Getting Schooled

Last week I spent a great deal of time thinking about and researching preschool options for Evan next year, but instead of helping me make a decision I’m just MORE confused than I was.

When I looked at a 3-year-old preschool program, my biggest challenge was just tracking down basic information. Where are they? When are they? How much do they cost? You’d think that was all classified information – ESPECIALLY the “how much does it cost?” question. No one wants to tell you until you’ve already taken the tour, brought your kid in for a visit, filled out the paperwork and totally fallen in love with the place. Then SURPRISE! Three day a week preschool costs almost exactly as much a my annual college tuition did! But look, did we show you the llamas the children help care for as part of our animal husbandry program for toddlers?

NO LLAMAS, NO. We cannot eat the things my child learns to knit from your luxurious hair, so we had to choose a less-fancy but totally lovely preschool program. I made my choice and haven’t regretted it for a second since Evan started. I love them so much I started sending Caroline and plan to continue sending her until she’s old enough for one of the public school programs.

So. About those public school programs. There are two options in my town – the charter school and the regular public school. If you had asked me last year, I would have said the charter school was absolutely my first choice with our current (not free) preschool as a back up. The regular public school option was third. Of course, that opinion was based on nothing. Truly nothing. Not a single actual thing. I don’t know anyone whose kids go to the public program, I just assumed it would be not good based on the fact that my town is slightly economically depressed (am I the only one who pictures a really sad dollar sign anytime someone uses that phrase? Probably). But with that opinion behind me I filled out the charter school application a full year early and then crossed all my crossables.

It didn’t work. Evan is number 15 on the wait list. There are only 22 spots in the classroom, so the chances we’ll get moved up far enough to get in are…not good.

The truth is, I’m not sure how I feel about it. The charter school is very, very popular. There are something like 800 kids on the wait list at any given time – there was a mom on the tour last week who said her 5th grader has been on the list for four years. Getting in through the preschool program is the only way to¬†guarantee¬†a spot in the elementary and middle school programs. But after the tour I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was the place for my kid. There wasn’t anything WRONG with it, I just wasn’t…blown away, I guess? There definitely weren’t any llamas.

Now it looks like he’s going to go to regular preschool at the regular public school. This year they’re starting a whole new consolidated program for all the pre-k’s in our town at one elementary school and it sounds like they’re working really hard to make it amazing. Evan could take the bus – THE BUS – to and from school 5 days a week. They have a gorgeous playground. He will probably know at least one kid in his class, thanks to his extensive social circles. I think I can make the pick-ups and drop-offs work with Caroline’s preschool schedule, so she can stay where she is. But the regular public preschool feeds into the regular public schools and I’m a tiny bit terrified of our town’s middle school. It is a RIDICULOUS thing to worry about, since the chances of us still living here when my children are in middle school are about the same as our chances of winning the lottery, moving to a villa on the coast of France and paying a private tutor for the next 13 years but worrying is my second favorite hobby.

It can really all be summed up as OMG WHO THINKS I AM RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS FOR ANOTHER HUMAN BEING? Just like every other parenting decision. A preschool seems like a tiny choice, but it’s a pebble tossed into a pond – the ripples could echo through the rest of their lives. It’s too much. At least now I don’t have to pick which stone to throw?

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10 Responses to “Getting Schooled”

  1. Erin says:

    We don’t even have a public school pre-k option here. Do you have to pay for it? It sounds really nice.

    • bebehblog says:

      It is free. Which is awesome. Super awesome. I only even know about it because I called LAST year to ask if the school district had a list of all the places running a not free preschool (they don’t).

  2. Erin (there may be more here then I've ever met in real life) says:

    I totally pictured a sad dollar sign emoticon :$(.
    School prices are outrageous. I’m starting to price here for extended hours (I’m going back to work) and I cry.
    Anyhow I think it’s awesome that there’s a free program and worry about middle school when you get there.

  3. Liz says:

    I’m going to paraphrase from what was said in my Brown rejection letter in 2005, lol:

    “What school you go to is far less important than the things you achieve there.”

