Navigating the Preschool Search in Chicago




Finding, applying and getting into preschool in Chicago is a daunting task.  Read here for tips on navigating this difficult process from guest blogger Laura Gradman, owner of Chicago Preschool Pro.

Before you start looking for a preschool:

  • Think about your child. What type of school environment do you think he/she needs? Consider class sizes, philosophy of education, student: teacher ratio and physical environment.
  • What are your needs as a family? Consider work schedules, other children, and logistical requirements. Remember, you will be traveling this route up to 5 days/week.
  • What are your goals for your child’s preschool education? How do you assess Kindergarten readiness?
  • Determine whether you are considering public schools, private schools, or both.

When to start searching for a preschool:

  • Typically, the admissions process begins in the fall during the school year prior to the one you are applying for. For example, if you would like your child to begin school in September of 2015, you would start now.
  • Preschool programs can begin to accept children as early as 6 weeks or as late as 3 or 4 years. Do your research to decide at what age you will send your child to school.

Where to start looking for a preschool:

  • Join the conversation. Utilize online resources, friends, neighbors, moms in baby classes, school fairs/open houses and networks like Bump Club to learn your options.
  • Learn the lingo. To understand the philosophy behind each school, you must do your research to learn the meaning of terms like Montessori, play-based, Reggio Emilia, Constructivist, Progressive and Classical.
  • Do the legwork. Find out what the admissions process involves for each school you are interested in. Be mindful of dates and deadlines and stay organized.
  • Enter the physical space. Most schools require parents to take a tour of their facility as part of the application process. Even if the school you are looking at does not require you to do so, ask to go and see the school. The physical space is a very important part of the school experience.

When looking for a preschool, try not to do the following:

  • Limit yourself
  • Fall prey to parking lot talk
  • Choose a school for the wrong reasons
  • Underestimate yourself or your child

Next Steps:

  • Go to school websites and decide where you might apply.
  • Most processes begin with a school tour. Sign up or make note of when they are offered if no sign up is necessary.
  • If magnet cluster schools interest you, apply for a pin # between September 19-December 1.
  • Download/obtain applications and begin completing them.
  • Make note of other steps in the process and stay organized.

Laura Gradman is offering a free seminar on navigating the preschool process in Chicago on October 1st at 9:30 a.m. at North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Bucktown.  Click here for more details and to register.