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Parenting 101

Preschool and Co-op Options in Indy

Choosing a quality program and when to start

December 01, 2011
It's never too early to start thinking about where your Toddler should go to Preschool. Some schools open registration next month, and popular programs will fill up fast. Choosing a quality program can have a lifelong impact on your child according to Mary Jane Eisenhauer, PhD, an assistant professor in early childhood education at Purdue University North Central.

"The benefits of preschool education are evident when we talk about high-quality programs: Children enter kindergarten with a positive attitude about school, children are able to self-regulate, children are poised and ready to leap into literacy and numeracy, children have a strong support system in place," Eisenhauer said.

Barbara Wolf, PhD, associate vice president of research and evaluation of family learning at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, added, "Preschool gives the child the opportunity to learn how to follow rules, function in a group, make gradually complex choices and follow a routine – all life-long skills."

Without quality preschool, Eisenhauer said, "For many children, especially those at-risk, the downside of not having access to a high quality program is the opportunities for learning that are lost."

With that in mind, we asked parents and preschool directors to give us the inside track on some Local preschools.

Debbye Dein of Carmel knew exactly what she was looking for when she started looking for a preschool program for her children, Charlie and Lyla. That's why she talked to friends and visited several schools to find the best fit.

"I was looking for an atmosphere that looked creative and nurturing. If a school's walls are covered with artwork that is clearly done by the children then I know that a school is child-centered, and that is where I want my child to be," she said. Dein chose Children's Circle Preschool of Second Presbyterian Church.

Cara Paul, director at Children's Circle Preschool, said preschool offers many benefits to children including one that's often overlooked – the opportunity to try new things. "Parents may be reluctant to have Play-Doh and paint out all the time, but they are always available at school. Children can really delve into topics and themes and learn more about the world around them."

At the preschool at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, 65 students have the opportunity to explore exhibits before the museum even opens its doors. They also interact with museum scientists. Wolf said, "We believe that children are inquisitive and explorers of the world around them. In this vein, we do not view children as empty vessels to be filled up with knowledge rather, they will show us their interests or we can introduce them to new interests."

Children are also exposed to all the preschool basics in the early education program at the Arthur M. Glick JCC. Children have the opportunity to explore the entire facility. Director, Erin Mills, said, "In addition to age-specific outdoor playgrounds, we have a children's garden, make use of two gymnasiums for playtime and gymnastics and offer swim lessons and play time in our specially-heated therapy pool. Not very many preschools offer swimming!"

For Joanna Ireland, she turned to family advice when choosing a preschool for her four children. Ireland lives near Irvington and took her mother-in-law's suggestion to check out the Downey Cooperative Preschool. Parents help run cooperative schools by taking jobs such as assisting in class, balancing the books and even maintenance. This keeps the tuition at cooperatives to about half the price of traditional preschools.

Ireland said, "After visiting Downey, I was hooked so I didn't look at other schools. You get to be a big part of your child's education."

Samantha Weinbrecht is president of the Indiana Council of Preschool Cooperatives. The non-profit group's mission is to maintain and promote standards for cooperative schools. Approximately 400 families in Indianapolis are enrolled in cooperative preschools. Weinbrecht said many parents like co-ops because they get to know the children and each other. Weinbrecht said, "This helps create a real family within each preschool."

So how old should your child be before starting school? It depends on whom you ask.

At the Starting Line preschool, most children start at age 2. Owner, Diane Atkins, said, "We strive to make sure your child starts on the right track for a lifelong love of learning."

Laura Del Carlo moved to Carmel in 2007 and searched for a program for her daughter, Chloe, to spend a few hours a week. Del Carlo said they fell in love with Starting Line, "After looking at Starting Line, I looked no further. It was exactly what I wanted – clean, organized, inviting, flexible and filled with caring teachers." Chloe is now 6 and attends Mohawk Trails, but her 4-year-old sister, Piper, is now at Starting Line.

Julie Bowman is the owner of the Primrose Schools at West Clay and Bridgewater. She said, "We believe that the younger the better. The earlier a child starts, the better educational foundation he or she will have. The child will also have less separation anxiety and will be more comfortable interacting with new friends because they have been exposed to more people at a younger age."

Tracy Tyndall of Carmel loves the school and sends her twins Avery and Delaney and son, Phillip, to the West Clay location. The twins started at Primrose before they turned 1.

"Their balanced learning curriculum factors in all aspects of learning development, character development and play. Each classroom is geared for the appropriate levels of development. The staff is wonderful from the owners, management and all teachers."

There are plenty of preschool options. It's just a matter of figuring out what works for you. The best choice is the school that makes you and your child feel most comfortable. So, start doing your research. Enrollment time is just around the corner.

Tags: In This Issue, Local, Parenting, Preschool, Toddler

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