School Daze

First off, thank you all for being so kind on Monday (and in real life since then). I got not one single comment that was anything less than totally supportive and awesome – not even anonymously or in my spam filter. I was LOOKING for someone to tell me to go screw myself for being a lousy mom and a lousy human being – because that’s how I’ve been feeling about myself for months – but now I guess I’ll have to stop beating myself up and just enjoy feeling like a person again.

Ok, phew, back to our regularly scheduled posting.

On Tuesday I took the kids to visit the preschool a friend recommended. I’m SO OVER calling around and trying to find info about every single program we might even consider considering. I HATE making phone calls, especially becauseĀ  for some reason these schools are harder to track down than Osama Bin Laden (is that still a joke? What else is hard to track down? Big Foot?) They aren’t listed anywhere, they don’t have direct phone numbers, NONE of them have websites, which is ridiculous. IT IS 2012. GET ONLINE. Anyways, I called for info on this particular school a few weeks ago and read through their packet and it seemed nice so we went in to look around.

I liked it. Evan seemed to like it. They have a toddler program Caroline can attend when she’s 2-ish. There weren’t any children chained up in the corners and I didn’t see anyone pushing meth behind the play equipment so I guess it’s…good? What are the standards for preschool? Am I supposed to judge whether their circle time is appropriately circular? Should I be worried that some of the butterfly craft projects were done in non-complementary colors? They had lots of blocks and puzzles and dinosaurs and OK fine, so it’s going to feel a bit like I’m just paying to let him play three days a week but is that really so bad? I like the idea of someone else arguing with encouraging him to pick up after himself and doing the same puzzle over and over and helping him wash his hands every time he thinks they have gotten even the tiniest bit sticky. I think that would be good for both of us.

Based on my completely non-scientific survey on Twitter the cost seems reasonable (although my husband is still having a minor heart attack) and within our price range. I suppose if it was REALLY REALLY important we could figure out a way to pay for a fancier school. And if I started buying our fruits and vegetables off the bruised cart and switched to generic toothpaste and don’t buy ANY new clothes for the next 5 years we might even be able to afford the fancy Montessori school for a semester or two. But do I really want to apply for tuition assistance for a 3-year-old? Am I somehow failing my kids if I don’t send them to the very best thing available? And who even knows if that WOULD be the very best thing? Maybe Evan would hate it. Maybe he’s going to hate any preschool. I’m pretty sure I got kicked out of at least one myself – also known as the Great Block Throwing Scandal of ’86 – so I wouldn’t be too shocked.

This decision really shouldn’t be this hard. I keep telling myself I should just be glad we don’t live somewhere that super competitive waiting list $10,000 a year preschools are our only option. I think it’s helping, a little at least.


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28 Responses to “School Daze”

  1. cakeburnette says:

    My husband calls preschool “coloring with a syllabus.” Seriously, these “folks” who claim their preschool is “superior” are on meth. The goal of preschool is for a small child to become SOCIALIZED, not to become a ROCKET SCIENTIST. No one becomes a Nobel Prize winner at 3 or 4, seriously.

    Please excuse the bragging, because I don’t want to be “that” mother, but my two went to a preschool that focused on getting them school-ready socially, and if they learned something academically, it was gravy. Boy child taught himself to read, 3 yr-old preschool teacher said, “um, do you know he’s reading?” I said, “um, we thought so, but we were afraid to really find out.” But more importantly, he learned to sit a a desk during “work time,” learned to walk down the hall in a line, learned to listen to an adult (too bad that didn’t come home with him) and how to play with friends appropriately. Girl child didn’t read until she discovered she could get special treatment as a kindergartener (because why read for yourself when you have always had a brother around to read for you), but she learned how to be away from mama. Which was worth EVERY.SINGLE.DANG.PENNY. Today, as 8th and 9th graders they have really great grades (daughter is always 1st or 2nd in her class; son is finally getting close to having the similar ones because suddenly high school grades count AND all A’s gets him out of final exams). So, really? If the teachers and staff are loving to the kids, and the kid-to-teacher ratio is good, and the physical school is clean and well-cared for, it will be just fine and probably even better than fine!

