Wouldn't life be so simple if we could type in to Google "Best preschool in Oakland" and it would reveal the dream preschool that fits around our schedules, has modest tuition fees, and a fun place for our kids to be? Of course! Unfortunately for all us parents, that's not the case. The reality is, you have to sift through referrals from friends and colleagues, eavesdrop on strangers, look at various school sites, spot a school on your commute, and then physically go to the selected contenders to vet out their good reputation.
Having gone through this pain a few times, I thought I should share some wisdom with Oakland parents. I've packed this page with links to external sites and our own to help expand on the points I've made on finding a preschool in the East Bay.
First off, you need to understand that not every parent is the same and neither is every preschool so be aware that:
- Children learn differently and strive in different environments
- Parents are unique in what they see as "quality preschool" and have varied expectations
- Preschools have different philosophies, communication styles, curriculum and classroom set-up
Step 1: The List
Compile a shortlist of preschool referrals from friends and colleagues. Typically they are offering these suggestions based on their own positive experience or someone they know has raved about the preschool.
Preferably, don't stick your list to your kid
If you find that you have more than 10 on your list, number them in priority order (the order may change in step 2!).
No referrals to pull together? No problem, search engines are a good place to begin and you can check out sites like Care.com
Step 2: Do Your Background Research
By now you should have a shortlist of preschools in Oakland that you would like to research. Now you need to take a look at their website, social media posts, and parent reviews for a sense of their teaching philosophy, schedules, tuition, teacher to child ratios, and photos of their preschool space. With technology being part of everyday life, a preschool should be participating in the technology space, making it quick for you to learn who they are and what they can do for you. They may even have some videos for you to check out.
Google and Yelp reviews can be helpful as well but take them with a pinch of salt. Schools with five stars are tempting, but who gets it right 100% of the time?
Look at those preschools of course, but also look at preschools that have a disgruntled parent to see if and how the preschool responds. You learn from bad reviews. Be aware, a bad review does not always mean the school is not good; it could be that particular school was not a fit for the family.
Contact Child Care Licensing to verify they're licensed by the state. This agency does periodic surprise visits to ensure children are safe and the school is in compliance.
Step 3: The Visit
Now that you've confirmed a few things and narrowed down your list, call the schools and ask a few preliminary questions. Once you've determined this school is worth going to, you can set-up a time to visit.
Schools have different philosophies around when prospective parents can come into their school, but don't be turned off by this. It's for the safety of the children and sanity of the staff. They also want to be able to give you full attention.
For a preschool to be the best in Oakland, it must meet the needs of YOUR family. Use the tips provided and you will be well on your way to finding your diamond in the rough.
Book a tour of the Kids Konnect preschool in Oakland and use it as a starting point - you never know, you may love us!
Have additional tips to share when looking for the best preschool? Let us know!