“A comprehensive guide.”—The New York Times
This guide, now in its sixth edition, is the accepted authority on nursery school options available to Manhattan parents, and includes a listing of other resources. It describes more than 150 nursery and daycare programs, detailing information on admissions procedures, diversity, school size, tuition, and schedules.
Victoria Goldman is often quoted in the media for her expertise in private education. She is the author of The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools, 5th Edition, as well as The Los Angeles Guide to Private Schools.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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About the Author
Victoria Goldman has had children in private schools and is often quoted for her expertise concerning private education. Her articles have appeared in New York Magazine and The New York Times. Victoria Goldman is co-author of the Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools and the author of the Los Angeles Guide to Private Schools.
Read an Excerpt
The Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools
By Victoria Goldman and Marcy Braun
SOHO PARENTS' PRESCHOOL PRIMER
Copyright © 2002 Soho Press, Inc..
All rights reserved.
What kinds of schools are there?
You have half a dozen and more from which to choose:
Montessori Developmental (developmental-interaction) Progressive (included in developmental) Traditional Eclectic (a term used to cover the programs that combine several approaches or are not concerned with defining themselves in terms of methodology) All-day or Day Care Center
There are also such institutions as the Budolf Steiner School, which have developed their own individual teaching approaches. Other schools are distinguished from their counterparts by strong affiliations with religious groups. So there is a lot to think about and a lot of answers to find. The first concerns are mercifully practicallike birthday cutoffs, tuitions and school hours, for instance.
School hours for young children going into the 2s are either from about 9 AM to noon or from 1 PM to 4 PM. Older children attend from 9 AM until about 3 PM. Bringing children to school earlier than 9 AM is possible at most schools (called early drop-off), and many offer extended hours for the youngest preschool grades whereby the normal three-hour school day may be expanded to perhaps five hours, but rarely more.
There are alternativesto the traditional nursery school hours. For working parents requiring child care during normal workday hours there are All-day or Day Care centers. These centers consider themselves preschools and are included in our listings. They take children from 8:30 AM to 5:30 or 6 PM.
For parents who do not want to be separated from very young children by sending them to school there are parent-toddler programs. These not only permit, but actually require the presence of a parent. Some programs allow caregivers or sitters as substitutes, but the idea is to provide a preschool-like setting for parents and children not yet ready for the separation inherent in any school experience.
By law, mandatory enrollment in school only begins at age 6 years. The sociocultural norms in Manhattan tend to hasten this process.
The Law and Preschools
All schools listed in this directory are licensed by the New York City Department of Health, Bureau of Day Care. Each school must be re-licensed every two years. Preschools caring for children under 2 are relicensed every year. Each facility is inspected at least twice a year.
Space. The legal requirement is 30 square feet per child. Every room in an all-day care center has an assigned maximum occupancy figure that specifies how many children may be in that room. The one variance is that all-day centers and nursery schools are allowed to enroll two children above the maximum allowance because daily attendance varies so greatly among preschoolers. Each classroom with children two years of age or older must have a minimum of one state-certified teacher.
Every classroom must have one teacher and one assistant for:
6 to 10 two-year olds 11 to 15 three-year-olds 13 to 20 four-year-olds 16 to 25 five-year-olds
Four other regulations you should know about:
All people working in schools or centers must be fingerprinted. School staff members are forbidden to administer any medications. All children under the age of 3 years are required to have a yearly physical examination within 30 days prior to attendance. Children age 4 years and older must have a medical exam within 90 days of starting school.
Each program must also receive approval from the city's Buildings and Fire departments and from the Public Health and Sanitation Department.
Many schools also voluntarily elect to be chartered by the State University of New York Board of Regents. Its standards are stringent for classroom size, location, and construction, eating, rest and sanitary facilities, equipment and outdoor play space, and fire and safety requirements. Classrooms must include activities centers for block-building, housekeeping play, water play, creative arts, painting, clay and collage, science and nature study, cooking, and music, as well as adequate books, pictures, puzzles, games, and small play objects. Outdoor equipment must include well-anchored climbing and dramatic play structures, plus wheel toys, tricycles, wagons, trucks, building equipment, ladders, sawhorses, and a storage shed.
