There comes a time in every child’s life when he must start school. The question is: which school, though? With so many options (and half as many scary stories!), I knew it would not be an easy search. Luckily, I referred to this article by my friend, Bim. I also asked people on Twitter to make recommendations on schools in Lekki. Armed with a shortlist, I began making the rounds.
I didn’t really have selection criteria except for the fact that I wanted them to have an outdoor space and time for the kids to play outside. It was also important that I be able to drop my kid off before 7 am because my job starts at 7. However, as I went round I began to form a sense of what I liked and what was definitely a deal-breaker.
The first preschool I went to was actually the nursery section of a primary school that my husband wants our son to attend when he’s older. This school was clean, large, airy with a huge playground. I could drop my son off at 6.45am. The toddlers seemed happy. The drive to drop him off would take 5 minutes. I was satisfied and ready to end my search. (Because…lazy).
That impulse passed. I pushed ahead, visited the next preschool. Random fact: I followed its owner on Instagram a week before to get a sense of her personality. No red flags. Still, when I arrived, the generator was off and there was a little girl running around with a runny nose. The owner issued instructions to turn on the gen and had to tell one of the carers to wipe the girl’s nose. Red flag? She seemed competent. She explained in detail what the daily structure was like. Because it was a new school, their focus on each student was laser-sharp. Every week, she said, they assessed the students and drew up personalized learning plans for them for the following week. I was impressed by that. I asked what they did with medical emergencies. They took them to a nearby clinic they had a retainership with. Not bad.
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The 3rd preschool I visited was not on my list. However, their address was listed on Google as the address of a school I wanted to check out. Serendipity? Fate? Whatever it was, they helped me see what I definitely did NOT want in a preschool. As I filled out the visitor form, the school…car pulled up. Two adults and about 5 preschoolers disembarked. They were not wearing seat-belts or using car seats. Red flag. The driver was blasting “Bodak Yellow” on the radio. Red flag. One of the kids said she wanted to get her bag from the trunk of the car. One of the adults yelled at her to “leave the bag and go inside, my friend!”. RED FLAG. The adult smiled sweetly at me, however, and gave me the grand tour. In one of the school rooms, a male staff member was fast asleep, snoring. Lol.
The 4th preschool is a popular Montessori. I have friends and colleagues whose kids go there and I’ve only heard good things about it. It didn’t disappoint. I liked the minimalist decor and the “syllabus”. They invited my son for a 2-day “observation” period to see if he was a good fit for their Montessori philosophy and informed me that my husband and I will have to do an interview. Not bad. The only problem is that their gates open at 7 am. Sigh. I’d never been able to make it work on time. Imagine dropping a child off at 7 am and navigating out of Lekki Phase 1 at that time. I’d still have to meet traffic at the toll gate and navigate through the traffic lights on Ozumba. Nah. I’d get to work 7:45 at the earliest.
The last preschool on my list only got a visit because it was in the neighborhood of the 4th. I actually drove past it because it didn’t have a sign outside. It was rather plain looking from the outside but I was impressed by the inside. They had large, airy, brightly lit rooms with colorful Montessori materials. It was actually just the kind of place I’d visualized my son learning in. I liked that the head teacher said, “You should’ve come earlier so you can see the classes in action. We’re closing now.” It made it all seem transparent. I liked that the teacher of the class my son would be in was warm and eager to meet him. She gave me so much information, I think my eyes glazed over at some point. I didn’t like that the outdoor play area seemed small but I was assured that the kids only go out in batches. It would never be overcrowded.
In the end, I realized that I had unwittingly picked up a few standards on this search.
In this order;
- A safe, outdoor space to play in.
- Early drop-off.
- Kind, warm, engaged, competent teachers.
- Value for money.
- Small class size with a good teacher/student ratio.
- Proximity to home.
- The content of syllabus.
So which one did I pick? The 5th one! 🙂 My son has been there since January and he’s so eager to leave the house every morning. And really, his happiness is the only criterion that matters. I’m glad I picked a school he loves.