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Preschool survivor

Wow did I have my eyes opened last night. Kelly stayed home to put the kids to bed (thank goodness considering only one family had their little ones there) and I ventured out into the cruel, cruel world of preschool.

24 spots. For 2 year olds. As it turned out, all but 7 were already taken due to priority status. Tues-Thurs already gone. Let the games begin!

After I finally found the room for the Open House, I was the first one there. But soon a parade of...well, there's no polite way to put this...stuffy looking 30-something white people filled the room. Which is odd for Chicago. There are times in this city where as a white person I'm the minority. It was awkward sitting there thinking to myself, "really? Not one hispanic, black, indian, asian, or arab person? Not one is here?" Especially from a church that runs a food pantry and coat drive for the less fortunate, I would think they would do a better outreach for putting the diversity of community kids in their preschool. But moving on...

Most of the evening was spent covering the curriculum in a slideshow. The psychology degree I have made me snicker several times. Lots of buzzwords and emphasis on NAEYC accreditation. They don't do "crafts" for instance. Kids being given instructions to complete a task is not art. They believe in free expression. Lots of emphasis on free play and the enriched environment (more about that soon). Apparently my little Cole's future development towards academic success correlates with his executive function at this age. Oh really? I'd love to see the research on that one, but there it was in PowerPoint.

Don't get me wrong, not everything was ironic or brought out the cynic in me. They have an open door policy towards parents and have lots of outings and would offer Cole access to things he hasn't experienced or doesn't have at home. Not to mention the socialization that Kelly feels is critical for him. I really enjoyed their policy towards (at least the older) kids solving problems and arguments themselves. They allow for "natural consequences" to happen and she said you'd be surprised how few fights there are...the kids are too busy. Which I believe.

The teachers were all very nice and the regular age 3-5 rooms were a-mazing at the level of activities for the kids. Book lofts, animals in every room, paint stations, toys, puzzles, games. No computers. Just very bright, sunny, kid-friendly spaces. Though I will admit the lower level room for 2 year olds was a bit more dirty, a bit less cheerful and a bit more...daycare.

We very well may enroll Cole--or waitlist him or whatever is involved. Crazy deadlines and last month's tuition and home visits by the teachers and medical forms and registration fees. I actually very much enjoyed the place where I was in my head thinking: great place for Cole to come when he's 3.

For a 2 year old? I dunno.

A little bit of last night reminded me A) that you have to let go of them eventually B) that Cole is a pretty awesome little dude. Between storytimes and zoo trips and the playground, he is doing pretty well. Not that I'm providing the perfect environment for him to be in, but close. He certainly already has mastered a lot of the "skills" they want them to work on. Oh, and by the way, there was one face I recognized from--I think--storytime. I was surprised I didn't run into some playground parents though. Too bad it's winter or I'd start asking what their plans are.

But I realized last night in all the hocus pocus of early childhood development theory that my own thoughts are a bit more complex and I'm trying to fit them into the current dominant educational philosophies. Forget "tiger" or "panda," I'm more of a fence parent. I'm a big fan of independent learning and exploration--Kelly was just discussing a student-led school with me this morning which sounds fantastic. But I'm also a big fan of parents being a pretty hard and firm boundary. Kids do love limits and rules and routines to some extent. It's about comfort and safety to explore. So it's hard to decide how and when that fits into toddlerhood even in an informal classroom. Although it'd be different if it were more days a week or a longer time. It's just a couple times a week for a couple hours. Still plenty of time for the two of us to learn together. And plenty of time for me to setup the limits we'd like him to have and not have.

Or maybe Cole should get another year of dad-time at home with carefully constructed attempts at interacting with peers. Or maybe we should take him for a visit and see what he thinks. I know I lot of the parents I've talked to about sending their kids to school ASAP have said it was the best thing ever--for their sanity. This morning I'm off to investigate other schools...apparently, we as parents have a variety of choices and we should carefully choose the one that fits best. Said the director.

Oh, and what are these parents going to do with the Sept 1 deadline when it is time for real school? These parents last night were in a fit over the fees for registering being per child not per family. They couldn't deal with their "young" 4 year old being put with older 3 year olds because they missed the birthday deadline. They were upset spots weren't available. I dunno, I know the pressure especially if these are working parents trying to imagine what the daily routine will be next fall for a possibly-or-not potty trained kid while also getting to work on time and dealing with brothers and sisters.

The whole thing was just amusing and overwhelming and I wish Kelly had been there to bounce ideas off of or just make rude comments with. She's my favorite for that. In the end, it isn't the end of the world. Cole is 2 and his major life crisis is whether or not he wants his peanut butter sandwich cut into pieces. And, by the way, the answer lately is no.


  1. Wow, that's so different from what we went through. We looked at synagogue schools, plus the preschool in our district, and no one was turning anyone away. I will say though, we started Liana at 2 1/2 (so she had 3 years of preschool before kindergarten), and while she loved it, I think waiting a year would have been fine. The other two are only going to do 2 years of preschool. It's different with your oldest--I know I felt like she was missing something if she didn't go sooner--but they have their whole lives to be in school. Plus, with parents like you and Kelly, Cole's going to be fine with whatever you do.

  2. One of the open houses I think we should go to is the preschool at one of the synagogues here. There is a fee for families who aren't Jewish but that's fair. lol A lot of emphasis around here is on student-teacher ratio and accreditation so I think that is why they turn kids away is a max capacity thing. I'm leaning towards waiting but we haven't talked about it yet. Part of the reason I'm home is to be there to do activities. We just want Cole to be around other kids more. There are plenty of places to choose from here, but it comes down to cost. I think one of the reasons so many people are interested in this one I was at is that the environment is super cool and very cheerful, but they don't charge as much as other places.

  3. I am a friend of your Aunt Carolyn's. She shared your blog site on Facebook and I have visited it quite often. I love the fact that you are a stay at home dad! I love the fact that you enjoy parenthood so very much! As for preschool at 2 years of age, personally, I would not do it. I have 2 children - 17 and 12 yrs. Yesterday, or it seems, they were 7 and 2; day before yesterday, it seems they were almost 5 and a newborn. Time goes by too fast; they have the rest of their lives to be in school and work. This is "their" time - Cole and Leda will learn much with you and Kelly - probably much more than in preschool. Socialization will happen at others places. This time is too short; don't share it with a school. Enjoy it because yesterday my son turned 17 - it is his last birthday living in my house - he goes to college in the fall. I was in tears most of the day. I will never be sorry I let him be a little boy for as long as I could. I am sorry that I can't do it all over again. Just my two cents...

    Oops - just realized I wrote this on my daughter's account; I'm posting anyway, as I do not want to rewrite! :)


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