The maximum number of infants in any one room is 6, the maximum number of toddlers is 10; 4s, 20; 5s, 22
Schools must show evidence of a consistent curriculum and education program adapted to the ages, interests, and needs of the children. The child must be afforded the opportunity to choose and become involved in the manipulation of various materials and objects, large motor play, discussions and games, literature, music, science, and field trips.
Schools must also show positive parent collaboration in the education of their children, including conferences, parent workshops, classes or lectures, and newsletters.
These are the standards.
What are the different pre-school grades?
Infants 6 month to 1 year Toddlers: 2s, 3s, and preschoolers 1 1/2 to 3 years 4s or preschoolers 4 years Kindergarteners, 5s and prefirsts 5 years
What is an "ongoing" school?
A nursery school or preschool traditionally goes from age 2 or 3 years to age 5 or 6 years when the child is about to enter kindergartenthe first rung of most ongoing schools. An elementary (or primary) school goes through the 8th grade; comprehensive schools go all the way through high school to the 12th grade. An ongoing school refers to either one.
You will also hear teachers and administrators use such terms as "old 2s" or "young 5s' in describing children, depending on the relationship of their birth month to the school year. These terms simply mean that a child who is, say 2.1 (two years, one month) to 2.5 (meaning two years and five months) is said to be a "young 2." A child who is from 2.6 (two years and six months) to 2.11 (two years and eleven months) in age would be considered an "old two." This same method of designating ages is used throughout the directory.
What is the first thing to look for in a nursery school?
The first consideration is practical: How far from home is it? Other basic questions come in quick succession:
Are the days and hours right for our needs? What are the age qualifications? When should we apply? Is this school in our price range? Must children be toilet trained by the time school starts?
The answers to many of these questions are given in the individual entries. Do keep in mind, however, that programs change and that tuition usually goes up by about 3-6% a year depending on the school.
And then, of course, there is the biggest item of all: What type of school is best for my child? To answer this question, you need to know what the various educational approaches are about.
Just what is a Montessori school?
It is a school based on precepts formulated by Maria Montessori, who in the early 1900s created a strict method for training young children. She held that intelligence is the ability to classify and impose order on the apparent chaos of life. That was, for her, the paramount quality to be developed. At its most faithful, a Montessori school is one in which the Montessori-designed didactic materials (e.g., frames with buttons to be buttoned, color tablets to be matched) are to be used only in ways that demonstrate their unique pedagogic characteristics. Creative extensions by the child may arise out of the original presentation but are to be faithful to the original intention regarding the material.
Montessori, a medical doctor working primarily with orphans, observed that young children have an innate desire to learn, and in particular, a desire to master real-life tasks and skills. To nurture that desire, she developed the "prepared environment," an orderly, secure setting in which children feel free to explore sequential materials designed to stimulate and challenge. Learning skills embedded in real-life experiences, she was convinced, inculcates a sense of genuine achievement that is crucial to children's ongoing development. Thus, in addition to traditional academic and cultural subjects, the Montessori nursery emphasizes the mastery of such skills as putting on a coat, wiping the table and preparing a snack, sweeping the floor, watering plants, putting away materials, etc.
The mood of the classroom tends to be purposeful and task-oriented. While the classroom materials are often beautifully arrayed, children's original artwork is rarely displayed on the walls or in the hallways of a strict Montessori school.
Mme. Montessori did not believe that children were able to socialize at very young ages. Consequently, her program, where strictly followed, does not encourage social interaction in the classroom except perhaps for lessons in getting along with others. Children must always put away what they are working onreturning their materials to the proper place before embarking on another projectand file the results when they are finished. They must put away their mats. They must not disturb the projects of other children without permission, nor should they interrupt them. When finished with a project, the children raise their hands and wait for the teacher to come and review it.
Socializing takes place during outdoor play, on field trips, and during lunch, but this is not part of the curriculum. Children gather in large groups for demonstrations of proper usage of work materials or to be shown nature experiments: seeds growing, colored inks being absorbed by a plant, and so forth.
There is no room for "make believe" in the curriculum. There is no art work. Nor is there dramatic play, although children are read stories and, obviously, can engage in play fantasies during their outdoor periods. Children work individually for the most part, occasionally in pairs or small groups, and their interaction must further the work. Each activity is graded according to difficulty and the children must use the materials in the prescribed sequence until they have mastered the particular skill involved and are able to move on to more difficult projects. The idea of each undertaking is to have the child gain a particular bit of knowledge or skill from, for example, a pie-shaped puzzle that demonstrates the relationship of fractions to the whole, or from a series of boxes that resonate with different tones.