    • bebehblog says:

      Your kids sound awesome. And yes, learning to be AWAY FROM ME without the world ending is going to be SO worth it.

  2. Swistle says:

    One of my favorite things about preschool is it gets the child used to (1) obeying teachers (2) in a classroom setting. Henry’s learning to stand in line, sit down at a table with other children and not take those other children’s craft supplies, and do group things where he doesn’t always get to do it the way he wants to. He also gets used to the idea that I’ll leave but come back. And he gets to play with peers, which doesn’t happen at home.

    One thing I think is a very good indicator of how the teachers treat the children is how the teachers sound during outdoor play. If it’s all “DYLAN. DYLAN. DYLAN, GET OVER HERE” in an ugly/angry tone of voice, I don’t like that. If it’s “Dylan. Dylllllll-an. We don’t treat our friends that way, remember? Okay, Dylan, come sit with me please until you’re ready to remember our rules,” I feel happy about things.

    • bebehblog says:

      The funny thing about what both you and cakeburnette said is I wrote a whole paragraph about how I just wanted him to learn to STAND IN LINE and LISTEN TO A TEACHER but I deleted it because a) it was whiny and b) I was afraid people were going to say I had somehow done a bad job because he wasn’t capable of doing that stuff ALREADY.

      • Robyn says:

        i’d be willing to bet he already would listen to a teacher if you weren’t there. Our daycare provider can get Rory to do stuff we can’t. the whole, acting better when mommy and daddy aren’t there because they have to, starts really young. he just hasn’t had to show you that side yet, since you are with him all the time and he doesn’t have to be good for you to love him. they seem to understand really young that not everyone will love them unconditionally like mommy and daddy do. but that’s just my opinion :)

      • Emily says:

        You are SO not a bad mom if your toddler can’t do that stuff already!!!!! He’s never had to do it before! As an elementary school teacher, I wish all parents were as concerned about their child learning basic skills like listening and standing in line. Trust me, there are much older kids who still haven’t got the socialization stuff down, and it sets them back academically. It’s good to work on it now. It’s not worth spending a whole lot of money on preschool! Just find a place that’s focused on creating a positive environment for your kid to figure out how to be in a group and go with the flow. :)

  3. Robyn says:

    First i want to say a quick thing i was thinking this morning in regards to Monday’s post. You are most definitely not a bad mom, in fact, you are a great mom. Here’s my proof…bad moms do not think they are bad moms and don’t even question that they aren’t doing everything just fine. Good moms worry (well, some don’t, but they still think about things a lot, i’m sure). Good moms put their children first, like you do.

    here are my thoughts on preschool. i think play is the most important thing at this age. i think preschool is great for teaching kids to listen to someone other than mommy and daddy (especially kids who are lucky enough to be have a stay at home parent). it’s great for learning social skills, and it’s great for learning bonus stuff like how to sit still and do a craft or whatever for a little time, and how to follow simple directions. however, i don’t think it’s necessary for all kids. i think the vast majority of kids will learn these skills by the time they go to kindergarten anyways, especially if they have a normal social life, meaning they get to play with other kids their age a decent amount. i’m not really a believer in formally teaching letters and numbers and all that stuff as early as is now considered typical. Rory knows all her colors, shapes, can count to 15, and is starting to recognize numbers and letters, and that has been through normal everyday life and play. we do not do flashcards or any formal learning. i’m not bragging here, just saying they can learn just fine through play. and i do worry that pushing the formal learning too early will diminish the natural joy in learning that kids have.

    we’re not doing preschool next year, since she’s already in a in home daycare that she loves and she gets plenty of the stuff i think she needs out of a preschool. i don’t anticipate our daycare doing any formal learning with her, although the other day i walked in and our provider was asking Rory and her friend what a few letters were, so maybe they will do some of that stuff. i think in general though, the learning they do is just through play, like when she makes crafts and Debbie helps her write letters on them and tells her what they are.

