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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Preschool Problem - Part III: The Visits

School  1:
I walk into the first preschool building with a twin on each hand at 12:30 p.m. It’s a small place, three rooms total, with a small playground outside. It’s old. It’s not sparklingly clean, but it’s not dirty either. Old is the best way to describe it.
Right away, the babies busied themselves with some of the toys. Magnets, toy trucks, puzzle pieces. I filled out some information and watched the administration staff struggle uncomfortably since apparently no one had told the boss about my appointment.
They brought me through a room with a few tables where the kids would eat their lunches to a small classroom-type area currently decked out for naptime with kids (all older than the babies, who will be three in August) sleeping on mats.
The teacher was quite nice. She spoke to me about how they would concentrate on one letter a week, and one shape, etc. etc. I found that a bit odd, as my kids know their letters and shapes already, but I didn’t say anything in case I had misunderstood. I know for a fact, having been on the internet since my children were infants, that compared to most babies whose parents visit online parenting forums, my kids are not the most specialest of intelligent snowflakes. I mean, they didn’t walk until one (12 months for the online parent), they didn’t talk until two (that’s 24 months, to those unaccustomed to baby ages in years), and they only just potty trained (or should I say learned?) at 2.5 (that’s 30 months).
What I’m trying to say is that at age three, I’m pretty sure whatever curriculum the teacher provides for the children will be more important in terms of learning structure, habit, listening skills and all the other undercurrents that come from lessons, than in terms of the actual content of what they’re learning, be it multiplication or the letter a.
Anyway, I digress, the teacher said the kids get four potty breaks. She was very proud when she said this. I totally misunderstood, and thought that she meant they made the children go to the bathroom at a certain time. While potty trained, my kids can’t do that (to be honest, my kids also cannot pull up their pants or wipe their butts, either…how potty trained do they need to be? I should remember to ask next time…methinks perhaps “going on their little tiny step-stool potties in the living room when they have to go” does not equal “okay, kids, it’s time to use the bathroom, get in there and don’t forget front to back, okay?”) The school also provides their meals.
At the end of the short tour, the director discreetly wrote exorbitant pricing down on a slip of paper and placed that in a folder telling me about the school. Then she sent us on our way.

School 2:
We pushed open the purple door and we were surrounded with bigger children, running around, yelling, having fun and playing on the expansive climbing jungle gym to our right. On our left there was a snack bar, selling expensive treats. We had to sign in at the desk directly in front of us where they gave us yellow bracelets indicating we were visitors.
A very nice young woman came around to give us our tour. She brought us down a long staircase spanning three floors.
“When you sign up for preschool, you’ll come in through the back. You won’t have to go through all that.” She waved her arms in a general manner, off-handedly apologizing for the uproar that met us straight out of the gate.
I understood, though. They were in the middle of their summer camp program.  A very successful program from the looks of it.
The woman brought us first to the two-year-old / three-year-old room, which I loved. It was quiet, and a few toddlers played in the corner while a few more worked with a teacher making art. Two or three were running around quietly. The ratio was five to one. Teachers helped with the potty and gave parents daily progress reports.
But, turns out, that’s not where we would be. Since the babies were born in August, they’ll always be the youngest in every class. The cutoff is September. We moved to the three-year-old / four-year-old room.
Dozens of children ran around yelling and laughing and having a free for all as the overwrought teacher tried to calm them. She finally succeeded, but it required her full attention, so I didn’t get to speak with her. The babies played calmly with a toy farm as the ruckus went on around them.
In this room, the kids are expected to go to the bathroom by themselves. The bathroom is around the hall.  They are expected to dress and undress themselves. The changing room is around the hall. They are expected to eat independently with minimal guidance from a helper. The cafeteria is its own room in a section in the back. The ratio is 13:1.
I don’t know if my kids are ready for that, to be honest. I don’t even know if they’re ready to leave me. My husband and I tried to tell them last night that someday I’ll go back to work. The notion was so preposterous to them that they thought we were joking. “Nooooo!” they yelled in that “you’re pulling my leg” way. Then they laughed and laughed. When they stopped laughing, they came over to grab my legs and worriedly exclaimed, “My mama, my mama. No leave. No go work.”
I don’t think either of these schools is right for us, but I will keep looking. If I don’t change my kids’ routine this year, I just know I’ll end up unwittingly holding them back. They need interaction with kids their own age and interaction with adults that aren’t me. They need to learn to dress, pee and eat by themselves. They’re ready, but I wouldn’t know where to begin.
The preschool search continues.

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  1. Florida is crazy! That seemed like a high ratio for 3 year olds, so I looked it up: 6:1 at 18 months old!? REALLY FLORIDA!? 11:1 at 27 months old!? I can't even. Those poor overworked toddler teachers D: This is Michigan's btw. I'm pretty sure that odd age between 27 months and 3 years was 8:1. Which sucked if they weren't potty trained, but way better than 11:1!

  2. Hang in there! You'll find a good fit for you and your kids.

  3. Your description totally makes me think of the Butterfly room vs. the Caterpillar room in Toy Story three (except reverse b/c it's the younger kids running amok!)

  4. I agree with Jessica, that is insane. I think we maxed out around 1:5 or 1:6. The potty break thing is just ridiculous. I understand specific times to have everyone try going (before lunch/nap/recess/etc), but since when do little kids run on a perfect schedule?

    No wonder they're sending kids alone to the bathroom. There's no one else to watch their class!

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