Choosing a preschool is a big decision. So, how does one decide? Although there are huge differences between preschools, you can make an informed decision once you identify what is really important in a preschool.
You’ll likely want the preschool to be clean and safe—but that’s just the beginning. If you’re looking for an effective preschool, you’ll need one that:
- Is fun and fulfilling for your child
- Has caring and capable teachers
- Has a positive learning environment
- Has a proven, well-planned curriculum
How do you know if a preschool meets these criteria? The best way is by visiting the campus. There, you can ask questions in person and see for yourself how the school measures up.
Key Criteria to Look For
- Positive classroom engagement. Is the interaction between students—and between teachers and students—positive and stimulating? Look for confident students interacting with teachers as well as with other students.
- Clear program goals. Is there a structured environment and a thorough teaching plan in place for what students will learn throughout the year? Ask to see the day’s schedule, and ask when and why the preschool does what is does.
- Safe and well-maintained facilities. Have both the indoor learning and outdoor play spaces been purposefully designed? Look for cleanliness, excellent conditions, and play structures that are appropriate for your child.
- Samples of student work. Is it clear that students are learning, or are they just being kept busy? Are you impressed by the students’ activities, or is it more babysitting than preschool?
The Challenger Difference
When you visit a Challenger preschool, you’ll find that we meet all the key criteria. We welcome your desire to be a well-informed, discerning parent. To make the best decision for your child, we hope you’ll ask difficult questions like the following so we can demonstrate what makes Challenger stand out from the rest:
When should a child start preschool?
Children love to learn, and very young children are especially eager to learn to read and write. Challenger understands brain development, and we know that the first five years of a child’s life provide a crucial window of opportunity for establishing foundational language and numerical concepts. For those reasons, we encourage parents to start children early, and we welcome children into our programs as young as 2 years, 9 months (or 3 years old, in some states). Preschool is a good time for children to start learning how to interact with other people (not screens), and Challenger realizes the importance of giving children the opportunity to learn to play and cooperate with peers.
What do you teach students?
- Reading. Yes, preschoolers can learn to read. We use phonics to teach reading because it helps children learn the rules necessary to independently decode the English language. Learning to read with phonics is logical and helps avoid the massive game of guessing and memorizing words. We teach letters in a specific order so students can quickly read short words, and we help students pronounce letter sounds correctly from the start. For example: R says “ruh” not “er.” R says “ruh” as in rabbit not “er” as in erabbit.
- Math and science. Children love to understand their world. We teach numeric and scientific concepts in a specific, logical sequence to reinforce the notion that things should make sense. For example: we teach that numbers represent how many or how much of something. Before we can ask students which number is larger than another, they need to understand the concepts of more and less. Once students can explain why they prefer two scoops of ice cream instead of one, they are ready to learn how quantity relates to numbers; they are ready to understand that 2 is a larger number than 1.
- Logic and independent thinking. Children love to ask questions, and we encourage that! We teach students to question and use reason. When it’s time to pick up the toys, for example, we don’t motivate them to cooperate by citing a rule. Instead, we teach them why we pick up toys (so their favorite toys don’t get broken and so their friends and teachers don’t trip on the toys and hurt themselves). In time, students develop the ability to manage their bodies, stay on task, and delay gratification, valuable skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
- Motor skills and coordination. Challenger’s preschool curriculum encourages large motor development with activities that strengthen muscles and balance (like hopping, climbing, and dancing) and small motor skill development with activities like working with manipulatives (writing, drawing, cutting with scissors, assembling and disassembling creations) to build hand strength and improve dexterity.
- Basic art principles. Challenger teaches students skills that equip them to independently create original drawings and paintings. This is more than craft time, and students learn so much! For example: we help students see the basic shapes in objects and teach them how to put them together to draw their own objects. As students learn to combine simple shapes, we move to more advanced shapes, techniques, and art media and encourage them to be creative. See samples of the objective below:
- Responsibility. We know how capable three-year-olds are, and they appreciate having adults respect that fact! In principle, we do not do anything for a child that he can do himself so that he can build independence and self-ownership. Preschoolers are thrilled with responsibilities like putting their papers in their own bags in their own cubbies. Once the expectation is set and children realize that they can “do it myself,” they are empowered by the achievement and hungry for more!
- The joy of learning. Humor and fun are necessary components of effective learning. When students have fun while they are applying and learning new concepts, they develop real satisfaction and a love of learning. At Challenger, children have so much fun, they don’t even realize that they’re learning!
How do you teach the curriculum?
We know that in order to capture a child’s interest, teaching has to be intellectually stimulating, fun, and exciting. We use music to help subjects “come alive.” Additionally, we are committed to instruction that is logical and technically correct.
At Challenger School, our teachers master the techniques that keep learning enjoyable while providing worthwhile educational experiences for children. We design lessons that capitalize on students’ current interests and aptitudes, and we engage them with music and singing, rhythm and movement, games and dramas.
We also help preschoolers understand why the concepts they are learning matter. For example, once preschoolers learn the five letters that Challenger introduces first, they realize that they can read words! This excitement fuels their desire to learn even more. That is the power found in Challenger’s conceptual teaching methods, and it is far more effective than memorizing endless lists of letters that have no connections or integration to the students’ lives.
To keep children motivated, we stay on the edge of their abilities. The name Challenger was chosen carefully—we take students from where they are, challenge them with achievable steps, make it fun, and foster the joy of achievement.
How do you assess student progress?
At Challenger, we begin by evaluating what each student already knows. After the beginning-of-the-year survey, we follow up during the year and at the end of the year to communicate and demonstrate the measure of each student’s progress.
More importantly, teachers constantly evaluate student comprehension through their daily face-to-face, in-person classroom interactions and activities to ensure students are learning (a great advantage over on-screen instruction/evaluations).
Why Challenger School?
For over 50 years, Challenger has been a leader in effective preschool education. We have helped hundreds of thousands of children learn to read, think for themselves, and recognize their self-worth—all while developing confidence and a love for learning. Yes, Challenger preschool can do all that!
For parents who need child care during the workday, Challenger’s 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedule provides much more than day care. We provide an excellent academic foundation—a worthwhile investment— that combines fun, learning, and care.
Check out other preschools, and then stop by a Challenger campus near you. Bring your child and come during school hours so you can see the Challenger difference—the undeniable excitement, focus, fun, and achievement—for yourself.