How To Choose The Right Preschool So You Don't F**k Your Kid Up For Life

by Dan Hon
Originally Published: 
preschool open house season kids

That’s right. It’s fucking preschool open house season.

If you’re a first-time parent, then you’re probably going through what my wife and I are going through right now: selecting the right fucking preschool for your child. I’m here to give you some advice.

First, you need to make a spreadsheet. No, not in Excel. What are you, some kind of early 20th century office drone? You’re doing it in Google fucking Sheets because you need to share it with your fucking partner.

When you’re choosing a preschool, you’re probably thinking: How the fuck do I choose a fucking preschool? Like, how are you going to know if this is the right preschool and that it’s not going to fuck up Zoe or Madelyn or Logan or Jacob? Or you’ve just given birth to Rey, and you’re already freaking the fuck out about the preschool she’s going to go to next year.

You might have thoughts like:

– What the fuck criteria should we use?

– Isn’t there an app for this?

– Can you even a/b test preschools?

The Atlantic write something about this?

– I have a motherfucking MBA from fucking Harvard and I’m a motherfucking growth hacker with fucking equity not just fucking bullshit underwater options , and now I’ve found out that none of my user acquisition and retention skills or ability to focus on OKRs mean shit when it comes to figuring out whether I should choose the Wild Sapling Fucking Waldorf Preschool over the Global Fucking Community Ni Hao Friends Preschool.

– Holy shit, we should make an app for this. I need to fucking tell Marc and Paul at secret venture fucking capital meeting tomorrow.

Whoop-de-fucking-doo, I just solved all of your problems for you because here are the 22 columns you need in your motherfucking Preschool Open House Ratings spreadsheet:

1. Name of Preschool

What, are you stupid? Of course you need a column for the name of the preschool. How did you even get this far in life?

2. Average Score

You’re a growth hacker; you figure this one out.

3. Safety

Okay, so you’re thinking about stuff like this: What’s the external situation like? Is the preschool near a busy road? What’s the neighborhood like? Are there enough black or brown people there? Are there enough white people there? What’s the average color of all the people who live there? Have you checked out the neighborhood crime statistics? Is it easy to get in and out of the building? Is it too easy to get in and out of the building? When the kids leave the building, do the instructors put masks on the kids so they can’t be identified by predators?

Next, think about the internal situation. You’re looking for signs to see if their safety preparation has been used in anger or if it’s just a “theoretical” safety situation. Do they have alarm systems? What kind? Is the firmware up-to-date? Can you monitor the preschool over the internet? Is it just using RTSP? Because you know that’s fucking insecure, right? Are they using good cameras, like Nest or Dropcam ones, or is it some shitty VTech thing? Look in their network closet: What’s their firewall situation like? How do they verify the identity of adults? Do they use two-factor authentication?

Ask the preschool administrator where they stand on encryption. Do they encrypt their preschoolers to keep them safe?

Creative commons photograph by Tom Carmony

Chinese hackers can break in and abduct kids from even the most secure preschool if they’re not encrypted. Not even the lifeguard in the back row can keep the unencrypted kids in this preschool safe.

4. Outdoor Play Environment

Is an outdoor play environment important to you, or do you think we’ll all be living in arcologies in 15 years anyway? Do the kids get to play in woods or just a yard? Is it even a yard, or is it just a fucking concrete patio? Are there natural play structures there, or is it just something that was ordered off the fucking internet and put together one weekend by a fucking TaskRabbit who doesn’t even know what a toddler looks like? This shit is important.

5. Languages

Languages are important if you want Harper to succeed in life. So, is the language teaching educational and didactic, or is it just exposure and immersion based? Do they spend just one hour on Mandarin, Swift, French or Python, or is it like three hours? Are there any native speakers? Do they expose kids to modern languages, or is it all shit like Latin, which is useless, or other old languages like Lisp, which will probably be useful later?

6. Music

Do they have a proper music program? Is it something like motherfucking “Music Together,” and you’re going to be listening to three years of fucking “Hello Everybody,” or are the teachers just making shit up? Can the teachers actually sing, or do they sing like drunk white college girls (okay, or guys) on spring break trying to do karaoke (give them three points) or drunk white mid-30s women (or men) trying to do karaoke (give them six points)?

