Thursday, March 21, 2013

This isn't's preschool

Warning: this is a long one ;)

Harvard cares about pre-schools right? Wrong.
I will never forget a conversation I had with a friend 2 years ago - our daughters are exactly the same age (1 at the time) and she was already applying and interviewing at some of the prestigious Boston pre-schools. I remember thinking "you have got to be kidding me!" when she told me how much the school was going to cost per year, and judging her for even thinking about sending her child somewhere where there was an application "process" much simliar to applying to college. I will never send my child somewhere like that! She can't even talk! It is pre-pre-pre-school?! I won't care where my daughter goes, as it really isn't even real school yet! I am going to send them to the cheapest most convenient school possible - they won't remember their time there, and I sure as hell don't think it will make an impact on the rest of their what I was thinking...

Well, fast forward two years and here I am running to the mailbox every day frantically searching for acceptance letters from Boston area pre-schools.

I didn't think I would be in this situation. Last year we decided to send M to a local pre-school, which reminded me of Sunnyside Daycare from Toy Story 3; bright and colorful, kids laughing and playing, fun art projects, nice teachers, etc.. We had planned to keep her there for at least 2 years, and then apply to private schools that have pre-school programs, in and around Boston, for the remainder of her schooling (why private is a whole other post for later.) She started camp there last summer, and after a day or two of clinginess she was walking right into the classroom and telling me to leave. I assumed we had found a great fit.

Every day I would pick her up and the teachers would tell me "she had a great day today!" so I went along thinking all was well. Then we were called into the office in October. The head of the school explained to us that M doesn't play with the other kids, but only plays by herself. Ok, she is not even 3 yet, that is normal, right? We were asked if she talks at home...yes, she talks all the time (she had talked before she started school, but since going to school she talks well beyond her age and we have a hard time shutting her up at home.) To our great surprise we were told by the teachers that she only says 3 words while at school. And that she gets upset when asked to do anything...and that they are focusing a large part of their time on getting her to listen or follow directions...and...well, the list went on.

At the time, we knew that she was behind the kids as far as gross motor skills were concerned, so we followed the advice of her current school administrators given at that October meeting and put her in physical therapy at MGH. Within weeks she had improved by leaps and bounds, and I could immediately see her becoming a more confident little lady. I thought all was good...until we were called into the office again in January.

Again we were told that our energetic, playful, creative little princess, who does not stop talking or singing at home is totally shutting down at school. She still wasn't talking much in the classroom, still not playing with the other kids, and was still not following directions. Her teachers had never once indicated that any of this was still going on...I just kept getting the "she had a great day today!" report when I would pick her up. It was at this point that my husband and I decided we needed to find a different school for her - one where she is comfortable enough to let her personality shine.

We immediately started to research Montessori schools, as well as some private schools that had pre-pre-school programs. For all of these schools the applications were due a week after we had that last meeting with schools so we were scrambling like mad people filling out applications, scheduling visits, scheduling evaluations for M at each school. We had found a school that we really loved (non-Montessori), we felt like our interviews and assessments went incredibly well, and we seriously had no doubt that we were going to get in. That was until we got the small envelope with the rejection letter in it.

You would have thought M had gotten rejected from Harvard. I was in tears, my husband was distraught. We wondered what we did wrong? Should we have called in some favors (we knew a few parents of current students there)? Did something happen while M was being evaluated in the classroom? Did I say something wrong at one of the meetings? Was I trying too hard when talking with the Head of Admissions? Did the evaluation from her current school put the nail in the coffin for us? (We are pretty sure that is what happened...but we will never know for sure)

So we move is pre-school for crying out loud. And cry out loud I did when we didn't get into that school. But I am hormonal and cry at everything these days...that is another blog post.

We got in everywhere else we applied, and have narrowed it down to two Montessori schools. I am actually excited about the chance to send her to a Montessori school, somewhere so different than her current school. I am hoping she thrives in the Montessori atmosphere and can be who she is at home, at school. But we will have to see if that is the case.

Now I am having anxiety over choosing which of the two schools to send her to. I keep going back and forth thinking in my head, picturing her at each of the schools, making a list of pros and cons for each school: (I will refer to them as school A and school B)

- Both are equidistant from our current house, but there is a chance that we might move to the town where school B is within the next year.
- School A was our favorite out of the Montessori schools we visited.
- We like the way school A tracks the kids during their independent time and encourages them to try new things often.
- We really liked the admissions director at school A, but in all honesty we won't have much interaction with her going forward.
- At school B the classrooms themselves are much newer and bigger.
- There are the same amount of kids (approximately 20) at each school, but there are more classrooms for the 3-6 year olds at school A (6) than there are at school B (4). This just means that when it is recess there are a lot more kids on the playground at school A - M does not do well in large groups of kids and I feel like this might overwhelm her.
- At school B each classroom has a pet that the kids care for, which I really like
- Each of the classrooms at school B have outdoor space, and the kids can utilize it whenever they want
- School B is right next to a preservation where the kids plant and grow things and spend a lot of time when the weather is nice. School A has a pond down the street that the kids visit when it is warm out.
-  School A has a wonderful reputation and is a prestigious school (at least I think of it that way)
- I got more of a hippie dippie vibe from school B, but I am not saying that is a bad thing - just felt a little more laid back and relaxed
- School B is much more convenient, in terms of location, for me to pick her up and head down to RI to see my parents while they are up here this summer - assuming M will be in summer camp at one of these two schools
- School A is significantly more expensive that school B

In true Mom fashion though I think about this all day long. I made the decision to send her to her current school, where she crawls into a metaphorical hole by herself each day it seems. I feel so guilty about making the decision to send her there (I was adamant about her going there and didn't even let my husband research other schools as I thought it was a perfect fit - boy was I wrong!) that I don't want to be responsible for making this decision, for fear it will be the wrong decision. Isn't that terrible? I will be the main parent when it comes to her school though - I will be dropping her off and picking her up. I will probably be on some sort of parent board. I will get to know her teachers the best. I need to be a big part of making this decision, which of course I will be...and like I said, she will only be there for a year or two, tops.

I am sure she will be fine wherever she goes. She has been a different kid when we visited these two schools. Talking to teachers, playing with other kids...there is just something about her current school that makes her clam up. To be a fly on the wall!

One of the schools (I will not mention which one) that we are deciding between M seems to like more than the other. I am sure it is because she has been there twice, as opposed to the other school just once, but each morning when I get her in the car to drive to her current school she actually asks to go to the new school, and subsequently starts to convince me that her current school is closed and we NEED to go to the other school.

Huh, maybe my decision is being made for me.

Stay tuned...


  1. Either A or B will be great; the differences are on the margins. I am psyched M will be going to Montessori - the Duchess and Honey love their Montessori classroom, and I could do a post on how much it has helped them foster independence and other great things. I would keep them in Montessori literally through high school if I could (but of course we moved to our expensive suburb for the non-Montessori schools...)

    Don't beat yourself up because the school you picked didn't work out. You have to go ahead and try these things and not be afraid to take risks (that would not be good modeling for M!). And it's good you found out in plenty of time to change course.


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