Picking your child’s first classroom experience can be a stomach-turning adventure. Slow down the roller-coaster ride by following these four easy steps, according to Eleanor Toliver, owner of First Ward Child Development Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Look at reputation
Ask friends, family and colleagues for recommendations about programs in your area. Check the state agency that oversees daycares and preschools to see if they are properly licensed and how they may rate. In North Carolina, for example, programs are rated up to five stars, with five being the highest quality. Five stars also means that 75% of First Ward Child Development Center’s teachers have a two-year or more degree in early childhood education, according to owner of the Charlotte child care business.
Never sign a contract unless you’ve taken a tour. “It is the people who make the difference,” says Toliver, who is also a Charlotte preschool expert. “You want to get a feel for the people who will be taking care of your children. You can’t feel comfortable at work if you don’t feel comfortable about who is taking care of your children.” While visiting, ask questions about procedures, policies and parental involvement. Question teachers and administrators about student to teacher ratio as well as what the school does to address the needs of students with varying learning skills.
It may be too early to know what kind of learner your child is but familiarize yourself with what the methodology or philosophy is behind the program. Some proscribe to methods like Montessori, Reggio Emilia, progressive, and traditional. Sometimes the state dictates. In North Carolina, for example, all Pre-K programs must use the Opening the World of Learning (OWL) curriculum. “I like it because it has a strong literacy and math base,” says Toliver, who has been in the Charlotte child care industry for 26 years. “When you teach the letters, you also teach the phonic sounds to go with the letters. There is also a writing component. We can individualize curriculums.”
Work is stressful enough, so you don’t need to worry about how you’ll manage every day drop off and pick up. Look at hours of operation and how easy it is to get to and from the program when shopping around for a program. First Ward Child Development Center is open 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. “because we know that is the work day for most people,” says the Charlotte day care provider. “We are also located near the banks, hotels, arenas to make it easier for parents.”
Eleanor Toliver is the founder of
First Ward Child Development Center
600 East 7th Street Charlotte, NC 28202