An informative briefing on private preschools. We'll provide information on early childhood education approaches from Montessori to Reggio Emilia, testing and assessments for preschool admission and advice on finding the right school for your child.
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Despite your best efforts, in depth interviews and hours of due diligence you begin to realize that the school which you thought was so perfect for your preschooler is in fact the wrong one. So, what do you do when things don't work out?
I have just been through this stressful situation with one of my grandchildren. (I won't mention which school or name names out of professional courtesy.) It was a gut-wrenching experience for my daughter and son-in-law just as it would be for any set of concerned parents.
The warning signs
The warning signs of a bad fit are simple to detect: your child is unhappy. She comes home from school in tears or frustrated or both. She doesn't look forward to going to school in the morning. The last thing any parent wants is a four year old who doesn't want to go to school.
Red flags by rvw, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  rvw 

You won't necessarily notice that something is wrong. There probably won't be a big blow up at school.  What's more likely to happen is a series of little events over a period of several weeks, perhaps even months. An isolated incident of unhappiness is nothing to be worried about. A
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You and I are going to take a quick look at the options available to us for educating our preschooler. The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. Tens of thousands of other parents are in the exact same situation you are in. You know that you have to find a safe, reliable, trustworthy preschool or child care center for your precious toddler. You are not quite sure how to assess and evaluate all the preschool and daycare options in your area. With these concerns and requirements on the table let's discuss how to proceed.
First, a factoid for you: 
"According to the 1995 U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), over thirty-six percent of families of preschoolers with working mothers primarily relied on child care in the home of a relative, family day care provider or other non relative. Almost twenty-six percent of families used organized child care facilities as their primary arrangement."   
Child Care Centers (Day cares): A widely available option
Decades ago when you had a child, mother stayed home and looked after the baby. Father went to work. In the 21st century that model seems so quaint. Also not viable. Most families need two or more incomes just to stay afloat these days. That's where daycare comes in. A good child care center will allow both parents to manage their busy schedules without too much worry.
How do child care centers work?
Most child care centers take infants from the age of six weeks.
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When our daughters went to preschool back in the '70s, we took them in for an interview and that was about it. The children were toilet-trained and pretty well socialized. But as I recall, there were no formal assessments of their cognitive skills and so on. As far as their mother and I were concerned, our daughters were gifted children. But we never had any formal assessment of our suspicions until the girls were much older.

That's all changed in the 21st century. Preschools want to know what your child knows and is capable of. At age 2 and 1/2. So, against that backdrop let's look at some of the more common ways preschools assess applicants. And, perhaps even more important from our point of view as parents, let's try to understand why such testing is necessary.

Common Assessment Tools

Otis-Lennon School Ability Test?, Eighth Edition
Commonly known as Olsat, this test is popular in New York City where it is a requirement for admission into programs for gifted children.

Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence™-Third Edition (WPPSI™-III)
At some point in the preschool admissions process or perhaps later, you will encounter the ouevre of David Wechsler. Dr. Wechsler was a psychologist perhaps most famous for his tests which measured IQ or Intelligence Quotient. He also developed the assessment test known as WISC. The latest versions of WISC are published by Pearson, one of the leaders in the
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If you live in New York City and are thinking about sending your child to pre-school, you know how competitive the situation is. At least with the desirable schools. There are simply dozens more applicants than there are available places. As a result there is a huge temptation for well-to-do parents who tend to be hyper-competitive anyway to take what they feel are necessary measures to prepare their three and four year olds for admissions testing. A cottage industry of consultants and tutors has sprung up in most cities to provide the support which these eager parents demand and are willing to pay for.

Admissions testing is simply one part of the admissions process.
Most New York independent schools use the ERB as one part of their admissions testing. The Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA) is important insofar as a low score will most likely preclude your child from further consideration. So, the question is whether or not to prep or not to prep your child for the test. Most schools take a dim view of that practice. Yet some parents feel that they have no other choice. As a result, Jenny Anderson reports in Private School Screening Test Loses Some Clout that several Manhattan schools are dropping or thinking about dropping the test altogether. The Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York gives parents this advice about ERB testing: "The ERB test for young children requires no preparation."

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Three early childhold education approaches enjoy great popularity in the United States and indeed throughout the world. They all had their origins in the teaching of European society's poorest, most disadvantaged children.  To understand the changes which Dr. Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner and Reggio Emilia founder, Loris Malaguzzi, wrought on the European educational system back at the beginning of the 20th century, we need to know how children were educated at that time. The prevailing methodology used drills and memorization. Children's minds were considered to be small versions of adult minds which needed to be expanded with knowledge. Rather than letting children explore and discover on their own, as we all know they are quite capable of doing, teachers filled their minds full of facts. Retention was achieved by drills and memorization. Teaching a child how to think was an ancillary objective if indeed it was an objective at all. Furthermore most children finished their classroom instruction at age 10 or 11.

Montessori, Steiner and Malaguzzi believed in the intrinsic abilities and capabilities of children. Their approaches, philosophies and methods had a single, common purpose: to produce a better society in which human beings would respect each other and live in harmony and peace.

In America these three educational approaches took root not in the poorest segments of society but in a middle and upper class eager to have something better than what was offered in the public school systems. Here is a comparison of the main
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