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Meredith Downing is the Curriculum Lead at Wonderschool, where she supports directors to build high-quality programs that help students grow and succeed.
There are so many good reasons to create a preschool at home. Whether you’ve been providing more informal care in your home and are looking to level up, or have always had a dream of running your own preschool, this is an achievable dream for everyone. Here are tips for making sure your preschool program is super high quality!
A key defining characteristic of any day care, child care or preschool program is an environment that is designed to serve young children. Your little ones should be able to confidently and independently move through your space. In practice this means a variety of materials for kids to self-serve, materials that stimulate all aspects of child development (fine motor, gross motor, language, sensory, pre-math, pre-literacy, social-emotional, scientific thinking, etc), and choice in how they spend their time. You can find examples of some in-home environments here.
Children thrive with routine, and at the same time, they also require flexibility. Your day should have predictable structure, while still allowing for the necessary accommodations your little ones require. If you have infants your day will largely be based on their own individual schedules. If you have toddlers and older, you’ll be able to decide on a routine that works for everyone. The goal is to develop a rhythm of the day that feels seamless and comfortable, and that you feel confident changing it over time as your children develop and grow.
Assessment is a critical part of any educator’s toolkit, and when working with young children, observation and assessment go hand in hand. The process of observation and assessment is how you better understand the children in their program– what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, whether or not they are on track developmentally. Observation and assessment also aids your lesson planning process because it allows you to ask yourself, “What are my kids interested in?” and “What areas do they need support to develop?”
Parents want their preschool teachers to be a partner in their child’s development. They see you as a resource and expert. Establish open communication with parents from the start. This will allow you to build a strong relationship, paving the way for any challenging conversations that may arise. Practice strong daily communication, and consider scheduling annual or biannual parent-teacher conferences to allow for more in-depth conversations to happen.
School Readiness means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and your view of school readiness is going to be grounded in your own personal pedagogy. Whether you’re caring for infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, you are contributing to a child’s school readiness. And the better you are able to speak to what school readiness means and how your program supports it, the more likely your parents will be to keep their children enrolled.
Being an educator is a long, challenging, and rewarding journey. Your growth and learning are never done. So whether you enroll in courses in your local community college, attend conferences, or find interesting webinars related to child development, the point is to stay engaged with your own learning, and stay on top of your profession as a brain builder, child educator, and child nurturer.
Early childhood education is one of the most important professions. It allows parents to go to work, and it prepares children to be successful in school. Turning your home into a preschool takes some special attention, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard. By focusing on what makes a program high quality, you can ensure your preschool program is successful, safe, and nurturing.