November 17, 2011


Hard at work.
One of the things I've been doing recently- something that's been absorbing a fantastic amount of time and emotional energy, is checking out preschools.

My children have been put in the unfortunate circumstance of being born precisely one month after the cut-off deadline for most schools.  Unless I'm proactive and rather gung-ho, they're going to be pretty much the oldest kids in their class.

I consider this a problem.  You see, I have very few goals for my children's education, but they're pretty big.  1.) I want them to be happy to go to school- I want them to run away from me into their classrooms, and not look back.  I want them to think that school is great.  2.) I want them to be challenged.  I don't want them to think that school is JUST fun, I want them to think of it as... well... educational.

Honestly, I think that these go together.  I remember being in school when school was too easy.  I didn't try.  I didn't bother.  I could get by just by being smart.

This is SI's sense of style.
That wasn't the case in the beginning.  When I was very young, in a different state, school system, and experiencing a different educational philosophy, l was constantly challenged.  And as much as I hated the other children who bullied me, or disliked being compared to my sister, or loathed particular teachers, I learned.  And I loved that.

And I feel that this is what's most important.  Developing a love of learning early.

So far, I'm doing pretty well with my kids.  They LOVE books.  Won't go to bed without them.  They LOVE singing the alphabet song, identifying letters, counting the stairs in the front hall... they're smart.  And they want to know things.  And that's great.

But if they fall behind?  I have no idea.  All I do know is what "behind" is for them.  It's a year where they aren't challenged to learn anything new.

Right now, if I had more time and energy and motivation, I would start structured learning with them.  I would get them practicing how to draw their letters.  I would get them doing some simple addition (SI is already pretty good on this front).  I would actually home school a bit.  But I'm not that motivated.  Not that energized.

So I'm shopping for preschools.

This is DD's sense of style
And it's hard.

The cut off is almost universal- they have to be three years old precisely thirty days before their third birthday.

Nevermind that they are ready NOW.  Nevermind that they would LOVE it.  None of that matters.  All that matters is that there is a cut-off.  And my kids will miss it.

With one exception.

There is a preschool in the neighborhood.  An AMAZING preschool.  A preschool that will take them at two years old (they could be going now), that will mix them up with different age groups, that does learning in a fun, exciting way.

The day I went to visit was a Wednesday.  It was devious of the preschool administrators to have parents visit on a Wednesday.  You see, on Wednesday, every single class in the school bakes their own snack.

My scrappy little dancer
Each classroom is equipped with a small kitchen.  There are approximately five children to each adult supervisor, and under close supervision, the preschoolers (and even kindergartners) bake.  Each room smelled like a different amazing baked good.  One classroom was making rainbow sprinkle cupcakes (a tie-in with a larger rainbow project),  One classroom was making banana muffins.  One classroom was making pumpkin bars.  Each room, heavenly.

*I* wanted to go there every day.

But it wasn't just that.  It was the integrated learning that got me.

The rainbow project classroom was 2-3 year olds.  They were learning their colors, the ROYGBIV pattern, playing with glitter, with paints, building block structures in organized color groups... it's what they'd been doing all week.  Playing.  Just... on a theme.

Such a stylish little monster
A slightly older room had done the same thing with penguins.  They'd read books starring penguins, they'd built ice-world dioramas, and they'd drawn a HUGE picture of a penguin, on which the children had written random little things they knew about penguins.  ("Penguins eat fish.  Penguins like swimming.  Penguins live in the South Pole.")

Every Friday they have an art teacher come in to do a specific project.

For a few weeks each semester, they have swimming lessons at the local park.

Each room is equipped with a dress-up bin.  Each room had at least two little girls dressed in fancy princess dresses over their regular clothes.

The children were, well, children.  It was loud and chaotic, but not in any way disorganized.

It was, in short, amazing.

All of this means, of course, that it costs a bloody fortune.  For ONE child.  Let alone two of them.

