I am now the parent of three teenagers—14, 16 and 17 years old—yet it feels like just yesterday that my kids were cute, curious, impressionable, wide-eyed preschoolers with their whole academic and social lives in front of them. I remember the anxiety my husband and I felt about sending them off to kindergarten—a full day every day, away from our nurturing attention! We were excited about the prospect of enrolling them in “real school,” but also nervous about finding the right environment for them. Our kids were on the quiet side as preschoolers. They were observers, not leaders, and it took time and patience to draw them out. What type of environment would lend itself to providing academic rigor and the one-on-one nurturing attention that would enable them to thrive? For us, the answer was Jewish day school. Now, looking at the confident, articulate and responsible young adults they are becoming, we have no doubt that the academic and ethical foundation our children received in Jewish day school was the right choice for our family.

created at: 2014-01-02The move from preschool to kindergarten is a big one, and identifying the right fit for your child and your family takes time and thought. Deciding where to enroll your child requires investigating his or her unique needs, as well as thinking about what truly matters to you and your family. For some families, like mine, the private, independent school route is the best option.

The private, independent Jewish day schools in Greater Boston have much to offer entering kindergarteners and their families. The full-day small classes and individualized attention, as well as curricula steeped in tradition and ethics, are particularly appealing offerings. Throughout the fall and winter, the Jewish day schools invite prospective families to tour the schools and meet with members of the administration and faculty.

As part of the admission process, the Jewish day schools conduct kindergarten screenings for all prospective kindergarten students. All children develop at different paces and in different ways, and there are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes kindergarten readiness. Each school conducts these meetings using different methods. All schools, however, generally look to see that students are ready to meet the social, emotional and academic challenges inherent in a full-day kindergarten program. To make these assessments, screenings are often conducted in both small group settings, as well as in individual sessions. During these visits, prospective kindergarteners are encouraged to engage in projects and social activities to enable educators to help gauge their readiness.

As you begin to think about kindergarten for your child, take some time to consider Greater Boston’s Jewish day schools. These schools span many denominations, and each possesses distinctive characteristics, catering to a diverse set of students with different interests, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. The dual commitment to general and Jewish studies shared by all of our schools rigorously prepares students for the challenges ahead—in the classroom and in life.

If you are new to day schools, this is the perfect time to discover all they have to offer. CJP’s Discover Day School program provides eligible middle-tier income families up to $18,000 toward three years of day school tuition. CJP’s Discover Day School program is intended to encourage families to investigate whether day school is the right fit for them. See if you qualify at DiscoverDaySchool.org. For a helpful guide to kindergarten readiness, click here.

Nancy Kriegel is the assistant director of CJP’s Initiative for Day School Excellence. She works with Greater Boston’s 14 independent Jewish day schools on a variety of projects focusing on excellence, access, affordability and advocacy. For more information about the Discover Day School program or Greater Boston’s day schools, email Nancy at nancyk@cjp.org.