For some parents, choosing a preschool or Kindergarten to start their child off on the right academic path can be just as stressful as helping their senior select the right college. Some parents start fretting just months after their baby is born. “We’ve had parents call [when their child] was six months to a year old,” says Nancy Blaylock, director of admissions at Briarcrest Christian School.
But you can relax. Registering a child for an independent school in Memphis is not that intense. If you’ve already received open house post cards and feel a bit overwhelmed, start by reading these tips from Nancy Blaylock and Laura Trott, director of admission at Lausanne Collegiate School.
When should new parents first attend an open house? BLAYLOCK: Parents need to start looking for preschools a year in advance and go to several open houses. For example, parents who want their child enrolled for the fall of 2014, should start visiting schools this fall. Pre-screening [of students] starts in November and continues until January. Contracts [that guarantee your child’s spot] start going out in February for the next school year.
TROTT: We find that most families take their time researching and visit a school multiple times before making a choice.
What is the purpose of an open house? TROTT: Open houses are a welcoming, comfortable time for parents and students to come explore our campus and learn more about the school and how it can benefit their family. Open houses are our opportuniity to share our programs, as well as our mission and core values. Our aim is to help prospective families discover whether or not [the school] is the right fit for their child.
What do new parents want to know? TROTT: Open houses give parents and students an opportunity to validate what they’ve heard about the school from friends and family, or through school websites and advertisements. Through an open house, they can explore multiple schools inconspicuously as well as get a stronger sense of how the academic program and community might benefit their children.
What should parents expect to learn?
TROTT: The parents and students should expect to see the facilities as well as to interact with teachers, administrators, and students. We try to have their [general] questions answered. Most schools will provide presentations of their programs either through demonstrations or tours. An open house should give you a really good overview of a school.
BLAYLOCK: We realize not everyone can get off work to attend an open house, so we have one in the morning, one at night, and one on Sunday. But the best time to attend is in the morning, so you can see students and teachers interact. In [preschool and kindergarten], you want to see more hands-on learning. Do not expect [the children] to be sitting still for a long period of time. Learning should be fun at this age.
How should parents make the most of an open house? BLAYLOCK: Come prepared; know what questions you want to ask. Always check out the school’s website first and request information. Watch and observe interaction between students and teachers.
What is the best way to follow up after an open house? TROTT: Most schools contact those families who visit. Schedule a tour for more one-on-one time [with teachers and administrators].
BLAYLOCK: Ask other parents who have a child at the school about their experience. Every school has different offerings. One school may fit one child but not another so parents need to look around and see what best fits their child. We tell [parents] they can come [for an open house or personal tour] as often as they like to get their questions answered. We know this is a very important personal decision.