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My daughter is going to be interviewing for private school kindergarten in the next few weeks. Can you tell me what to expect at these school visits?

It’s both easy and hard to generalize about these visits.  Most schools have a similar format.  They will gather the kids and parents in one place, then they invite the kids to line up and go with a teacher to visit a classroom.  Or they might do a slight variation on this theme.  You want your child to separate easily, so letting her know ahead of time that this is going to happen will help.  Sometimes when they arrive, all the name tags are laid out in one place and the child is invited to pick up her own name tag – they are looking to see if the child can read her own name.

Once in the classroom, there are usually several teachers there to observe the child.  They will often do a “day” of school condensed into one hour or so.  They might have circle-time and see how well the kids interact and cooperate.  They may read them a story and ask them questions about it.  They may have an art project – ask them to draw their family or themselves.  When they ask the child to draw family members or themselves, they are looking for stick figures with as much detail as possible.  Sometimes they’ll take kids away for a private testing session with a teacher – it’s usually short – maybe 15 – 20 minutes – just to see what skills the child has – this gives the school another way to compare applicants to each other.  Do they know letters, numbers, colors, can they write words, can they count, add and subtract – very basic.  The kids may have independent play while teachers observe them, see how they do on their own, how they get along with other kids, what activities they choose, that sort of thing.  They might have snack time.  Some schools give a little gift at the end (kids love that!).

The most important thing is to make sure that your child is well, rested, comfortable, and in a positive state about her visits.  Assure her ahead of time that she won’t be leaving her preschool for a long, long time, but that you want to look at big girl (or big boy) schools for when it is time for her to go to a big school like her brother or a family friend’s child did.  Tell her you want to know what she thinks about the classroom, the teacher, the activities.  Remind her that she’ll be doing things that are similar to what is done in her regular school every day.  She is good at that and she’ll be good at this, too!  Assure her that the teacher she meets will be nice just like her current teacher and that you’ll be waiting for her nearby.  Keep it as positive and fun for her as you can.  You can also call each school ahead of time to find out what will happen at the visits so you can better prepare her.  It helps children to know what to expect.

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