How to Choose the Right School for Your Child

When Lisa Altenberg Hershaft and her husband Marc moved from the Milwaukee suburbs to Fairfax, Va., a few years ago, they needed to find a good preschool for their young son, Jordan, and his baby sister, Celia.

"I wanted to get them into a place that would have a good social setting so they'd be involved with other kids," Lisa recalls. "I also wanted a place that wasn't enormous, with teachers who weren't apathetic, and an environment that was creative, where they didn't necessarily have to start doing academics right away."

It seemed like a reasonable list of attributes, ones that any parent might want in a preschool, but as Lisa quickly discovered, finding such a place wasn't easy. Many facilities were full, and others just weren't quite right. The fact that the Hershafts were new to the area didn't make the search any easier, and while Lisa spent plenty of time researching the topic, many of the websites she found were far from comprehensive.