Are there any musical instruments? Are they real ones or fake ones, like inflatable guitars? Is there a piano in there? Is it a fucking proper piano, like a grand piano, or is it just a shitty Melissa and Doug piano, or even worse, some plastic Fisher-Price piece of crap piano that hasn’t even been in a fucking Toy Story knockoff, straight-to-video short? What’s the violin-to-pupil ratio? Do they spend, like, just one hour doing music or more? Do musicians visit? Why the fuck are the musicians just visiting? Why the fuck don’t they live there? And, is it just Western music or does the preschool acknowledge that we live in a globalized economy and have a fucking sitar or an erhu? Can they even name just one fucking Bollywood YouTube channel?

7. Indoor Play Environment

This one’s really fucking important. You want to know :

– What are the toys like?

– What are they made of? Are they made of wood? Are they made of plastic? Do you want your kid to get fucking cancer? You know being BPA-free doesn’t actually matter, right? Are the toys compostable? Are they soy-based or corn-based?

– What the fuck is this, a toy vacuum cleaner? Is it bagless? Is it even fucking hypoallergenic?

– Are the toys branded? What brand? The right kind of brand or the wrong kind of brand?

– Are the toys gendered, not gendered, or too gendered? Are there any trans toys? Are the toys inappropriately gendered? Are they pansexual?

Also, are there too many toys? Because some fucker’s going to have to tidy those fuckers away (see No. 20 “Volunteering”).

If you see a plastic Fisher-Price Thomas The Train Trackmaster, get the fuck out of there. If it’s a wooden Brio Thomas, then you’re good.

8. Discipline Philosophy

Ask about their philosophy about discipline, because even though you tell everyone Piper’s super easy to get along with, we all know that she’s a right bitch sometimes when you’re trying to get her to put her toys away. So, is the school a RIE school? Are they, like, super authoritarian? Are they the biblical authoritarian kind or some other Abrahamic religion? Is their discipline stick-based or tree-hugging based? Will they just give every kid a fucking medal for just showing up?

9. Scheduling

Look, I know how it is. Sometimes you have to work unpredictable hours and you don’t know if Steve’s going to get off work in time to pick up Jasmyn. So, ask how flexible the preschool is. Are they, like, super flexible, or are they super rigid? How many days can you leave Jasmyn there just to get some peace of mind? Can you do half days? Do they do after-care?

If you do need to make a scheduling change, do they use Slack so you can easily contact the preschool and other parents? What’s their policy on third-party Slack integrations? Is there a bot that will automatically post to your preschool group’s channel when your kid does a shit? Do they even have a proper Slack team, or is it one of those shitty free ones where all the important messages will disappear?

If they use HipChat, just leave.

10. Class Composition

Some parents care about this more than others. YMMFV. Most parents care whether the preschool is mixed age or not. You might care if it’s mainly white. Or if it’s mainly cis/het/white. Or if it’s not cis/het/white enough. Or if there are enough kids who come from a working-class upbringing so Taylor knows what it’s like to know someone whose parents have a service job.

Here’s a tip: Ask if the other kids have passports. If they don’t, it’s a sign they don’t travel, and you may or may not want your kid to mix with those kinds of kids, or you may want to make sure your kid is exposed — in a controlled fucking environment — to the kinds of kids who will never have the chance to leave the country.

Creative Commons photograph by Michael Kappel

These preschoolers fucking chose to do ballet so they’re fucking doing ballet. Just look at those fucking cheery faces.

11. Activity Balance

No, Waldorf isn’t just a fucking salad. That’s why you’re reading this fucking article. You just remember reading some shit that Sara posted on Facebook about all those tech founders sending their kids to Waldorf and Montessori schools.

Ask these questions:

– Does the preschool know about the growth mindset? (10 points)

– Do they know about the growth mindset but apply it inaccurately? (0 points) – Are they group-led or individual-led? – Are they child-led or instructor-led?

