How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery School


"The most useful tool out there for families about to embark on the search for a preschool!"
-Helen Cohen, director, Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, Boston

A must-have for parents of future preschoolers

Starting preschool is one of the biggest milestones in a child's life. With this comprehensive, step-by-step guide, you won't have to navigate the preschool process alone. Whether the nursery schools ...

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How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery School

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"The most useful tool out there for families about to embark on the search for a preschool!"
-Helen Cohen, director, Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, Boston

A must-have for parents of future preschoolers

Starting preschool is one of the biggest milestones in a child's life. With this comprehensive, step-by-step guide, you won't have to navigate the preschool process alone. Whether the nursery schools nearby enroll every child, or they're so competitive that they only accept a few applicants, this book has everything you need to know to choose and get into the right preschool for your child. You'll learn:

  • How to find high-quality preschools in your area
  • Insight into popular preschool programs (Montessori, Waldorf, play based, cooperative)
  • Key criteria to consider when choosing a preschool
  • Strategies for paying for preschool (financial aid, tax benefits)
  • How to help prepare your child for the first day of preschool
  • Advice for gaining admission into competitive programs, including getting off the waiting list, submitting a strong application, and preparing for a child assessment

"This well-organized, comprehensive book will help parents navigate the world of preschool."
-Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum, authors of Practical Wisdom for Parents: Raising Self-Confident Children in the Preschool Years and directors of the 92nd Street Y Nursery School, New York

"A gift to every parent starting the preschool search."
-Irene Byrne, MA, author of Preschools by the Bay and executive director of the Phoebe Hearst Preschool, San Francisco

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
""Wana offers practical advice on everything from researching and finding a school to the application process to-assuming the process is successful-preparing the child for the first day. A solid resource for parents of preschoolers."" - Booklist

""The subtitle of Jenifer Wana's preschool primer says it all: "The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery School." Type A moms everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief because How To Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child (Sourcebooks, $14.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781402242083) will save you loads of time navigating essays, interviews, applications and recommendation letters."" - BookPage

""How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery tells parents everything from criteria for choosing a preschool to preparing for admission interviews, as well as advice on applying to competitive preschools, including writing essays, soliciting recommendations and getting off the waiting list."" - Mom Most Traveled

""An invaluable resource for those that are entering the world of preschool"" - Preschool Playbook

""This is a wonderful resource for parents to help them start on this journey and process with their child."" - Plus Size Mommy

""Simple, sensible and sequential, the book is your one-stop shop for preschool time."" - Mom Writes

""I consider How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child the most comprehensive guidebook for parents looking to send their child to preschool."" - Ice Fairy's Treasure Chest

""This book is a great resource for any parent of a toddler getting ready to embark on the road to preschool."" - Katie Talks About

Library Journal - BookSmack!
Wana, director of brand marketing at Pottery Barn, survived the cutthroat preschool admissions process, having filled out numerous applications and attended fairs, seminars, and panel discussions. She even brought her son in for observation at play dates and wrote essays describing his strengths and challenges. Outlining an admissions process that would make even Harvard applicants scream, she presents sample thank you and recommendation letters, advises on accepting an admissions offer, and counsels on what to do when you're (gasp!) wait-listed. There are parts of the country where supply and demand make preschool attendance extremely competitive; for those areas or blackhawk moms and crazy people. Julianne J. Smith, "Parenting Short Takes", Booksmack!, 10/21/10
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402242083
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/10/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,307,740
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jenifer Wana conceived the idea for How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child after going through the process of researching and applying to preschools for her son and while doing a pro bono consulting project for GreatSchools, a nonprofit education organization that helps parents find and evaluate preschools and K—12 schools.

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Read an Excerpt

This is the book I wanted to read when I started looking for a preschool for my son, Josh. Unfortunately, it hadn't been written yet.

Like any parents, my husband and I wanted to find the best place for our son-a preschool that would nurture him, teach him, and be a good fit for our family. But I quickly learned that this would not be as easy as it seemed. I was over­whelmed by the options-when I was growing up, kids just went to the nursery school closest to home, if they went at all. I didn't know where to begin to find the best preschools in my neighborhood or what characteristics defined a high-quality program. Terms like Montessori, child centered, and co-op were foreign to me. School tours gave me a clearer picture of what each school was like, but I wasn't sure what I should be on the lookout for or what questions I should ask to see if it was the right place for us.

What I also discovered about the preschool process was that there is no process. Unlike college or graduate school, there are no standard time lines or admissions procedures that all nurs­ery schools follow-and very few resources to help parents navigate the process. So I went to preschool fairs, attended seminars and panel discussions, read books and articles, and had countless conversations with other parents who had been through the process. I pored over school websites and bro­chures, toured schools, and filled out endless applications. For a few programs, I brought Josh in to be observed at "playdates" and wrote essays describing his strengths and challenges.

