Whether you've just moved to McLean with a kindergartener or your little one is getting ready for a kindergarten program, choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you'll make. Since there are so many schools in and around McLean, VA, the search can seem overwhelming at times. The key to finding the right school is to stay focused on your child's needs and what you're hoping he or she will get out of their education.
Evaluating a Kindergarten Program's Class Size
For many parents, class size is one of the most important factors in choosing a school. If there are fewer children in your child's class, there are more opportunities for your child to get one-on-one attention from the teacher.
This is important if your child is struggling AND if your child is flourishing in certain subjects. With a smaller class size, the teacher is better able to differentiate for each individual student. In general, private schools tend to have smaller class sizes than public schools, but this isn't always the case. Ask the school about class size as part of your evaluation.
Evaluating a Kindergarten Program's Philosophy
Long ago, teachers lectured and students learned by rote memorization. While this type of teaching is still present today, you'll also find a lot more variety. Though public elementary schools and some college prep schools might still have a reputation for following this model, many teachers at these schools incorporate other styles, such as group work and project-based learning. In most cases, though, the teacher leads the class.
Other philosophies, such as the Montessori or Waldorf methods, focus on the children. Children learn better when they're motivated by their own interests. They learn how to prioritize and achieve their educational objectives, and they get a sense of ownership over the process. They become lifelong learners and carry these lessons on to their next educational experience.
Deciding which philosophy you want in a kindergarten program is one of the most important steps. You should take time to research all the options in your area and develop a full understanding of what their individual education philosophies entail.
Evaluating a Kindergarten Program Day-to-Day Experience
Parents should also strive to understand their child's day will look like. This can help you determine whether or not it's the type of environment your child will thrive in. After all, you know your child best.
Many traditional schools, whether they're public or private, have a highly structured day focused on meeting certain educational goals. For instance, students might start the day with "circle time" or "morning meeting," then move on to 45 minutes of literacy stations, followed by a 30-minute math lesson, then recess and lunch. These schools typically group students by age or ability level.
In a Montessori program, on the other hand, students have a large chunk of time where they can select their own materials for learning. They might work on "practical life" skills, such as cleaning tables or preparing a snack, or learn mathematical concepts with beads, or literacy concepts with a movable alphabet. Classes are mixed-age, which means that students are both able to learn from older students and reinforce their knowledge by teaching younger students.
Evaluating a Kindergarten Program's Approach to Discipline
School shouldn't be all about academics. It's also able learning how to be a good member of society. Ask what the school does to teach children how to deal with conflict. Is there a formal curriculum that the school uses for social-emotional growth, or does the school simply make use of problems that arise as learning opportunities? What happens to children who break the rules? Does the school use positive discipline techniques to encourage good behavior?
Different techniques work well with different types of children, and you want to be sure that the school you choose uses a method that fits your child's personality.
Evaluating 'The Feel' of a Kindergarten Program
Ultimately, almost all schools look good on paper. The real way to select the best school for your child is to visit a few different schools to get a sense for the feel of the school. Schedule a tour and pay attention to how the teachers and administrators interact with the students. Look at the work hanging around the classrooms to see if these are projects that your child will enjoy. Picture your child in this school and think about whether it's a place where your child will thrive. This is probably the best way to choose a school for your child.
At the Brooksfield School, we follow the Montessori philosophy and have a strong focus on incorporating the arts into everything we do. We also emphasize mindfulness in what we do, encouraging the students to think carefully about what they're doing in a given moment and why they are doing it. Contact us to set up an appointment to tour our school and see what we're all about.