    so i think your choice sounds great…as long as Evan enjoys it once he goes. to me, that’s the most important sign that you picked the right choice. but i do think he probably gets plenty of socialization and learning to listen to other adults already, since you guys have a pretty busy social life, based on what I read on your blog.

    and if E is having a hard time with how much it costs remind of how much daycare costs. preschool is a steal of a deal, in my opinion…

    • bebehblog says:

      I think any 3-year-old preschool we would consider is more like daycare than anything else, although all the teachers at this particular school are actual teachers with degrees. I had originally thought we would just wait until the fall but I think trying it out for the rest of this semester – so we can switch/leave easily in the fall if it’s not the right choice – is a good plan.

      • Robyn says:

        i think it’s a great plan, plus it will give you a little more time to hang with just Caroline, which i’m sure she will love. and maybe even a little more time for yourself…

  4. Mommy has been having a similar struggle – I was *supposed* to be going to her school, but they recently announced that they’ll be closing after this year – so no employee discount for me. (And also, Mommy just lost her job)

    I’m curious as to what your reasonable tuition is – maybe DM it to me if you don’t mind? I’m wondering if it’s comparable to the places around me.

    • bebehblog says:

      Oh no!!! I’m so sorry about the school closing! I don’t mind sharing the cost with you (although based on how hard it was to get the SCHOOL to tell me you’d think it was some sort of secret). For the 3-year old class, 2.5 hours, three days a week it’s $185 a month, and for every extra day it’s another $50/month. I asked on Twitter and that seemed about average. In lower cost of living places, like North Carolina, it was about $50 less and in super high cost of living places like San Francisco people were paying a LOT more. If I did my math correctly, it ends up being about $6/hour which DOESN’T sound like too much AT ALL.

  5. MomEinstein says:

    Great job finding a preschool! I’m contemplating sending Vicki to preschool when she’s 2 – both for socialization and so I can get some one-on-one time with VonBaby 2.0. I think it’ll be good for everyone. Looking forward to hearing how your experience goes!

    • bebehblog says:

      Getting some one-on-one time with Caroline is a big part of this decision. She gets dragged to Evan’s stuff all the time – like the gymnastics class she’s technically “in” but isn’t really old enough for – so I think it will be good for us.

  6. Amanda says:

    As far as what to be cautious of with a preschool, I can tell you about an experience I had with a local daycare. The daycare isn’t technically affiliated with a church, but they receive some funding from a local church, apparently. In the interview, they told us that because of this, they don’t talk about Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and things like that – which actually I thought was great, because we are really not into the commercialization of holidays like that.

    However, afterwards I began wondering if there were other things that they either did or didn’t talk about because of their religious association, so I phoned and talked to the director. She was pretty cagey about it (warning sign!) but after a little prodding it became clear that they weren’t allowed to talk about evolution or homosexuality. Not that these would necessarily be daily topics of conversation in another preschool, but little kids have questions about everything, and I’m sure they could come up. I mean, evolution comes up when you talk about dinosaurs, right? And if our gay friends’ daughter wouldn’t be welcome there because she wouldn’t be allowed to talk about her family, then that’s not somewhere my daughter would be going either.

    Now, we’re in Canada, and we’re also not religious at all, so I know that not everyone would share my concerns… but just an idea of the types of issues that you might not expect, but that can come up with a daycare or preschool.

    • bebehblog says:

      Thanks for the thought. I DIDN’T ask about Christmas or Easter. This school actually IS in a church but totally separate from it and they don’t do anything religious and the principal told me they had many students and teachers from many religions. I would be uncomfortable (to put it mildly) with a school where a child with two moms or two dads wasn’t welcome or was treated badly. I’ll make sure their association with the church doesn’t cause anything like that before we sign up!

