is not very easy to understand which kind of school would benefit your child. But with some understanding of the child’s behaviour, and keeping in mind other factors one can make a best available choice.
Also at this age, restriction or force can never be used. So one has to be very careful about a child’s acceptance of his/her school. Gradual and persistent efforts in acclimatization of the school helps a child in accepting a school. Despite this, if the child shows signs of fear, shyness, strong emotions of negation about the school, it might be a wakeup call that maybe he/she is not comfortable with something about the place. Talking to teachers, assessing the problem is definitely a way out, but continuing with force might only aggravate the problem.
Sometimes a few children who cry at a certain preschool accept another one readily. I have also seen at times that parents need to change preschools twice or thrice in a year. Sometimes it becomes a necessity as one might have to try various options before a child becomes emotionally secure at one place. Parents should not panic in such situations but help the child by being understanding. A child as young as 18 months to 28 months needs emotional bonding before accepting any individual or place. Let them take their time, and after complete assessment take a call, but do discontinue if it affects the child’s emotional, physical and mental well being.
Preschools are the first tiny step that a child takes out of the cocoon of their house and family. They are just on the verge of turning into a beautiful colourful butterfly, and the preschool has a butterfly effect on their entire lives. Choose wisely, you might be nurturing an Einstein and yet trying to make him a Beckham!
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