Parent's Guide to choosing Preschool in Southern New Jersey

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2 A Parent's Guide to Choosing a Preschool in Southern New Jersey 2014 All rights reserved Jonathan Jones, Headmaster Published by Stratford Classical Christian Academy Stratford Classical Christian Academy 710 W. Laurel Road, Stratford, NJ

3 Introduction There is no doubt that the decision about where to send your child to preschool in Southern New Jersey is an important one. For the next 12 years, your child will spend much of his or her time in the school of your choosing. The education your child receives there will form the foundation upon which he or she can build a successful life. The values that are 3

4 acquired there will guide your child's choices for years to come. For these reasons, it is important for you, as a parent, to make an educated, informed and prayerful decision about your child's education. There are many good preschools to choose from in Southern New Jersey. We wrote this guide to assist you in making this decision. 4

5 The Big Picture: Vision, Values and Worldview 5

6 Before you get to the nitty-gritty of school visits and classroom observations, check out the vision, values and worldview of the preschools in your area of Southern New Jersey. Make a list of those that seem like a good fit. If your ideas and values about how your child should be educated do not match the stated values of the school, then there may be a conflict between the environment you cultivate at home and that of the school. This conflict can be confusing to your child. Choosing a preschool that shares your values will make it easier for you to raise your child with a clear and strong moral compass. You can usually find out what values a school espouses by examining the school's website or the information packet that they send you in the mail. 6

7 Christian Values If you are a Christian parent, then you may want to consider Christian schools in your area. These schools will put God first in their curriculum and school culture. They will practice Christian virtues and uphold Christian moral beliefs. As a practicing Christian, this will reenforce what you are doing in you home to raise your children. Some schools have denominational affiliations and others are independent, so you want to consider this aspect of the school as well. 7

8 Kindness and Friendship First First, look at the way the students relate to each other. Does the school promote kindness and friendship among peers? Bullying and teasing should not be tolerated. Students should put Christian principles into practice when relating to each other. Proper Obedience Does the school cultivate respect and proper obedience to authority figures? Be sure to note how the students treat parents, teachers and administrators. Students should be attentive and obedient to those in authority. Obviously these are 8

9 young children and they are not going to be perfect, but you should certainly not see frequent backtalk and disrespect. If you get the chance to observe older students, you should expect to see more order and obedience in the classrooms. Discipline and Grace The best schools will cultivate a nurturing environment with the right balance of discipline and charity. Schools with too little discipline will seem out of control. While the students might seem like they are having fun, the school is not really training them 9

10 for a successful life. Schools that are too disciplinary might lack basic Christian charity and mercy. It is only through the wise application of both discipline and charity that a preschool can nurture its students and prepare them for the future. 10

11 Spiritual Formation The culture of the school you choose will impact your child's spiritual life and development. You want to make sure that you would consider this spiritual formation a positive impact. There are a number of aspects of school culture that Christian parents will want to look at when they select a preschool. The Bible Is Given a Central Place Biblical stories are the basis of the Christian faith. You want to place your student in an environment where these stories are told over and over again in a variety of engaging ways. Your children should learn the main 11

12 figures of the Old and New Testaments, the stories of their lives and, of course, the life of Jesus. Learning these stories provides a solid foundation for a life of growing in faith. Most important is that your children learn to apply these stories to their daily lives and in their relationships with others. You also want to consider doctrinal and denominational issues. If you are an evangelical Christian, then choosing a preschool run by a more traditional Protestant denomination may not be a good fit. You want to make sure that the specific approach to doctrine and spirituality at the school you choose is a good match for you. Ask yourself if want your children formed in this way of practicing Christianity? 12

13 Moral Formation Most important is whether or not growth in moral virtue is addressed. Are students encouraged to behave in moral ways and taught the basic principles of Christian morality as a regular part of the education at the school? Prayer Finally, prayer is central to a Christian school. Ageappropriate ways of praying should be encouraged. This should include memorization of Bible verses and short prayers, chapel times for community prayers and daily prayer in the classroom. 13

14 Academic Preparation 14

15 Both Academic and Playful Preschool is joyful and exciting time for children to explore a world outside of their home. It is also a time to acquire new skills that will prepare them for success at the next level of schooling. Look for a program that blends both of these concerns seamlessly into their curriculum. Schools that are all play are really providing nothing more than day care for your child. They are not preparing your child to move forward into higher grade levels. The academic preparation that the school is offering should have clear objectives. 15

