Picking a preschool: Search for an environment to match your child’s needs

May 2014 Posted in School
Rowen Mannion is animated about a craft project. Photo by Melissa Wagoner

Rowen Mannion is animated about a craft project. Photo by Melissa Wagoner

By Melissa Wagoner

Amber Holt is seeking recommendations from her friends on where to send her 2-year-old son Lucas to preschool.

“We are interested in the teacher we hear good things about,” Holt said. “We want it to be an open environment where he can come to his own conclusions and all kind of thoughts are welcome.”

Janie Lowrie doesn’t know what she is looking for in a school for her 2-year-old daughter Ella.

Lowrie wants the preschool to have some structure, but allow the children to be creative and use their imagination.

For parents, deciding whether to send their child to preschool and what preschool to choose can be a daunting task especially since the curriculum, hours of operation, children’s ages, class size and cost varies at each school.

Preschool is designed for children who are 3 and 4 years old.

Butte Creek Elementary School kindergarten teacher Rebecca Kuenzi estimates roughly two-thirds of her students attended preschool. She advises parents to select a preschool based on their child’s needs.

“While some preschool-aged children may love the challenge of learning ABCs and 123s, others may not be ready for that until kindergarten,” Kuenzi said.

“A great preschool is not necessarily one that pushes academics but rather one that focuses on developing the whole child. Developing social skills, fostering self-esteem, encouraging curiosity and intrinsic motivation – all of these are key components of a child’s pre-kindergarten year.”

What may surprise many parents is that, although not necessarily advertised, most preschools have a waiting list and accept children’s names long before age three.

Local preschools
offer many options


Bluebird Montessori
208 Jersey St.,
503-881-9593Bright Beginnings
219 South St.,

James Street Christian
437 James St.,

Park House Preschool
303 Coolidge St.,

707 McClaine St.,

Secret Garden
4501 Edison Road NE,

Silverton Christian
229 Eureka Ave.,

Sunshine Preschool
402 N. First St.,

Mount Angel
Littlest Angels
620 Spruce St.,

TLC Preschool
15534 E Marquam Rd. NE,

Providence Benedictine
Child Development Center
560 S Main St, Mt Angel

In fact, Lowrie has had Ella on the waiting list for a preschool for well over a year.

There are many preschools available in Silverton and Mount Angel, each offering different amenities.

Although not required by every preschool, making an appointment to observe in the classroom is one way to see whether the school will be a good fit for your child.

“I got to observe the weekly music class, which was a huge deal to me because Thomas loves music,” Laura Antonson said. Her son is in his first year at Sunshine Preschool in Silverton.

Researching the various preschool curriculums is also helpful.

Jessica Newton whose son Wyatt attends Bluebird Montessori in Silverton moved here during the summer and was unable to observe in the classroom.

“I knew about Bluebird because they had a professional and well-developed website,” Newton said. She was inspired by her research on the Montessori teaching method.

“It was all we believed in and just didn’t know it had a name,” Newton said.

A family’s scheduling needs is also a consideration.

Teri Therkelsen, the head teacher at Bluebird, suggests  parents consider what their child needs for physical support during the day.

“Rest, snacks, time spent outdoors and time to not be in a collective” are important considerations, Therkelsen said.

Chelsea Marsh is considering The Secret Garden in Silverton for her active son Tolson, 3.

Marsh has heard that The Secret Garden’s program is outdoor and science-based.

“He definitely needs that,” Marsh said.

It may be helpful to remember, if a school doesn’t meet your needs it is possible to switch.

Kelly Grassman started her daughter Haley, now 8, in a preschool that was popular amongst her friends and close to her house but after a year she switched to TLC in Mount Angel.

“The teaching style suited my kids’ personalities better,” Grassman said.

Wyatt Neal enjoys his outside time. Photo by Melissa Wagoner

Wyatt Neal enjoys his outside time. Photo by Melissa Wagoner

The expense of preschool is another consideration when doing a search. Many preschools offer programs to help.

The Head Start Preschool in Silverton offers programs for parents whose income falls within their guidelines while several other schools offer a cooperative option, which lowers tuition.

Sara Beyer, head teacher at Mount Angel’s Littlest Angels, a cooperative preschool, remembers when her own children attended the school.

“I liked the opportunity to volunteer my time there and be involved with my children’s education and observe their social and academic development,” Beyer said.

The cooperative aspect may not be feasible for all families.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to bring the cost down for school, plus it makes for an excellent student to adult ratio. However, I currently don’t participate in the co-op part of Thomas’ preschool because I’m usually trying to work during the time he is gone,” Antonson said.

The best way to find out what a preschool offers is to contact the school to schedule an observation and meeting with the teacher and decide for yourself if it is a good fit.

For more information, visit www.motherhoodplanning.com/area-preschools.

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