    Also: as a product of a (pretty good) public school, I’ve always found it kind of silly to pay for private school. A few people I know went to Catholic school and ended up at U of M same as me.

    (only exception would be if you lived in a really bad area and the public school was crap and/or dangerous … but it doesn’t sound like that here)
    Liz recently posted… Sweet Relish Sunday (#1 of 4)

  4. Kristi says:

    I think education is my biggest concern because I am an educator. Sometimes I have to remember that it is not a prize to be one but a match to be made and my kid might be okay in a setting that is not the best. With him not going to kindergarten until he is almost 6 because of an October birthday, I just want him to be happy and look forward to it every day… even if it is not the school that will guarantee me a college scholarship once I make my first tuition payment.
    Kristi recently posted… Weekend in Review

  5. Brigid Keely says:

    I live in Chicago and until this coming school year, not all public schools offered pre-k programs, but the ones that did offered them for free. As you might guess, the schools that offered pre-k programs (for free) were all in white, affluent areas.

    Our neighborhood school (IE, the public school we are zoned into that is part of the larger public school system for the entire city) claimed to offer 3 and 4 yo pre-k but really they had 22 kindergarten slots and if there were any vacant seats they went to interested 4 year olds and if there were any left over after THAT they went to 3 year olds. There were never any vacant seats.

    There are preschool for all programs and Head Start, but they’re either really expensive or you have to have to make something like $15k a year before taxes to qualify for tuition assistance, which leaves most struggling families unable to preschool their kids.

    THIS COMING SCHOOL YEAR IS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.

    Now, every applying child will be able to attend preschool and the cost will be determined based on a sliding scale that is actually reasonable and which maxes out at $4k per year which is incredibly cheap for school tuition. This means that we have to apply ALL OVER AGAIN with all sorts of exciting documents, and we’re still not sure which of 3 schools Niko will get into. One of them isn’t walking distance, though, and I don’t have a car, so it’ll wind up costing us ~$5 per day if he gets into that school (although it’s also the best of the 3 schools). (PS Chicago doesn’t offer bussing for kids unless the kid is disabled.) (PPS but if you buy a personal jet you can totally get a tax break. KIDS: FUCK THEM. IT’S JETS THAT ARE IMPORTANT.)

    I was really incredibly stressed out about this, especially as CPS’ website sucks ass (“click here to see our sliding scale!” *nothing on that page mentions money at all* “click here for the application!” *404 page not found*) and then I was all… eh. I can’t control this. I’ll do the best I can but… out of my control.
    Brigid Keely recently posted… It’s hard being a kid.

  6. Fionnuala says:

    Trust your gut Mama – it is all you can do. Especially about our local Charter Option. It has gone considerably down hill in the past few years with a change in administration. The reason the wait list is so long is because it is the ONLY other option in town. Seriously.

    We are headed to the Llamas… and I have all the exact same reservations, our biggest problem is the half day nightmare of our town.
    Fionnuala recently posted… Dr. Pedro Noguera Challenges Hartford

  7. TheNextMartha says:

    We did public pre school. It was a great choice for us. I’m sure it will be for you too.

  8. jen_schoeph says:

    With both of my kids, we did not use the pre-school offered through our district. There is a wait list, the locations (it’s at two) has changed and is changing again when the new pre-school building will be completed for the Fall start, and the program is meh. It is also not free. For both, we went through our town’s park district and many others have used the programs through local churches.

    Everything will work out. They always do. Trust you instinct and keep looking, researching and asking around.

    Good Luck.
    jen_schoeph recently posted… skating party

  9. I had a similar situation in regards to preschool screenings and deciding when B has to go to kindergarten. He is 3.5. I was SO STRESSED OUT for a week, I started breaking out in hives. There is no info about HOW to do this, yet people keep asking me about my plans for Brayden and school. Umm, can we get through age 3??
    Julie Sancken recently posted… Cross One Off The List

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