The Preschool Lottery Begins

Today is the lottery for School C. I am a bit nervous. While we are a returning family, I still want to make sure this is all wrapped up so I can focus on other things--like planning a summer vaction. I can't believe I have to think about this stuff when there is snow falling outside.

So the preschool topic has been hot, hot, hot on the mommy message boards lately. What school? What kind of curriculum? Is Montessori better? How many days? How much money? Those who have not gone this path yet must think we have all truly gone mad. But when it's your turn you will see how it really is like college admission, minus the test scores and interviews. We plan, we strategize, we schmooze, we bribe (OK, I haven't tried this yet) and we lay awake at night wondering if we did the right thing.

In the past year and a half, I have checked out almost 10 preschools in our area. Here are a few things I have learned for part time preschool:

--Commute is a huge thing. If you are only dropping off a child for three hours, half an hour commute can eat into "mommy time."

--All schools are play based. I have yet to see one preschool that isn't play based, even the Montessori schools. Perhaps they are out there, but I haven't seen them. No one wants kids drilled in ABCs.

--Visit schools during non-open house hours as well. While open houses are good to see the teachers, students and other potential parents on their best behavior, make sure you visit during normal times as well.

--Snacktime is important. What a school feeds your child for snack is a window into their philosphy of overall care for a child. Goldfish and Teddy Grahams alone does not foster good nutrition for little ones. But fruit, veggies, crackers, pretzels make me feel better about the school in general.

--Parent involvement is a good thing. Parents provide a good checks/balances system for teachers and the director.

--School shouldn't be too dirty or too clean. You don't want to smell pee in the school, but if you don't see any dirt or toys out of place, that also is unsettling.

--Mixing of ages is not always a bad thing. People these days seem to think young kids mixing with the older ones is pressure on their own kid to do certain things. It's great if little ones learn from the older ones and the older ones can learn to respect the little ones. If the classes tend to mix ages during the day, that is a definite plus, I think.

And that's it. Good luck and feel free to share more things you've learned through this process.


Jenn said...

I totally agree with your assessments - I actually saw Anna at her preschool the other day as I was dropping off our application (like we'll get in!). Anyway, I just read your post and had to mention that your first note read:

--Commute is a huge thing. If you are only dropping off a child off for three years, half an hour commute can eat into "mommy time."

Can you really drop your kid off for three YEARS? :) I'm just teasing you.

Sarah Granger said...

I'm going through the same thing. It's still a bit strange to me, having just gone to the local preschool as a kid and having very faint memories of it. Nobody then spent much time thinking about preschool and now it's this huge thing. We're still in the midst of the process and I suppose I'm more paranoid than need be about how good our current or potential options might be. Bottom line: our daughter is safe, happy, cared for and learning. Best wishes.