So where to start?
- Ask around. You'll get an idea of the options in the neighborhood, what other parents have liked and disliked, and what tuition and wait lists might be like in your area.
- Talk to Kindergarten teachers to find schools that are sending happy, well-prepared kids into their class. Teachers know teachers and can give you information you won't get anywhere else.
- The National Association for the Education of Young Children has a searchable database of accredited preschool and child care options. They also provide basic guidelines about what you might look for when visiting preschools. This doesn't include all preschools in the area, or even all of the good ones since accreditation is voluntary.
- Parent Hacks posted last week about Savvy Source, an online database of preschools by area. It seems to be early days, but it looks like a good place to start looking and getting basic information about options in your area.
- Great Schools is a site that focuses primarily on rating elementary, middle, and high schools, but they also have a lot of preschools listed in their database. You can search by area and (best of all) read reviews written by other parents.
- Check the yellow pages (do they still print those?). If you're interested in a specific philosophy (e.g. Montessori, Religious, Waldorf, language-immersion) it's an simple way to build a list of options in your area.
- Finally, check with your school district. Many elementary schools offer ECE (early childhood education) classes for kids as young as three, and depending on where you live you may be able to choose one in a school that is not your local elementary or that offers special services like foreign language-immersion).