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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Preschool Problem: Part I - Should You Do It?

My kids will be three in August. They are not babies anymore. They hang out at home with me as I clean the house and do freelance work here and there. We play games, we go for walks, we play on playgrounds, we swim and explore outside...but is it enough? As I've told you before, we have separation issues, and those issues are pretty much my fault. I'm always here. They're never without me. They're never without each other. We're a dynamic threesome, but they've never experienced anything else. Is it time?

Preschool sounds better to me than daycare. There is no reason for me to use daycare. I work from home, but it's piddly work that doesn't bring in much income, and I do it in between loads of laundry and rounds of housecleaning. I certainly don't need my kids out of the house for that.

But preschool. Could they benefit from preschool? Outside learning and activities with other children their age? Adult interaction that isn't simply mommy-alla-time, mommy-all-time? They could certainly benefit from socialization. And I'm certain their potential would be realized in the hands of professionals.

Still, the questions and doubts crowded my mind as I hunkered down and did some research yesterday.

First, I questioned myself. Was I a bad mom for wanting to enroll my kids in preschool? Was I a bad mom for not wanting to enroll my kids in preschool? How was I going to justify my free time? I'd have to pick up the freelance work tenfold at least, or look for a job outside the home. If I got a job outside the home (I'm in journalism) the hours certainly wouldn't be 9-5. So preschool wouldn't even matter, even if I put them in fulltime. Doesn't that make it more hassle than it's worth? If I didn't get a job, the hours start before we start our day presently, so I'd have to shift our schedules, which is a pretty big deal around here. Is it worth it?

Then I questioned my kids. What if they were bad? What if other kids were bad? What if they hated it? What if they cried all day? What if this isn't a good thing for them, and instead will regress them. Should I put them in the hands of others when I can do it myself? What if they get sick? They're insulated here. We've hardly ever gotten sick. What if they hold this against me, and resent me?

Then I questioned the center. What if they don't follow my instructions? What if they don't care about my kids? What if they don't like my kids? What if they're lying on their website, and they enforce rules I don't agree with in ways I don't agree with? What if they don't teach my children anything? What if my children get hurt? What if they hurt my children?

But, I carried forth, and searched the sites.

They all said the same thing. They're all loving, nurturing, learning environments that will help my children grow and develop at a fast rate. They all love children. They're all, apparently, super amazing places.

They're also all, apparently, free.

Not one page had pricing.

Not one.

Are you serious with me? If you're so comfortable telling me about how awesome you are, you certainly should be comfortable enough telling me how much I have to pony up for your magical experience. Not that I would ever put a price on my child's wellbeing and future and educational development, but my price happens to be what I can afford. If I can't afford you, why waste time? Even if I visit and fall in love with your school and my children must go there, I still won't be able to afford you. So...just tell me, okay?

Finally, after spending an entire afternoon reading glowing reports of dozens of preschools in my area, I was ready to start making calls.  But that's part II.

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  1. Garrett did a pre-pre K sort of thing this year. It was wonderful. He got to play with other children and learn some games. At this age I went with him for the 1.5 hours he went once a week.
    We signed him up for the same head start program for next year. He'll go once a week at no cost to us because we live in Boston.

    You could always start by sending them once or twice a week to see how it goes.

  2. one thing the experts don't really talk about is that kids in preschool also aquire herd immunity before hitting kindergarten, and therefore will be able to stay in school more. The downside is that... the babies get to go on the fun that is the Virus-Go-Round and will most likely be either coming down with something, getting over something, or completely full of beans while you are trying to get over the latest bout that the babies gave you. WHEEEEEEEEEE!

    But seriously, my own Preschool Rockstar loved it. You may be suprised at their reaction.

  3. I waited until my girls were four before enrolling them in preschool. Mostly a financial issue but also because I was worried my introvert eldest would not take well to it. She loved preschool. My youngest wanted to stay everyday so I'm sure she'll love it.