Bring a small collection of Lego with you in your pocket, take them out, and ask them what you’re holding in your hand. If they call them “Legos,” then slowly close up your fist with the fucking Lego still inside, and then fucking punch them across the fucking nose and walk out the fucking door without even fucking closing it. You don’t want your child raised by those kinds of people.

12. Cost

This one is simple. Can you afford it? Is it low, OK, or too damn high? Most of the time you’ll want to choose a preschool that is just a little bit too expensive for you, because if you don’t, you’re a fucking disaster of a parent and you know everyone else is judging you. Do they take Venmo, Square or Apple Pay? (10 points for Apple Pay)

If the instructors even start mouthing the words “Pay” and “Pal,” go ahead and fucking punch them in the fucking throat and move on to the next fucking preschool. No one needs to deal with that shit.

13. Is This Preschool a Co-Op?

Here are some example scores for you:

– Full Socialist (the preschool shows sign of wear-and-tear, it is obvious nothing has been done to improve the building because nobody can agree on anything in the fucking committee meetings): 10 points

– 1970s/80s Britain (the preschool provides free milk and although the premises aren’t very shiny, everything is free, and there’s a good chance your kid could grow up to be a bit like David Bowie and the music is pretty good): 8 points

– Bernie Sanders Runs It (it costs lots of money, but you’ll still need to do a bunch of shit like make meals and scrub the carpet, but it will make you feel superior to other parents who’re just paying the help to do all that stuff): 6 points

– Mid 2010s Britain (you had to kill six other parents to get a place here, but it was easy because they were immigrants): 0 points

– Late Capitalist (it costs money that you can’t afford, but you know if you don’t pay you’re a failure, and anyway they take Amex and you can get miles on it, which you need because your company is cutting down on business travel and you’re probably not going to hit Elite again this year): 0 points

14. Do They Do Field Trips?

You want to know:

– Are the field trips really field trips, because if they’re just like going across the street to the motherfucking park then, no, they’re not fucking field trips and you’re going to look like an idiot when Jennifer asks you over dinner about Kylo’s last field trip.

– Do they take the kids out walking every day, or do they just drag them around in those weird fucking cart things or rope them together?

– Do they ever go to museums or galleries or the other kinds of things you read about in Facebook groups?

– Do the members of the PTA also sit on the boards of other prominent local cultural institutions and businesses, and can they arrange internships, summer jobs, and other such things for the kids?

Creative Commons photograph by Mike Mozart

That’s right. You’re going to ask them about motherfucking almond milk.

15. Crunchiness

It can be difficult to score crunchiness, so I’ll make this as easy as fucking possible:

– Are the meals organic? How organic? You know, just buying the food from fucking Whole Foods doesn’t mean it’s organic, right? Like, do you also have to be a member of a fucking CSA? Just one CSA? Is there a strict no-refined-sugar policy? How local is the honey? (7 points for on-premises, 0 points if they don’t even have a bee garden, 10 points if there is a regular bee petting program where the kids can kiss the bees)

– How important is conflict resolution? Are there at least 30 minutes set aside on the day’s activity wheel for talking about feelings? Do the kids just use words to talk about feelings, or is there a feelings chart, too?

– Is the building LEED 2009 Platinum certified? If it’s not, why the fuck did you even go inside? Are you fucking insane?

A good way to check crunchiness is to ask about their almond milk. (If they only have soy milk, then they’re not fucking crunchy enough. Jesus Christ, it’s not 2015.)

If, when talking about almond milk, they don’t know the difference between the different kinds of almond milk, then they’re fucking charlatans and you should burn the fucking place down.

Peer-reviewed studies show that pressed almond milk increases violent activity by 2 percent and reduces impulse control by 3 percent in toddlers, which is statistically fucking significant. Pressed almond milk is produced by literally fucking oppressing it out of the fucking almonds—why the fuck do you think it’s called pressed almond milk? (0 points for pressed almond milk and give them the fucking side-eye and sigh loudly for the rest of the open house)

Give 10 points for massaged almond milk, where light pressure is applied to the almonds through the fingertips over a period of hours to gently massage out the almond milk.