  7. Audrey says:

    For me there was no other choice. But I felt relieved when I met his teacher and saw his classroom and mostly when I learned how they would deal with bad behavior. Because Ev can be stubborn and reactive. Their discipline methods were totally cool with me and they’ve even taught him to get in touch with his now instead of just reacting out of anger he harumphs, makes his angry face and announces “I’m angry, go away.” Which is loads better. He also lets us know when we’ve hurt his feelings or if he’s sad or if he’s happy..which so awesome.

  8. molly says:

    Yes, choosing is difficult. I think I toured at least five before we moved to our new house. And even then, in the end I realized I made the wrong decision and had to switch the boys to a new one. But I followed my gut. Maybe it’s not the fanciest but my kids seem to LOVE it. The teachers are very attentive and they serve breakfast, which makes our mornings a lot easier! Holla!

    Just follow your mommy instincts. I think Evan will LOVE preschool and making little friends :)

  9. In a preschool I think the most important things are structure and the people. When you walk through a school do the kids look happy? Are they interacting with the teacher? Will the director let you sit in on a class? A school that is welcoming to parents stopping by whenever normally is above board. Other than that structure is the thing they are supposed to provide to teach listening skills etc. Ask for their daily schedule. Is it all free play or does it include structured play like organized games, reading time, or crafts.

    • bebehblog says:

      It is structured and there’s a daily lesson plan by the door so I can see what’s planned. Based on their handbook it looks like they do a lot of cool stuff like music and yoga as well as play, which I like. And the director knew every kid’s name and was happy to show me around so it all felt really friendly and above board.

  10. Brigid Keely says:

    I was going to comment on yesterday’s post but HA! HA! HA! yesterday was a no nap day! SURPRISE! I’m really glad you’re getting help, and I hope you can find a solution that works for you. Some people hit on a chemical combo right away, others have to try different formulas. Here’s hoping your treatment is quickly found.

    I have friends who are teachers, many of them teachers of very young children, and the general consensus is that pre-k doesn’t really matter unless the teacher/situation is horrible. Most of the good stuff in pre-k is learning to socialize and be exposed to concepts. Your kid isn’t going to come out of pre-k reading at a 5th grade level, fluent in french, and doing long division no matter how good the school is. So that’s something you can relax about.

    • bebehblog says:

      Well, I know he won’t be FLUENT but can I expect him to at least conjugate French verbs correctly?

      I think I am mostly worried that the kids whose parents love them enough to send them to fancy Montessori school ARE going to end up smarter and better prepared, although since we’re talking about THREE YEAR OLDS I should probably just relax. Maybe I need some Xanax too.

  11. I think it’s wonderful that you guys found a preschool that you really like. We started our son at a preschool back in November. He turns 3 in April. Partly because my husband works out of town a lot, so I’m not going to lie the break is nice. I can get things done while he’s at school, plus it’s good for my sanity. We’re expecting another child in April, so that’s an added bonus of him going to school. So I don’t feel so overwhelmed. Okay, I kinda got off subject.

    Anyway, he originally started going to a preschool but after the first 2 days something in my gut was telling me to wasn’t the right fit for us. The price was nice, but that was about it. It took more searching for me to find the one that he attends now. He only goes 3 hours/2 days a week, and we couldn’t be happier. They have cameras, so I can log on and spy. I mean watch him sometimes ;) But I rarely do that bc I’m really happy with our choice. For me it’s totally not about thinking he’s going to be some genius bc he’s going to preschool. They do learn things and even go to Spanish class. But let’s face it I’m just paying for him to play. I’m totally happy with that, haha!

  12. Laura says:

    Daycare and preschool “shopping” can be ridiculous! Shelby’s been at a Montessori and we love it, but we don’t love (and can no longer afford) the $1,400/month price tag. Yes, per month. For ONE kid. With baby #2 arriving in May, there’s just no way to make $2,800/month fly. (Did you just have a heart attack? I know, so did I.) So while I would love to send her to “the best” school around, she’ll be just fine where we’re moving her. Bottom line? I look at Shelby’s development compared to her other little friends, all of whom have a different “during the day” situation — some are at home with moms, some are in daycare part-time, and some are in daycare full-time — and they’re all doing great developmentally. Evan will do great whatever you end up deciding to send him.

