July 2012

The Strive to Thrive - Selecting a Preschool

Author: Kitty Bartell

Sending your child into the world to attend preschool is one of the first of many milestones in his or her little life that may cause some, or even a lot, of separation anxiety. While the preschooler may experience some anxiety, it is often the parents who are hit hardest. Personally, I am an experienced traveler on the road of separation-anxiety producing events and remember well the process my husband I went through to select our daughter’s first school here on Hilton Head Island. While time has given me many opportunities to build up my separation calluses, it was this first one that I remember most.

Island preschooler Kayla’s mom Jessica Blackwell describes it well. “It’s like having two voices—one telling me ‘send her here’ in one ear and the other telling me ‘send her there’ in the other. I want everything to be perfect,” she said.

I remember that feeling. I had Practical Parent jabbering away in one ear telling me all the logical reasons for selecting one school over another. Then I had Puddle Parent (as in puddle of tears) reminding me that someone else would now be meeting my child’s needs and wants in my absence. Until this point, her immediate family had provided her with all that she needed, but it was now time for her to begin understanding independence and autonomy.

Having a checklist of what to look for in a preschool is helpful when trying to remain on track, even if what’s really going through your head resembles a debate between Practical and Puddle. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has developed a list of the 10 signs of a great preschool. Scheduling a visit with your child is the best way to gauge how well a school meets these criteria:

1) Do the children spend most of their time playing and working with materials or other children and not wandering aimlessly or sitting for long periods of time?

2) Do the children have access to various activities throughout the day? Look for assorted building blocks and construction materials, props for pretend play, books, art materials, and table toys such as games, pegboards, and puzzles. Children should not all be doing the same thing at the same time.

3) Do teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day? It is important that everything the children do they do not always do all together.

4) Is the classroom decorated with children’s original artwork, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by children to teachers?

5) Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals and meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance, or serving snack provide the basis for learning activities.

6) Children work on projects and have long periods of time (at least one hour) to play and explore. Worksheets are used little if at all.

7) Do the children have an opportunity to play outside every day? Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.

8) Do teachers read books to children individually or in small groups throughout the day, not just at group story time?

9) Does the curriculum adapt to those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help? Teachers should recognize that children’s background and experiences mean that they do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.

10) Do the children and their parents look forward to school? Do the parents feel secure about sending their child to the program? Children are happy to attend; they do not cry regularly or complain of feeling sick.

Even after considering these criteria, checking the accreditation of the school and qualifications of the staff and addressing the financial side of the coin, instinct is a parent’s greatest tool for selecting a preschool. Do the teachers create an environment in which you want your child? This is where Puddle Parent may be helpful. If Puddle can see the child thriving in this school, and feels the child’s needs being met, then the school is very likely a good fit.

Some children arrive at preschool already veterans of classroom settings and being cared for by people other than their immediate families, while there are still many for whom this will be their first experience with teachers and other children in a structured environment.

“New parents are different from veteran parents and have a different set of needs and criteria when selecting a school,” said Laura Lesnett, director and lead teacher at Christian Heritage Montessori School in Bluffton. “Ultimately, all parents want to give their child the greatest gift you can give a child, which is to provide them with a solid educational foundation on which to build in the years to come.”

Practical Parent understands the opportunities that await their prodigy as they learn to navigate the perils of school. Puddle Parent knows that there will be bumps along the way. The key to a successful transition, after doing the research, and listening to your instincts, is putting on a positive face, even in the midst of emotions and melancholy. Remember, it’s just the beginning, and the calluses will come.

Area Preschool Options
Some of the schools on our list are traditional preschools, while others combine daycare, preschool, school break camps, and before and after school programs. We invite you to visit the school websites and find time to check out the schools in person.


