Monday, May 23, 2011

Finally getting my head out of the sand

So, first the plan was to send the kids to pre-school next year in Jan.

Our school year runs from Jan to Dec, very sensibly, I might add :)

This plan was all in my head and not based on anything factual or research *shudder*, but a lot more on gut feel.

Then I phoned two places and after getting back on my chair after falling off at the crazy prices, I decided we should keep them at home as long as possible.

After checking with Dr S, who also said 3 is a good age for twins, we are nearly convinced that this is the way to go.

I sent Nanny V on a two-day course in Dec last year so she'd be able to do activities and so on with the kids, and it's working beautifully.

It was taught by a childcare educator and is the best R1000 I ever spent.

They keep coming up with all these things and it's obviously V since we do almost nothing "educational" with them, except for speaking and reading.

Anyway, back to the schools.

I haven't actually visited any and I really need to get my act together.

Sharon wrote on her blog the other day about her process of elimination in the search for a nursery school.

How she had these questions, emailed them to a number of schools and then made a shortlist on those that responded.

Now here's the part I love about Sharon.

She is firm and no-nonsense when people don't respond.

I'm a bit of a softy and think, "what if they had internet problems? what if they're off sick?" etc etc

Because there is a school near us that is apparently brilliant. But they have not responded to TWO of my emails nor have returned a voice message.


So after Sharon's post I was thinking I need to stop being a wuss (courage and all that...) and just deal with this pre-school thing.

And then ... confirmation!

On Friday night D plonked a catalogue of sorts on my desk - the pre-and primary schools guide.

I now have 6 schools to write to/ phone.

So tell me...

what things should I ask them beyond the obvious ones?
  1. half day/ full day
  2. meals/ snacks
  3. how much
Money is a big consideration (because of the times two factor) and also, as you know, I like to live and not just survive :)

What are you considering as far as schools are concerned, and what was on your list?


  1. I also think 3 is a good age - twins have each other for company, so they are not lonely. It's also what we did.

    Look for a big playground with sun and shade, enthusiasm from the teachers and bright classrooms.

    Also teacher / pupil ration is important and the size of the school.Our boys are 12 in a class with a teacher and a partial help. That is a good ratio. A small school with 45 kids in total. (at the catholic church)

    The Princess is now in one of those traditional schools in prep for the main school where she will go to next year - they are 23 in the class with a teacher and a help - huge difference. At age 5 and 6 that is fine, at 3, not so! So ask about that.

    Also ask about the religion policy - both the schools our kids attend have a Christian basis and proclaim as such. I find it enrich and work in addition to your and the church's principles.

  2. Usually the half day and full day meals and snacks are the same. You can ask what type of foods they do offer for meals and snacks and what times it is offered.
    You can ask them what alternatives can they offer if your child have a food allergy and where they prepare the food and by whom.
    You can ask them if they can offer a better price because you have twins. Maybe 10% discount because it is two children.
    Also ask them if you can come and look at the nursery school. Things to look out for:
    Ask them to show you on what they sleep and where.
    Ask them to show you where the food is prepared and the person who do prepare it.
    Look at the toilets - is it small toilets for children or the big normal ones. It should be the small ones for children.
    Ask to see the playing grounds.
    Ask how they discipline children.

  3. I had a whole checklist of things to look at before I chose Nicola's second school (got badly burnt on the first one).

    Not sure what you're looking at but we pay R1880 per month for 11 months (no charge in December because they close on about the 10th), and I only have to provide Nicola, milk (as long as she's on it) and nappies - they even do the wet wipes, bum cream, sunblock and so on. She goes full day, 5 days a week - some people ease into it with half days and half weeks?

    Good's hard finding the one that you're happy with.

  4. Oh yes, and we get a 10% discount because they are two at the same school.

  5. I think I would ask about student-teacher ratio as well as curriculum.

    I, however, don't think I can do pre-school. I see it is an utter waste of money. I know I'd worry myself sick thinking about what they're learning and who they're learning it from. The change in rules and routines would drive me crazy.

    My name is Mandy, and I am a control freak!

    I wouldn't mind providing everything my child needed (diapers, food, supplies) if the places was thoroughly clean, had a good educational reputation, and could provide a clear guide of their practices and policies. Especially their discipline methods.

  6. Our little one went at 2 - and I wish we could have waited. It was hard for him, though, to leave us each morning - so he cried bloody murder every morning for about two weeks. Be prepared, no matter the age :)
    Our big concerns, beyond the obvious:
    - were consistency of the teacher (some of our schools rotate teachers through the classrooms, so kids are not with the same person every day! Ick!)
    - potty training goals and experience
    - the ability to have a teacher conference
    - teachers following the developmental guidelines for each student and reinforcing what they should be learning.

    This is super hard, choosing a daycare! Good luck!

  7. My oldest went to preschool at 3. My next one at 4. No one else has gone, just waited for kindergarten to start at 5.
    I figure as a stay at home mom, I can teach them that stuff myself.

  8. I would ask about SECURITY, who is allowed onto the property? What do they do about maintenance staff while the kids are there? How do they control who collects children, is there a system to get hold of you if they are concerned about who is collecting. What is the protocol for accidents / illness, are they fully trained - medically? What medication to they give, if any? What would they do if they needed to get your child to the hospital and couldnt get hold of you?
    Then there are the usual questions, how do you potty train the kids? What are the food rules (we aren't allowed to send sweets, sugar or nuts as its a nut free zone)? And I look for clean toilets, shade for the play area, how many staff they have, etc. I am a little anal (yes I will say the word as that is what I am) but these are my babies!

  9. I heard someone say recently to look at the artwork on the walls...if you just see scribbles on printed out worksheets, it's not as good a sign as mixed media, for example (like a painted bunny with a cotton ball tail). I thought that was a great point.

    I am so back-and-forth about a Mother's Day Out program when the girls are 2.5. I am pretty sold on the idea of preschool when they're 3.5...but there are so few "educational guidelines / regulations" at earlier ages. I am reading a book now about how critical the first three years are in so many respects, and I struggle thinking about turning any of that valuable time over to anyone else. I know a couple of hours a week wouldn't hurt them...I really think it would help...but I'm having a really hard time wrapping my head around it.

  10. I think 3 is a good age. I think that's what we're shooting for right now. I like knowing that there is a fun curriculum, outdoor activities, learning numbers and letters, writing their name and teachers that really seem to care about the kids. I loved where Phoebe was when she was little and to me it's the standard, but unfortunately it's a lot different as the old director is gone.

  11. Discipline


    Check what the routine is and ask if they provide a lesson plan for the themes which they are going to be covering for the week/term.
    If not, is it in a place where you can see it?

    Ask how they correspond with the parents. Do they write messages in a diary? Do they send notices home? Do they email?

    Check the condition of the toilets and where they sleep.

    Check the playground - if there is a sandpit, ask how often it gets cleaned etc.

    Ask them what their policy is on sick children, what do they do when the child gets a fever, do they administer medicines and if so, what controls are in place for this.

    Ask them about fundraising expectations – trust me, you don’t want to send your kids to a school where there is a fundraiser every 2nd week.

    Ask them about school outings. How often it happens and how they transport the kids.

    Ask them what they expect from you, the parent.

    Ask about teacher:learner ratios.

    Ask about the schools religious policy.


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