North Shore Views
One of the things that attracts people to the North Shore is its excellent schools. Usually when we talk about schools we are referring to elementary through high school. But if you have very young children, the more immediate concern is finding the right preschool. There are many outstanding ones on the North Shore to choose from. So many, in fact, that it can be daunting to try and select the right one.
I’ve compiled a list of some of the best preschools on the North Shore, organized by location. See the links at the bottom of the post information about preschools in each community.
How to Choose a Preschool
At the end of the day, choosing a preschool boils down to which one is the right fit for you and your child across a number of different dimensions. Here are some of the things you should take into consideration:
Days/Hours of Program
Many preschools are for a half day only (or less) and may be 2,3,4 or 5 days a week. Typically the program is more days and/or more hours as children get older. If both parents work, you will want to explore full-day programs or preschools that offer extended care options.
Is the school accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)? Are the teachers trained in early childhood education? Do they know CPR and first aid? What is the student to teacher ratio? A good rule of thumb is one teacher to seven children for 2 and 3 year olds and one teacher to ten children for 4 and 5 year olds. Make sure to ask the director about teacher turnover, too. You don’t want a school that’s a revolving door.
Different schools follow different philosophies of education. Some are more play-based and others are more academic. The important thing is to choose a program that feels right to you and fits your child’s particular learning style and personality.
Secular or religious?
Some schools are totally secular and some have a religious component. However, don’t assume that all church-based schools have a religious curriculum. Usually this will be communicated on the school’s web site, but it is something you should get clarification about from the director, if this is important to you.
What to Look For When You Tour
Try to do three things when you visit a school: tour the facility, meet with the director and observe a class in session.
When touring, this is what you should see:
The indoor environment is clean, neat and well-organized. It should feel spacious, bright and inviting. The equipment and materials should be in good condition and age-appropriate. There should be an outdoor play area that is large enough for children to run and jump. There should be a variety of climbing structures, riding toys, balls and other play equipment.
Ask the director about the school’s philosophy, curriculum and daily schedule. Does it offer a good balance of child-directed play and teacher-led group activities? Do the children get to engage in a variety of activities every day? Is there outdoor play every day? How is discipline handled?
If you are able to observe a class, try to spend at least 20 minutes, but stay out of the way so that you don’t disrupt the class. Are the teachers’ interactions with the children positive, consistent and fair? Do they encourage critical thinking and problem solving? Are they patient with the children and sensitive to their different needs? Are the kids happy and enthusiastic about what they are doing? Is there enough variety in the curriculum to keep them actively engaged?
After you’ve done your research and spent some time at the school, you will have formed an overall impression about whether it’s a good fit for your child. Above all, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, then it’s probably not the best choice. You know your child and what he or she needs better than anyone, so go with your instincts.
Go to links below for information on preschools in each community:
- Winnetka Preschools
- Glencoe Preschools
- Kenilworth Preschools
- Wilmette Preschools
- Highland Park Preschools