16 On the other hand, preschool children are not yet ready for a day filled with structured learning activities. They need playful activities that also enhance their academic skills. Games, songs and kinetic activities should be available to reenforce the academic skills the students are working on. You want to be sure that your child develops a love for learning and a basic set of foundational skills for future academic success. Words and Books Reading readiness is one of the most important goals for any preschool program. There should be a focus on books in the classroom. Stories times, activities based on stories and the prominent display of books 16

17 are important ways that preschools can build reading readiness. There should also be a focus on words. Learning new words builds vocabulary for future use. The school should also have a clear pre-reading curriculum in place to ensure that students are ready to begin reading soon after they enter kindergarten. Early Math In today's technical world, it is important that students start with a good foundation in mathematics. A good preschool will focus on math readiness activities with plenty of number recognition and counting lessons. Be sure to ask about the math readiness curriculum when you visit the preschools you are considering. 17

18 Check Out the Upper Grades If the school you are considering has higher grades, make sure to consider the curriculum in those grades. If you have a good experience in preschool, you will likely stay on board for the higher grades. You want to make sure that you like what is going on in the school at all the grade levels and not just the preschool level. 18

19 Evaluation Process 19

20 Tips for the Preschool Evaluation Process Here are a few tips for evaluating a preschool: A School Visit: There is no substitute for visiting a potential preschool to see the program in action. Your child is going to spend a lot of time on the campus of the school, so you really want to take the time to visit any preschool that you are seriously considering. During your visit, you are looking to get an overall sense of the school culture. How do teachers treat students? How do students treat teachers and each other? How effective is the staff? You want to make sure that the school you choose has a culture that you can fit into. Interview Teachers and Administrators: When you visit the school, make sure that you are able to spend some individual time with the teachers and administrators. These conversations can be very productive in determining whether the preschool is right for your child. You want to ask about the mission and vision, the educational philosophy and the everyday life of the school. Classroom Observation: Another important aspect of your campus visit will be a classroom observation. Are the classes orderly? Do they combine 20

21 healthy structure with a playful spirit? Look for student work displayed on the walls of the class. This suggests that the teacher respects what the students do in class. Examine the Curriculum: Be sure to get an overview of the curriculum featured by the preschool. This will give you a sense of what the school expects the students to learn over the course of the year. Is it ambitious or relaxed? What texts and resources are used? If the school has elementary grades as well as a preschool, you may want to examine any standardized test data that the school provides about its students. While these tests cannot tell the whole story, they do give some indication of how well the curriculum is preparing the students for future academic endeavors. Class Size: This is an important factor in the quality of the educational experience delivered by the preschool. Obviously smaller classes 21

22 are better. You want to avoid schools that try to maximize tuition dollars by accepting more students. A large class size compromises the educational experience of the students. Parent Involvement: You may also want to get a sense for the level of involvement from parents. Ask about the how the teachers and the school communicate important information to the parents. Look for active parents that are participating in the school activities. You could even ask to contact a few parents to get a different perspective on the school. Don't Stress Thinking about school for your young child can be stressful. It is easy to feel like a mistake at this stage will have long-term ramifications for your child's future. This is not really the case. You have time on your side and can recover from any mistakes or gaps that may appear in your child's education. There are lots of 22

23 great schools, caring teachers and helpful school administrators out there to choose from. The most important thing your child needs throughout his or her young life is your love, care and affirmation. By taking the time to select a good preschool and staying involved with your child's education, you are demonstrating that kind of love. There is no need for drama to surround this decision. With a well thought out plan, some diligence in pursuing the best options and a prayerful decision making process, you will make a good choice for your child. We wish the best in you search for the right preschool in Southern New Jersey for your child. We hope that you will consider Stratford Classical Christian Academy as one possibility. Our school has a strong Christian culture with a classical curriculum that we believe is worthy of your consideration. Contact us for more information or to schedule a visit. 23

24 Strartford Classical Christian Academy, 710 W. Laurel Road, Stratford, NJ Tel : (856) E -mail : njclassical 24

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