I found a great list of preschools in Centurion, on an estate agent website. Find it here.
From that list, I made a list of 7 schools closest to where we live, and slowly but surely started phoning them. Most of them said I could pop in at any time, some of them gave me a specific time that suited them, so as to not interfere with kids nap times or specific activities.
I took Mia with me to each school. I wanted to show her the schools, and I wanted to really feel my instinct as well as her instinct and see her reaction to each school.
(Mia enjoyed viewing the schools, so much so that recently when we were in town and on our way home, she said, "aw, let's not go home, let's go look at another school!" Like it's just become something we "do", we "look at schools", LOL!)
I had a list of questions to ask each school. It looked something like this:
- School starting and ending time
- Yearly fees
- Extra activities offered
- How many kids in a class?
- How many teachers/assistants in a class?
- How many kids in the school?
- Meals provided or not?
- Security measures of school
- Method of discipline
- What does an average school day include?
- Procedure when kids are sick
- School holiday info
- What must child take with to school
Also, things I wanted to take note of silently, were the following:
- Is the school tidy, well-kept, and bright?
- Are the classrooms big enough, enough space for all the kids, does it display their artwork?
- Is the play area enclosed, does it look safe? Is there enough grass?
- Are the staff friendly towards us?
- Do the kids look happy?
- Does the school look secure and safe, no hazards around?
- How is Mia reacting to the school?
The first school we looked at was quite overwhelming, as it was a big school - but really nice, well-kept, pretty classrooms, and I liked that they had three separate play areas, one for the babies, one for the toddlers, and one for the pre-school kids. However, this school was quite expensive, as they only offered a full-day fee (I could collect her at lunch time - however still pay for full day...) It's a bilingual school too, which was a plus, but the price put me off. Marked as a 'maybe.'
The next school was a bit run-down - the manager who showed me around was boasting about how the school is more than 40 years old... But it looked it! The play area didn't look very safe to me either, lots of sandy slopes, and not enough grass, and rickety jungle gyms put me off. Scratched off my list!
Then saw another one that the moment I drove up to it, I knew I was wasting my time, but as the people were expecting me, I didn't turn around on the spot. Teeny tiny dark classrooms, no grassy area to play, and a huge veld all around the school. No thanks!!
Feeling a bit despondent, I stopped at an Afrikaans preschool and fell in love with it. Bright, roomy, grassy, friendly, happy. Bilingual classes. Only to be told they are full, they'll put me on a waiting list and contact me in November. Aw.
After that went to see an English school that came very highly recommended from some of my clients. I was a bit put off at the way it's located on the corner of a very busy road, but once inside, the school really impressed me. Beautiful classrooms, friendly teachers, happy kids. The owner told me, "we're not here to let the kids eat and sleep. We're here for them to learn!" in quite a strict tone, to which I replied, "well yes of course, that's what I want" - but left me wondering a bit as to how rigid the school is. Of course they must be learning, but also playing, eating and resting in between, I'm sure. Marked this one as a 'maybe'.
Then contacted a Montessori school, they emailed me their prospectus but I decided to not go see them.
The last school on my list, was one also recommended by a client who's daughter goes there. I knew by the sound of it I was going to like it. When we walked in there, it was love at first sight, for both me and Mia. It's a small school, only 24 kids in total, run from the owner's house, where she converted a whole area dedicated to the school. Bilingual school, bright, tidy, happy-looking kids. And best of all was Mia's reaction to this school! She hugged this teacher, held her hand, explored the school a bit while I stood talking, went off into the play area by herself - gosh, I just felt at peace there! More of a playschool set-up, than a rigid school set-up, I think it will suit Mia perfectly.
Unfortunately, this school also had a waiting list, and being such a small school, it really wasn't guaranteed that we would get a place. I told the owner that we absolutely loved her school and will be hoping and praying to get a spot.
For a few days I was wondering what we should do... Enrol her in one of the "maybe" schools, or wait to hear from the two nice schools' waiting list outcome?
Then, yesterday morning, the owner of the last school phoned. She had triplets that were enrolled, cancel their application, opening up three places - giving Mia the 3rd and last gap available! Oh my word, I was positively ecstatic, I think she could hear me jumping up and down in joy! I told her yes please of course, thank you, let me pay the deposit immediately, oh yay oh yippee!
The school is from 8h30 til 12h30. There's an option to choose how many days per week we want to go, will still decide this.
Mia will start in January. When I told her, she reacted to my tone of voice and also said, "yippee yay!" I will take Mia for a short while in December one morning, just to refresh her memory, and then we will be able to talk about it and prepare her for January.
I'm so relieved about this, it's quite a big thing I was stressing about! Love it when things work out for the best! Happy, happy, happy.
* * I decided to not mention any specific names of the schools. Obviously later I will talk about Mia's playgroup and its name, but for now decided to not mention them specifically, as everything above is my own personal opinion and not necessarily anybody else's.