As August gets into full swing, many of us are thinking ahead to school and preschool in Vancouver. To help you out, we’re sharing this article by Daniela Ginta.
Have you heard of preschool lineups? Whether you camp overnight or join the lineup in the wee morning hours, you are there fresh and ready to register your child in a much coveted preschool. Yes, it happens, people do it. But is it worth it? It depends, and here’s why. While recommendations from friends are important when it comes to choosing the right preschool, there is more to look at before you make a decision: your child’s readiness to be in a school-like environment, his or her personality, the type of program, the time you or the other parent can put in. Here’s an overview of five kinds of preschool in Vancouver, each with its own approach to learning and playing.
Types of Preschool in Vancouver
- Parent-participation – As the name says, you’ll be part of it. Aside from being on call in the classroom once or twice a month, parents also volunteer with running the preschool. If your child is slightly apprehensive about being by herself in a new environment and you have the time for it, then parent-participation preschool is for you. You’ll find more details and a list of preschools at www.cpppreschools.bc.ca.
- Montessori – An interesting philosophy of learning, Montessori education encourages independence in learning and depending on the actual preschool, allows for solid blocks of uninterrupted play or work time. If you believe in learning by touching and discovering how things work hands-on and your child is comfortable for a longer period of time in a school-like environment, then a Montessori program might just be the thing. If you and your child are happy with the approach, Montessori education can continue all the way to high school. Read more about Montessori at www.montessorisocietycanada.org.
- Reggio Emilia – Reggio Emilia and Montessori both began in Italy. Like Montessori, Reggio can also continue beyond preschool and into elementary school and beyond. In its essence, it is about the teacher and adults learning from the children. They do this by observing and responding to the children, who they don’t see as empty vessels but as people who, from birth, are full of potential. In this approach the whole community gets involved, including parents, in supporting children, who learn by using all of their senses. You can find a good overview of Reggio Emilia at earlychildhood.educ.ubc.ca/community/research-practice-reggio-emilia.
- Waldorf – Another educational system that goes from preschool to high school, Waldorf education celebrates each child’s uniqueness and encourages them to have respect for natural life from very early on. If you want your child to be in a completely natural environment – no plastic toys – and be exposed to fine arts, then visit a Waldorf school and see how you both like it. For more information on both the philosophy and to find a Waldorf preschool in Vancouver, go to www.waldorf.ca.
- Play-based – At a play-based preschool in Vancouver your child will get lots of free play time and plenty of outdoors time. Play-based preschools are what first come to mind when you think preschool. Each school of this kind will have their own way of designing the program, so it is up to you to ask about details such as free play versus directed play, time spent outdoors, parental involvement and so on. If you have a very active and outgoing child, and you believe that children learn through play, this may be a good choice for your family.
By now you are probably ready to say there is no perfect preschool, and that’s true. Before you decide on one make sure you take your child for more than one visit. Also, ask about the way they deal with separation anxiety, since this is one of the biggest fears most parents face. Once you decide on a school, ask about what’s included in the tuition and whether they rely on local, organic and ideally unprocessed foods. As a bonus, many local preschools and schools have students tend to a small garden where they learn to grow food.
Cost-wise Waldorf preschools run the highest of all, with tuition varying from a little over $900 to a couple of thousand dollars a year, followed by Montessori, which could go up a few hundred a month or less, depending on each preschool. If money is a decisive issue, then your best choice would be either a parent-participation or a play-based preschool.
Bottom line: trust your gut instinct no matter how impressive the lineup. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember that there are no stupid questions, especially when it comes to choosing the right preschool in Vancouver.
Daniela Ginta, MSc lives and writes in Vancouver. Her two sons are her greatest inspiration and reason enough to do thorough school research when the time comes.