How Do You Know When to Give a Pre-K the O.K.?

Researching children’s early education options is an important process new parents face. Decisions about schooling include paying attention to a particular family’s needs, individual learning styles and preferences, and access to available resources. Many parents feel pressure to find the “perfect” preschool or daycare program to nurture their young child’s mind. Children are capable of learning at a rapid rate during the early years of life. Educational experiences are maximized when parents, communities, and educators work together for the optimum development of young people.

Choices about schooling revolve around personal preferences as well as access to available resources. As a parent, it is important to follow your intuition about what might be best for your child. Also, consider factors such as the location of the school, zoning, special operating hours, and after-school care services that comply with family work schedules, as well as any additional community programs or locally subsidized childhood education programs in your area that you may be eligible for. Some examples of programs include Head start and The Child Welfare League of America.

If you have special requirements for your child, don’t’ be afraid to research by asking around your community for reviews. You can even contact local parent forums. The best way to advocate for education is to educate your self about what is available! Examples of federal organizations that provide resources to parents for children with disabilities or special health care requirements include Family Voices, The National Council on Disability (NCD) or the U.S. Department of Education (ED) website.

After you have identified programs available in your area, create an outline of what you are looking for. If you have a sense of what kind of education style would best benefit your child, reach out to your most valuable asset: your community. Some resources might include your pediatrician, community center, or other parents in the area. You can also use the internet to find out about potential problems within specific facilities. Many parents have social networking platforms where they are willing to share ideas and recommendations. Additionally, The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website provides insight into preschools based on zip codes and information about accreditation. Once you have narrowed your options, you should visit the institution and schedule meetings to glean the first impression as well as to meet the staff in person. Come with a list of questions! Priorities should always include cleanliness, safety, and children’s health and wellbeing.

In the Tampa Bay Area, there are multiple local programs and schools to choose from. The R’Club Child Care organization is a non-profit dedicated to providing early childhood learning programs. Their focus is on quality early learning and development for youth in and around Pinellas County. They believe in strengthening children and families, as well as a growing community. Their four foundational values include: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, and Responsiveness. They also host many local community events to boost family involvement and promote fun family activities!

The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County is another nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality early childhood development programming along with educational opportunities. Their vision is to have every child enter kindergarten equipped with the skills and the learning tools for success. Their mission is to transform early learning opportunities and to inspire children, prompting family involvement. They also aim to support educators in order to accomplish their goals. They provide an abundance of local resources, including childcare scholarships, access to VPK-Florida’s free voluntary Prekindergarten program for 4-year old’s, training and background screening for child care providers and developmental screenings for children (including visions and hearing). Additionally, through partnerships with local organizations and community partnerships, they serve as an excellent resource for families looking for referrals on childcare.

Lastly, PARC is a local institution which provides over 40 services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, via a “person-centered” approach that promotes an individual’s independence and encourages them to live and experience life to the fullest. They are dedicated to promoting new experiences, seeing to the accomplishment of individually strategized goals, and encouraging everyone to live a healthy quality of life. At PARC, children and their families receive early intervention services from an interdisciplinary team including teachers, social workers, nurses, behavior analysts, and therapists. Service availability range includes provisions on the PARC campus, at a child’s home or even in the desired environment chosen by the family. PARC also runs Discovery Learning Center, which serves as is a local hub for learning opportunities, therapy, music, art, school readiness and a multitude of other programs. Children’s services are led by instructors with verified credentials, and host instruction in classrooms designed to offer infants through pre-kindergarten age a unique, state of the art experiences promoting the necessary skills to successfully enter school. Each child works within their individual plan and goals established by family and staff. Early Intervention, VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten), Head Start, Family Respite, Family Focus, and Behavioral Support services are provided for over 140 children annually.

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This article was researched and made possible by Alexandra Valdes as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:

https://motherhoodfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/usf_interns_2019.pdf