  4. I wonder how Jack will take to preschool. I think it is important to get them out in the world with other kids, but he is so attached, it worries me how he will react. Which he will, most likely, be like like every other kid and have his adjustment period and then never want to leave at the end of the day. BUT WHAT IF? hahaa.

    The pricing! I feel like 'if I have to ask, I probably can't afford it' and it discourages me.

  5. I've been grappling with our decision to use a preschool for our daughter this year, too. I like the idea of homeschooling, even though I won't be choosing it, and it seemed like I could do preschool stuff with her at home. The truth is, she will love it. She is so excited every time we turn in paperwork there or something. We chose a school that is in line with our lifestyle and has a fantastic staff (montessori schools, in my opinion, are better for tiny kids.) The other issue is that our local schools are going downhill. The preschools here are where it's at in terms of staff, curriculum, and resources. Now's my chance to have her experience a great school. Later on we can consider other options.

  6. I hear you about the pricing thing. I was recently looking for a new daycare, and while I had no problem finding more information than I could wade through about *nearly* every aspect of each program the tuition information was slipped to me discreetly at the end of each site visit. Since I know they won't be shy when it comes time to collect their checks, it's annoying that they must be so coy about the numbers now.

    That gripe aside, I think some separation is healthy for everyone involved. Consider yourself lucky that you can be selective about how much time you choose to send them to school and don't have to rely on full-time daycare.

  7. My son will be 4 this summer. I started him in preschool when he was 2, mostly because I work full-time and am not around to orchestrate his day. It was tough at first, but I am 100% positive that I did the right thing for him. I would say that the first half of the year was hardest for him in terms of separation. First he'd have to separate from me as I left from work. Then the nanny or my mom would take him to school and that would stress him out, too. By the end of the first year, he LOVED going to school and talked about his friends. I let him continue his experience over the summer. They called it camp but it was basically school with one day of water play. Then he started his 2nd school year. No separation issues at all! For several reasons, I have decided to hold him back a year and am having him repeat the 3's. We decided to change schools so he wouldn't see his friends across the hall in a different class. I thought a change of scenery would be good. He went for his visit today (the camp/school thing starts Monday) and he is SO excited to go back. What I have learned from all of this (and have been told this by others too) is that the kids are resilient and thrive from school, friends, changes, etc. It's harder on us than it is on them! I do think it is strange that you have had such a hard time finding pricing. Almost every place I researched had their pricing available on their website! Good luck. As far as I'm concerned there are a LOT of ways to do this parenting stuff "right"...but the only right way is what is right for YOU and your family! :) By the way, as I mentioned I work. I am a teacher. And I fully believe in sending even our wee ones to school! :)

  8. First of all..... "pony up" is just about my favorite expression EVER!!!!

    And secondly, preschool is amazing. It will change your world... for the better. Do it.

  9. That's interesting that none of the sites list prices. Most of the ones here (including where I worked) listed them under admissions.

    Every school is different, but loving kids is pretty much par for the course. Generally speaking, there aren't perks like you'd get teaching in public school (vacation, pension, etc) and, at least where I am, you make slightly more than if you were flipping burgers.

    Tours aren't always indicative of what it's really like. A good centre will let you drop in whenever. If they tell you that you can't, it's a really bad sign. First week always sucks, but 99% of the time, everyone's fine as soon as the parent leaves.

    That said, I probably won't enroll Piggles in preschool because of financial reasons. My entire cheque plus some would have gone to paying tuition and I couldn't justify that.

    Sorry for all the unsolicited advice on preschool. Good luck finding one you love!

  10. Since everyone else is offering unsolicited advice I gotta say, while there may be some effects on the girls both positive and negative pre-school is not, in fact, going to determine the rest of their lives. It can make life a little easier (or harder!) for you and their teachers short term but it's not the sort of thing that is going to impact the rest of their little lives in any significant way. Do you remember much of your pre-school life? It is on the other hand a HUGE deal for you as a parent (with some self admitted seperation and control issues :)). And finding out how they respond to this, and how you respond to this, may very well be the biggest thing that pre-school (or not) will bring out. Let it happen, I can almost promise you, your kids will survive - completely intact.



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