Private Preschool Selection Process: Where to Start

Written by: Donna Bracey

Not long after bringing home your new bundle of joy, friends and relatives start asking where you are going to send the little one to preschool.  The process of selecting a school can seem overwhelming for parents.  When considering private preschool options in the city of Chicago, there are many to choose from.  So where do you begin?  The first step is to educate yourself on the available options.  While there are a range of different types of preschool providers, there are a few basic categories of curriculum and or philosophies that guide them.  Some of the more common categories of preschools are Play Based, Montessori, Waldorf and Parent Co-op.

Play Based

Play based preschools are considered to be the most popular. The philosophy behind these types of preschools is that young children learn best through play based activities. Most play based programs offer structured activities as well as non-structured play times. Teachers help to facilitate learning through play and interaction with other children. Gaining social skills is also a focus of these programs. Play based advocates believe that the child’s development, in this environment, helps the child to be ready for primary school.

Montessori Based

Montessori schools have been around for over one hundred years and the first school of this nature was founded by Dr. Maria   Montessori in Italy. The Montessori philosophy focuses on children learning at their own level and pace. Each child is respected as an individual with their own choices. Classes at Montessori schools are usually mixed in terms of ages. Children are encouraged to be independent and to engage in tasks that relate to real life. Independence, self esteem, and self discipline are thought to be outcomes of this type of teaching philosophy. Teachers are specially trained and each individual school, depending on the teachers, will have its own interpretation and style based on Montessori learning.


In a Waldorf preschool the emphasis is on the whole child. Teaching is geared toward developing the child’s sense of imagination as well as their creative thinking skills. Children are encouraged to explore their environment. Natural play is emphasized and usually only wooden toys are used. Many Waldrof schools will also spend time gardening, doing nature projects, preparing and working with wood. Teamwork is also emphasized.

Co-op or Parent Participation

 If you want to be directly involved in your child’s preschool experience, a co-op or parent participation nursery school may be a good fit. These types of preschools are usually play based and are maintained by the parents. Generally enrollment fees are lower than other schools, but parents do have to be quite active. Usually each parent will volunteer once a month to work in the classroom and then they also will have another administrative job. Fundraisers are also common in these types of preschool.

For more information on preschool selection visit PREP at Special thanks to PREP Chicago for their ongoing support of NPN's newly expanded School Choice programming.

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 2:04 PM