Finding the perfect preschool can be as much about the parents as it is about their little ones. Officially, of course, this search is all about selecting the institution that will prepare your child for scholastic success in the years to come. But it’s also about finding the place where kids will be happy—and where moms and dads feel completely comfortable knowing their amazing toddlers can grow into thriving (if rambunctious) 5-year-olds.
After all, becoming a preschool parent doesn’t come naturally.
“Parents are busier than ever and don’t [always] get the support from each other like they used to,” says Elizabeth “Zibby” Andrews, Head of Preschool at Garrison Forest.
Busy yes, but also well-versed on the expectations of preschool. A good preschool class is supposed to socialize children, prime them for the wild and woolly days of kindergarten. The young ones will learn how to listen, to share, to give respect to people, master the alphabet, comprehend numbers and maybe, just maybe, do some independent reading.
She says creating a warm relationship between the teacher and the small student is vital and the rest will follow. It helps, she says, to have teachers who understand that learning happens not in the most obvious formal settings. “They are motivated when they are playing just as much as they are when adults have an agenda,” Andrews says.
Nancy Mugele, assistant head of the School for External Relations at Roland Park Country School, agrees that pre-schools need to be nimble enough to match a kid’s cognitive and emotional growth rate, noting that in the early years especially, little students blossom at different times.
“The structure of being in a classroom— even if it’s part of the day—we feel it fosters not just lifelong learning but a love of learning,” Mugele says.
At Brown Memorial Weekday School on North Charles Street, play and exploration are forces constantly at work on their knee-high students, when answers are not always readily available or sometimes there is strategically placed chaos where the kids have to come up with their own structure.
“We are not the dictators of their learning,” says Allison Bond, the school’s director. “We provide the environment for their learning, allowing the child to make the discoveries.”
The result is that children going through the right preschool program come out with resiliency—the ability to bounce back from obstacles, snafus and problems during the day. It’s the ability to realize that not every day is going to work out but you get another chance come the next morning. Perhaps most importantly, preschool also unleashes a natural curiosity that will serve children well for the rest of their lives.
Bond, who has adult children now, points out that one day, after 18 quick years, you’ll be leaving your child in the freshman dorm. But what should console you during that tearful ride home is that your child has gotten all the tools to deal with life on his or her own. She believes that all starts with preschool. —Charles Cohen
Beth El Preschool
8101 Park Heights Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21208
1427 Light St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
410-602-2245, [email protected]
Friends School of Baltimore
5114 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21210
Garrison Forest School
300 Garrison Forest Rd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117
410-559-3221, [email protected]/preschool
Goldsmith Early Childhood Education Center
8100 Stevenson Rd., Baltimore MD 21208
JCC Early Childhood Education Centers
Stoller ECE – 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave.
Owings Mills, MD 21117
410-559-3554, [email protected]
Meyerhoff ECE – 5700 Park Heights Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21215
410-500-5936, [email protected]
Roland Park Country School
5204 Roland Ave., Baltimore, MD 21210
Kitty Davis, Director of the Preschool
410-323-5500, [email protected]
St. Paul’s Plus
11232 Falls Rd., Brooklandville, MD 21022
Waldorf School of Baltimore
4801 Tamarind Rd., Baltimore, MD 21209