Three major skill areas are defined and practiced. Practical life tasks: tieing shoelaces, wiping surfaces properly, pouring liquids, operating a zipper or button. Sensory: handling three-dimensional geometric shapes, arranging color cards by tone, fitting cylindrical blocks of varying sizes into their proper holes, judging wooden tablets of different weights. Language and math: handling rough-textured alphabet letters and learning their sounds, tracing shapes to perfect small muscle control for writing and the development of penmanship, and counting beads strung on long chains.
Beyond these, there are geography materials (interesting puzzle maps of the world, three dimensional dioramas), and science materials (natural objects, small animals, perhaps a garden patch).
Age groups are mixed in the classroom and older children teach younger ones the correct use of materials and also serve as role models. The mix can vary from school to school: at one Montessori school it is from age 2.0 to 6 years, for instance. Although other kinds of nursery schools also mix ages, the differential is usually two years at most.
"The respect for the child is absolute," said child psychiatrist Dr. Yehuda Nir when describing his daughter's Montessori school experience. It is a statement with which every Montessori teacher would agree. Children are seen as immensely responsible and capable, and fully able to learn at a rate of their own choosing from a wide variety of materials and projects designed to intrigue and challenge. The primary relationship is between child and environment, not between the child and his peers or the child and his teachers. Teachers remain in the background.
Separation from parents is expeditious. Children are brought to the school door and from there they are escorted to their classroom by staff members or by older classmates.
The degree of adherence to the Montessori method varies from school to school. One clue to the strictness is a school's affiliation with one or the other of two Montessori federations. The first is the Association Montessori Internationale, which was organized by Maria Montessori herself, succeeded by her son. This is the purist or orthodox group. A good example of a school adhering faithfully to the original principles is Resurrection Episcopal Day School.
The Montessori schools that are members of the American Montessori Society have modified the basic method. They will provide the child with the prescribed project materials and also open-ended play things with undefined applications: sand, water, clay, art materials, blocks. They also allow for the child's dramatic or fantasy play, and are more flexible about the separation process when a child first enters school. An excellent example of a modified use of Maria Montessori's tenets is the West Side Montessori School.
What is a "child centered" developmental-interaction approach?
Schools with a developmental approach follow a curriculum that adheres to what teaching professionals would refer to as the developmental-interaction method. (You may hear the term "The Child Development Method" or the expression "The Total Child Approach.") Progressive schools basically use the same methodology.
Developmental-interaction is a concept which revolutionized early childhood education when first introduced more than eighty-five years ago at about the same time Maria Montessori was developing her theories. The basic tenet is that the child has a need to explore, and then to express his or her discoveries through a variety of channels: imaginative play, discussion, art, and the deceptively simple but central activity of blockbuilding.
Play is seen as the child's work. It is the means by which the child re-creates and re-examines, again and again, everything they have experienced and observed. Play is considered purposeful, exceedingly important, and serious. Hence activities chosen by the child are treated as important explorations. The developmental approach emphasizes the inseparability of the child's emotional life from his or her intellectual and physical development.
The child's emotional and fantasy life is indeed, thought paramountthe key. Social interactions are of major importance in these schools. To learn to be aware of emotions, to identify and talk about them, to express needs and negotiate their resolution with classmates and faculty is considered vital. The idea is to encourage and facilitate interactions between the children. The teacher facilitates the forming of friendships.
Separation is seen as a part of the curriculum to which the teachers and parents devote a great deal of time, as all concerned learn and adjust to this new concept of going to school. Separation is approached as a major psychological and developmental milestone, a profound step in a child's life and not at all a minor, quick adjustment.
Developmental-interaction classrooms and progressive classrooms abound with what are called open-ended materialswater, sand, puzzles, fabrics, paint, clay, funnels, and lots of different size blocks. Children use the same materials at different ages in ever more elaborate ways. Free play time is generous, and even planned activities may sudden give way to the children's spontaneous interests. Rooms may be messy or noisy, teachers are addressed by their first names. Artwork tends to be varied, often beautiful, and sometimes rather more expressive than at other schools.
Excerpted from The Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools by Victoria Goldman and Marcy Braun. Copyright © 2002 by Soho Press, Inc.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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