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We live in the age of the internet. Any time you sign your kid up for anything all, you should be first looking on the internet for clues about the school’s reputation. Do they have a website? If they do, check it out – what’s on it? Does it look professional?
If the website is the window to the program, how are they presenting themselves to the world? If they don’t have a website, does that tell you something about the way they choose to communicate? Take it all in.
Ask the moms.
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Being in contact with other moms is essential to our survival as a species – and I mean that both in the jokey way but also in an I’m-not- kidding-at- all way. None of us can do this on our own. Ask other moms (online or in person) what experiences they’ve had at this school, or that daycare, or with program you’re interested in. Ask for suggestions.
Pass by the school.
Walk, bike, or drive by the school. Do this in the morning, when people are going in.
Do it during the day, do it at pick up time. Notice what’s happening. Is there chaos? Trust your gut – do these adults look like they know what they’re doing? Would you be comfortable letting your kid loose here?
Tour the school.
Find a time when you can go to the school to tour it. When you’re touring, observe not just with your eyes, but with your instincts too. Hone in – remember your gut. Visually you’re looking for cleanliness, happy and engaged children, organization of toys and equipment, multiple adults paying attention to and/or moving around with children.
Allow yourself to be impressed or disappointed – especially if your expectation was to be impressed or disappointed. Remember that no school has rainbows shooting out of its roof, so don’t set your expectations impossibly high. On the flip side, if you feel uncomfortable with a place (even if everyone else says its wonderful) don’t choose that place. And if you do choose the wrong place, allow yourself the flexibility to switch.