AVOID PRESCHOOL PANIC
Four Ways to Pick (And Love) Your Preschool
For many parents deciding where, for how long and how often their first born is going to go to school can be intimidating and downright confusing. Living in a city presents a specifically unique challenge called: over saturation. There are hundreds of schools to choose from in the LA area. Even when you reduce your radii to walkable distances you can STILL have more than a few choices. It’s a very different challenge than my friends in Jackson Hole and Miramar Beach who have the opposite problem: limited options. Because there are so many schools out here you have to visit them to choose one that has a philosophy you agree with. Yeah, there are philosophies. Not only that, but as a Stay-at-Home-Mom who loves spending every single second with my girl, it was hard for me to find a place that I felt could justify losing the extra bonding time we were getting. Plus, I read a few articles on holding your kid until they’re older for preschool so I was using that as my reason to start her later too.
So we did our due diligence and toured a few schools and nothing was impressing me, actually one (expensive one) concerned me and I was more resolved than ever to hold her. I felt good about my decision as I drove her to ballet and gymnastics arguing that she had friends in those classes and did not seem to be socially behind.
But then three things happened: 1) We moved. In our new neighborhood there were only three choices for school. 2) My Sister in Law (who is a preschool teacher) explained that there’s a difference in socializing when mom’s around vs when mom’s not around. 3) I saw a bunch of #TheHandful’s friends had started preschool and realized we were going to have a tough time keeping play dates with everyone busy at school.
So, I panicked!!! But this has a happy ending thanks to some great advice and quick thinking and my panic is your gain per usual. Here’s what I learned from my experience in choosing (and now LOVING) our school and hopefully you can avoid the PSP’s (pre school panics, come on!).
4 WAYS TO AVOID THE PRESCHOOL PANIC:
4) Gate Crash.
Tour at an off time. Go when the kids are all there, not before or after school. We surprised every single spot and were glad each time. At the school we chose they were happy to show us everyone and everything. At the one that concerned me I let myself in the gate, wandered around and witnessed a staff altercation and a fight between children over a toy that was not broken up. The sales pitch means nothing, actions speak louder than words. If the staff seems tired and irritated or is bickering, it’s probably not a happy environment – and they’ll be less patient with your Future President who requires a ton of patience.
3) Waitlist Schmaitlist.
In LA it’s easy to get caught up in the “wait list” drama that hits you the second you make your pregnancy FBO. It’s like you don’t even know the gender of your bump and people are all “better get on the Sunnyside wait list”. Let me tell you this, these places are businesses. They want your money. You want to give them your money? I assure you they’ll take it. Don’t let the rumor of a long waitlist elevate a school in your head before you get there, that’s like saying a nightclub is cool because you see a long line. Only you the parents know what’s going to work for your Future Leader.
2) Be Informed.
If you’re in a big city like New York or LA, then yes you do want to know the difference between Reggio-inspired, RIE-based, Montessori style, Play-Based and various other philosophies different schools apply. If you want your Future Leader able to rip out the alphabet and do math then you probably want a more academic-geared operation vs the play-based alternatives that favor free play over structured time. Same goes for you smaller city folk. Think because you’re locked into the only local school that their way is gospel? Hell no, you have to read up too! How are you going to navigate playdate conflicts over toy sharing if you aren’t up to speed on the language everyone is using for taking turns? If you’re concerned at your lack of school choice then you really want to read up on things so you can apply what you learn to your house and compensate for the program you don’t have access to.
1) ASK ALL YOUR QUESTIONS.
Hit up the tour director with everything you got. Read a potty training article that resonates with you? Ask the tour director about it, see how current they are. See if they read the stuff you read. That’s a big deal. If you’re super into a certain theory, you’re gonna want the educators and people influencing your kid to be in step with your beliefs. Gotta ask the questions to get the answers. Who cares what the other parents on the tour think, half of them ain’t going there anyway (and depending on the answers you might not either) and the other half might be like “oh yeah I didn’t think of that”. The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask.
So off that list, I did all of those things. We wound up where we wound up because the second we set foot on their campus I had a great feeling from the energy of all the people we met. I was encouraged by how they comforted an upset child and I was impressed with how they accurately assessed #TheHandful. And, despite school having started and been in session for over a week, they were able to make room for us in the three day a week program. I had many questions which were answered with laughter and patience but we left our tour enrolled in school and starting the next day. For her part, #TheHandful has loved it from day one and begs to go to school even on the weekends. Don’t fear the process, just know your options, stay informed and go with your gut.