In the end, we were fortunate, and Josh was accepted to our first-choice school-even though, as we learned later, there were over two hundred applications for thirty spots (most of which went to siblings of students already at the school).

After helping countless other parents navigate their pre­school search on the basis of my experience, my research, and the advice I'd received, I decided to pull all of the information together into a book to benefit other parents of soon-to-be preschoolers. I hope to demystify the process for those who don't have access to all the mommy lore from knowledgeable friends and family.

Whether the preschools in your town enroll every child that signs up or are so competitive that they can accept only a few applicants each year, this book will give you the tools you need to find, research, and choose the best programs for your child. You will learn about the different types of preschool philosophies and know how to put your best foot forward when applying to selective schools that can't admit every ap­plicant. This book will also give you practical advice on how to help your child prepare for his or her first preschool experi­ence and have a great first day.

Preschool is the first step in your child's educational journey. I hope that with this book as your guide, you'll be able to find the school that works best for your family, and you will start your child on a lifelong adventure of learning and discovery.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

Chapter 1 Preschool Primer 1

What Is Preschool? 3

Do I Have to Send My Child to Preschool? 5

What Are the Benefits of Preschool? 6

Is Private Preschool My Only Option? Is There Public Preschool? 8

Chapter 2 Getting Organized 13

It's Never Too Early 13

Preschool Search Time Line 15

Tips for Keeping Organized 19

Chapter 3 Choosing a Preschool: The Basics 21

Know Your Child and Your Family 22

At What Age Do I Want My Child to Start Preschool? 25

What's the Best Location? 28

What Schedule Works Best For Our Family? 30

How Much Can We Afford to Pay for Preschool? 33

Chapter 4 What to Look for in a Preschool 37

What Is the Classroom Like? 37

What Are the Teachers Like? 40

How Is the School Run? 42

What Is the Community Like? 47

Dedicated Preschool or Ongoing School? 48

What Does the Admissions Process Tell You? 51

What Are the School Policies? 55

What Matters Most? 60

Chapter 5 Types of Preschool Programs 63

Child Centered versus Teacher Directed 64

Play Based 65

Montessori 67

Reggio Emilia 70

Waldorf 72

Academic 74

Preschool Settings 75

How Much Does It Matter? 81

Chapter 6 Researching Preschools 83

How to Find Preschools 84

Narrowing Down Your List of Preschools 87

How Many Preschools Should You Apply To? 90

Chapter 7 Visiting Preschools 93

Deciding Which Preschools to Visit 94

Opportunities to Visit 95

Arranging the Visit 97

Preparing for Your Visit 99

During Your Visit 101

After Your Visit 113

Chapter 8 The Preschool Admissions Process 115

Open Enrollment 116

The Waiting List 117

Regular Admissions 121

Lottery System 123

How Do Preschools Decide Who Gets In? 124

Dos and Don'ts of Applying 128

Chapter 9 Submitting a Strong Application 131

General Information Section 131

Application Questions 132

Tips for Writing 134

Common Application Questions 135

Sample Essays 139

Recommendation Letters 140

Chapter 10 Child and Parent Interviews 143

Child Interviews 143

Parent Interviews 149

Chapter 11 Making the Final Decision 155

But We Still Haven't Heard 157

We've Been Wait-Listed-What Now? 157

Our Favorite Preschool Turned Us Down-What Now? 160

Our Child Didn't Get a Spot at Any Preschool-What are Our Options? 162

Accepting an Offer 163

Chapter 12 Paying for Preschool 165

Determine Your Budget 166

Keeping Preschool Costs Down 167

Financial Aid 169

Dependent-Care Flexible Spending Account 171

Child Care Tax Credit 173

Child Care Subsidies 175

Chapter 13 Preschool Readiness Skills 177

Social and Emotional Skills 178

Cognitive Skills 184

Physical Skills 187

Separating from Parents 188

Potty Training 189

Chapter 14 Countdown to the First Day of Preschool 193

During the Summer 193

Three to Four Weeks before Preschool Starts 195

One to Two Weeks before Preschool Starts 198

The Day before Preschool Starts 206

The First Day of Preschool 208

Chapter 15 Supporting Your Child Throughout Preschool 213

Be Patient-There's an Adjustment Period 213

Communicate with Your Child and the Teacher 217

Be an Involved Parent 221

Appendix 1 225

Appendix 2 229

Appendix 3 233

About the Author 239

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