AMAZING CREATIONS
Bluffton
(843) 837-5437
http://www.amazing-creations.net/ac/index.php
Tuition: Please contact the school for ages and rates


BLUFFTON EARLY CHILDHOOD LEARNING CENTER
Beaufort County Schools
Bluffton
(843) 707-0900
http://bles.beaufortsc.schoolfusion.us/
Ages: Pre-Kindergarten
Tuition: Free

THE CHILDREN’S CENTER
Bluffton (843) 757-5549
Hilton Head Island (843) 681-2739
http://thechildrenscentersc.org
Ages: 0 to 5 years
Tuition: 0 to 2 years, $96 to $130 per week, 2 to 3 years, $86 to $115 per week, 3 to 5 years, $79 to $105 per week

CHRISTIAN HERITAGE MONTESSORI SCHOOL
Bluffton
(843) 757-7100
http://www.christianheritagebluffton.com/
Ages: 2 to 6 years
Tuition: Please contact the school for rates


CROSS EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER
Bluffton
(843) 706-2000
www.crossschools.org
Ages: 18 months to pre-Kindergarten
Tuition: 2 days per week, $300 per month
3 days per week, $420 per month
Full school days, $560 per month
(5 days per week from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Full time $600 per month
After school $260 per month
(5 days per week from 3-6 p.m.)


KIDS COLLEGE
Bluffton
(843) 953-9780
http://www.kidscollegellc.com/
Ages: 6 weeks to 5 years
Tuition: 6 weeks to 18 months, $140 per week
18 months to 5 years, $135 per week
Law enforcement and military families receive a 10% discount

LOWCOUNTRY DAY CHRISTIAN PRESCHOOL
Bluffton
(843) 815-2271
www.lowcountrydaypre@aol.com
Ages: 6 weeks to 5 years
Tuition: $145 per week

MAY RIVER MONTESSORI SCHOOL
Bluffton
(843) 757-2312
http://mayrivermontessori.com
Ages: 2 years to 5th grade
Tuition: Please contact the school for rates

ROSE’S DAY CARE CENTER
Bluffton
(843) 757-6528
Ages: 3 months to 5 years
Tuition: $105 per week


ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL PRESCHOOL
Hilton Head Island
(843) 681-8671
http://www.allsaints-hhi.org/parish/preschool.htm
Ages: 2 years to pre-kindergarten
Tuition: 2 years to pre-kindergarten, $590 per month**
Pre-Kindergarten $566 per month** **Rates are based on fulltime attendance. Please contact the school for additional rate information based on number of days attended.


CHRIST LUTHERAN PRESCHOOL
Hilton Head Island
(843) 785-6570
http://www.clchhi.com
Ages: 2 to 4 years
Tuition: $2,000 to $6,340 annually
Options ranging from 2 mornings per week to full-time


FIRST PRESBYTERIAN DAY SCHOOL
Hilton Head Island
(843) 681-3695
http://www.fpchhhi.org/index.php?Page=serve&SubPage=dayschool
Tuition: Please contact the school for ages and rates


HILTON HEAD EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER
Beaufort County Schools
Hilton Head Island
(843) 689-0400
http://hec.beaufort.k12.sc.us
Ages: Pre-kindergarten
Tuition: Free

PROVIDENCE CHILDREN’S CENTER
Hilton Head Island
(843) 842-5944
http://www.causegodjoy.com/childrenscenter
Ages: 8 weeks to pre-kindergarten
Tuition: Please contact the school for rates

SEA PINES MONTESSORI
Hilton Head Island
(843) 785-2534
http://spma.com/
Ages: 18 months to 6 years
Tuition: $5,950.00 to $8,190.00 annually

ST. LUKE’S PRESCHOOL
Hilton Head Island
(843) 842-8650
http://www.stlukeshhi.org/stlukespreschool
Tuition: Please contact the school for ages and rates

TODDLER UNIVERSITY LEARNING CENTER
Hilton Head Island
(843) 689-5558
http://www.toddleruniversitylearningcenter.net/
Ages: 6 weeks to 5 years
Tuition: 6 weeks to 2 years, $130 per week
2 years to 5 years, $120 per week

Please contact schools to verify rates and any registration or additional fees as well as other optional programs.

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