Creative Commons photograph by Kristin Sloan

Ask if it’s OK for Sydney from fucking Instacart to deliver a meal if you forget because you’ve got like a million other fucking things to do.

16. Meals

Do you have to provide meals? Give them 10 points if you don’t have to provide meals, because you’re fucking paying them to look after your kid. It’s not like you have time to make lunch as well. If you do have to provide meals, ask if it’s OK to use Amazon Prime Now or GrubHub or whatever to send something to Ruby and see if they judge you.

Remember to ask about allergies and whether or not there are any nuts, but don’t ask about almond nuts because everyone knows those ones are really healthy.

17. Experience and Impression of Instructors

There are two parts to this. The first is easy and is like doing a job interview. Just ask what experience the instructors actually have in, like, days, months or years, of being preschool instructors.

The second part is also like how you do a job interview: Do the instructors seem nice as people? Do you feel like they’re silently judging you? (Because they fucking shouldn’t be; you’re the one who’s fucking paying them, right?) Do you think they’re the kind of people who shout at kids? What’s your gut feel? Do you want to get coffee with them? Do you think they’d get coffee with you if your partner wasn’t around? Are they wearing a wedding ring? All that kind of stuff.

18. Age of Institution

0 points if the preschool is under 6-months-old, 3 points if it’s older than 5 years, 5 points if it’s older than 10 years, 10 points if it’s older than 100 years (if you’re in America), 10 points if it’s older than 650 years (if you’re in Europe). I’m pretty sure preschools don’t even exist in countries outside of America or Europe.

19. What Are the Other Parents Like?

Because, ugh, you’re going to have to spend time with them, so are they like too crunchy and have kids called “Sparrow” and “Feelings,” or are they like normal people you could have a drink with? Count the Teslas in the parking lot (you can assume that any Teslas in the parking lot belong to parents and not to instructors). If there aren’t any Teslas, then hope to motherfucking god there’s at least a Nissan fucking Leaf or a Volkswagen (but not the diesel kind; you don’t want to preschool with motherfucking cheating planet killers) in the parking lot. Otherwise, 0 points.

If any parents look like they might judge you for giving Cheerios to Saffron one morning because you just need a fucking break then, nope, the fuck out of there.

20. Volunteering

Yeah, even though you’re going to be paying a shit tonne of money (remember: you can put it on your Amex and get miles), you’re still going to have to volunteer. Ask them what they need: Help with marketing? A social media strategy? (0 points: Why the fuck do they need a fucking social media strategy in 2016? Offer to write them a bot instead.)

Do they need someone to do meal prep or someone who can play an instrument? What about product management? Sometimes preschools really lack product management capability; if they know you have product management experience, then before you know it, you’ll be managing an off-shore development team in Bangalore to fix their fucking mobile app.

21. But If We Ignored All Those Other Columns, Do We Just, Like, Have a Feeling About This One?

Use whatever you put in this column to ignore whatever is in the other columns, because it’s not like you actually know how to take a data-driven approach to this. Sometimes after an open house you’ll just want to say to your partner: “Yeah, John, I know about the almond milk situation, but I just really fucking like this preschool.”

If a preschool feels really up on themselves, though, like they’re just really fucking smug all the time and a bunch of sanctimonious judging shits, then by all means use this column to blow them back to the motherfucking Stone Age. You don’t want to deal with that shit every morning you drop off Grace.

This is the fucking preschool for precious fucking Hunter we’re talking about here. You haven’t even decided if you’re going to have another kid yet, so it’s not like you’re going to have a do-over if you fuck up. Y0u’re not going to let a fucking Google spreadsheet let you choose the wrong preschool just because you accidentally gave Integrated Nature Preschool a 7.6 score in “Safety,” are you? No, of course the fuck not.

22. Does Your Kid Like It?

Who the fuck cares? You’re doing this because you fucking love them and want them to have the best fucking preschool experience.

Now get the fuck up and go to those fucking preschool open houses.

(Note: The author hopes that no preschools will hold this against the author and his wife. They have a wonderful son and are hoping to enroll him in a really good preschool.)

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