Two hands!
My mother helped me out with the math.  IF we were essentially to replace childcare with preschool, and work out a ten month payment plan with the school, we would double our monthly childcare expenses.  And then take two months off.

And then do it again.

Of course, for kindergarten they offer financial assistance.  As do most of the programs I've talked to.  But not preschool.  Nobody helps out with preschool.

So I think to myself, is it worth it?  Is it worth it to make sure that, early on, our kids learn to LOVE school?  Is it worth it, when this school goes up to eighth grade, is in our neighborhood, and will help our kids get grandfathered in to kindergarten a month before they're supposed to be (if they're ready, of course)?

Yes, YES it's worth it.

It's more worth it that putting that money to their college funds.  Because if they learn to love school now, they'll be able to write their own ticket.  If they learn that education is wonderful, that school is amazing, and that the pride they take in learning something new makes them feel better than already knowing something old, they will rock high school.  They'll be able to get into any college they want.

Everyone's a critic.
And having their picks of colleges when they're older is a much better position to be in than simply being able to pay for the only ones that will take them.

Of course I think my kids are brilliant.  Of course I think they'll grow up and get big fat scholarships and go to medical school and volunteer with the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders.  Of course that's what I think- I'm their mom.

But I only think it because I know them, I see their potential.  The way that only somebody who has spent basically every day of their lives with them can know them and understand them.  And part of that is understanding what they need to be motivated- to be successful.

In this case- it's preschool.  And it's gonna hurt.  It's going to be a huge hit financially.  Huge.

But it's only two years.  We'll qualify for aid for kindergarten, I have no doubt.  And they'll be somewhere that they'll love.  Somewhere that will make them happy.

Of course, I could also spend all day squeezing them.
I'm looking forward to it.  I'm excited about the day that I take them to school and leave them there.  I'm excited to have them run off to play with their friends, to learn new things without me.

It's still most of a year away, but I'm already preparing myself.  And I know when that day is actually here, it's going to be hard.  It's going to be hard to leave them somewhere else, even if it's only for five hours a day.

But it's going to be worth it.  It's the best thing I can possibly do for them.

And that's all I ever really want to do.


  1. We chose an expensive day care for my daughter when she was 3 months old because we thought the teachers and programs were worth it. We moved her when they changed and weren't, to another expensive day care, where she's still attending an expensive kindergarten. Because it's worth it. Because I want her to love learning, to have music and Spanish and tumbling and cooking as part of her regular curriculum. After this, she will go to public school, because we have a very good school district. But this year we can continue to give her a leg up, help her love school. I completely understand your choice.

  2. That sounds like a super fun school. They let the kids make their own snacks?? AWESOME!!
    New follower from Sit and Relax.:)
    Love your blog title.:)

  3. My daughter will also miss the cut off, and there was a time I shared your perspective. But that was before she was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Now, I am thrilled to have that extra year. It means she has a better chance of overcoming her condition and catching up to her peers. It means she has a better chance of not being labeled, "Special Needs," something I am terrified of. It means she has a better chance of not being a target of bullies because she talks funny.

    She is a very bright and highly motivated child. And I don't want to lose that. So, I'll take the extra year and do everything I can to make sure she gets the best possible start in school. To that end, I completely understand what you are saying about making sacrifices. We could have used state funded speech therapy, but the quality was awful. We found a fantastic facility where she receives intensive speech and physical therapy, and is thriving. Our insurance does not cover it, and the expense is killing us. But we believe it is not only the right thing to do, but our responsibility as her parents. We'll give up other things. Find new ways to bring in income. We will not sacrifice her care.

    Enjoyed this post! Good luck with the new school!

  4. See, I do poke in to your blog every once in awhile.

    And ps?

    I agree with you SO MUCH on this subject.

    When the time comes to replace childcare with preschool and still barely be able to afford it, you know you've got my endless-free-childcare offer to cover the gaps :>




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