  13. This is me. I have been looking and looking and seriously with the not being on the internet thing… TOTALLY annoying.
    But I digress.
    We have a school here in town that is freaking OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive and while I considered for a millisecond what it would be like to send the kidlet there, I also realized that a) he would only be gone for 2 hours a day (NOT NEARLY ENOUGH TIME AWAY FROM ME) and b) it’s freaking preschool. And I’m not paying what I paid to go to college for a freaking PRESCHOOL.
    They will learn things anywhere they go. They will learn to sort and color and not beat the shi** out each other and you will have two wonderfully adjusted, socialized kiddos to go to kindergarten in a few years. All will be well.

  14. Nicole says:

    Confession: I called exactly one daycare and enrolled Matthew in that one. We were lucky; it was an awesome school, and before Nick was laid off, we sent Ben there too (only two half days; infant care is hellishly expensive). I agree with everyone who’s saying it’s more about the socialization with the other kids and the teachers and the school environment that’s most important.

    Now Matt’s at the Catholic kindergarten, and it’s actually a hair too academic for me (they were sending us notes about how he’s distractible and not coming along with his letter writing as they’d like, and I was kind of freaking out until one of my friends was like, “He’s being a five-year-old boy.”) but I’m glad he’s getting some low-level religious education and going to Mass. Nick and I are pretty much Christmas Catholics, so we felt pretty guilty about not being more into it as a family. The stuff I worry they’ll teach him, like homophobia, really doesn’t come up, and Catholics are generally cool with evolution. Figured I’d handle other issues where I differ with the Church as they arise.

    It’s really not wrong to need the break, either, or to want 1:1 time with your other kid. Nick being out has sucked donkeys, but it also means that one of us is with Ben 24/7. That, of course, is good in some ways and bad in others. I’d kill for a week to myself at this point. A single day would no longer be sufficient to recover.

  15. Kimberly says:

    Truthfully, I didn’t research preschools at all. A mom I looked up to because she seemed to be surviving having 4 (FOUR) young boys told me she liked where her boys went, so I sent JD there. I now know it is a little pricier than the other schools in our area (don’t tell my husband), but I see a great, positive difference in JD as far as socialization, listening, and speaking. Hearing him confidently use words in public makes it totally worth it. I feel at this age, as long as the place is clean and the other moms I need to deal with are mostly sane, it’s all good.
    And the art projects he brings home are totally worth the tuition all on their own :)

  16. Joanna says:

    Madison LOVES preschool. She goes to the local Episcopal Church. When we started it was $150/month for 2 days per week. 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. We bring lunch & snacks are a voluntary sign up sheet.

    In February it went up to $200/month for the 2 day/week program. We kept her in it. It averages out to $5/hour and I’ve got to tell you… Those 10 hours/week that she is in preschool SAVES MY LIFE. They start at 18 months although Madison was 23 months when she started. She actually wakes up every morning asking to go to school & I’m totally okay with the fact that I’m paying for her to color on someone else’s watch. TOTALLY. OK. :)

  17. Joanna says:

    Also is it bad that I never really researched. I looked them up… consulted my sister who is very knowledgeable religion wise & she told me that the Epsicopal Church is tolerant so I’d be down with them. I met with the director and the teacher & liked them so we signed her up. It’s not overly religious. They pray before snacks & lunchs & they sing songs with God with them but the teacher also plays a CD that has Moves Like Jagger on it while they play & I bought her wine for her Christmas present because she deserves it for dealing with 10+ 2 year olds every day. Maddie has friends & is thriving and it doesn’t break my budget.

    I mean hello, today they covered the tables in shaving cream and let the kids go to town “drawing shapes” and playing. She would NEVER get to do that at my house. Preschool is like fucking Disney World to her.

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