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Shopping for Preschools


By Jacqueline Mroz

When Amy Paterson and her husband started looking for preschools for their son, Jonah, they found the process pretty overwhelming. "I grew up here, but I was at a loss for where to start," says Paterson, 35, who lives with her family in Portland, Ore. "Eventually I starting asking my friends and family, and we found a great school for our son. But it was confusing."

Paterson isn't the only one bewildered by all the choices. Shopping for preschools for your little one for the first time is exciting, but it can be difficult to know which is the best choice. The first thing you should consider, says Amita Gupta, an associate professor of early childhood education at The City College of New York, is what kind of environment you are comfortable with.

Do you want the school's philosophy to fit in with your parenting style? If you practice attachment parenting at home, do you want your child to be nurtured in the same way at school? Do your children call your adult friends by their first names? Then a very traditional, highly structured school may not work for your preschooler, or for your whole family, for that matter. And you may not work for the school, either.

"There needs to be some harmony between the parenting and education philosophies, or there will be conflict for the child; it has to be consistent. You don't want the teachers saying, 'Oh no, you can't do this' about something you let your child do at home," says Gupta. "Why not choose a mutually supportive school? That's easier for the child, as well."

Here's what else you should look for when investigating preschool options:
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Pre-Schoolers, Children,

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