Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Preschool Pressure

I've been shopping around for a new preschool. What a freakin' nightmare. I'm pretty sure preschool used to be the place you sent your kids to learn not to hit or bite other kids. Now your choice of preschool determines whether or not your child gets into college. Perhaps it's just another symptom of my lazy parenting, but I have some serious doubts about preschool being my child's defining educational moment.

Why not just stay where we are? It's sort of a perfect storm scenario. I really love the theories behind Waldorf - the gentle environment, the focus on natural learning, fostering a love of learning. But frankly, Quake is bored and he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself. The school is also moving to a new, larger facility...that's much further away. Have you seen the gas prices lately? So off I go in search of another school.

Does this process get harder as the kids get older? Because I'm pretty sure I won't be able to handle it. One school was all right, nothing special, but we were a little leary of the Bible stories (neither Monkey Man or me being terribly religious). The director of the next school kept saying they really pushed academics. "We're focused on academics." "It's all about the academics." What the fuck does that mean for a four year old? Lectures? Independent research projects? I'm not claiming to be a genius, but if you can't explain your preschool program to me, maybe you should go back to school.

We both had very high hopes for the third school on the list. It's a full immersion foreign language program, and two of Quake's friends go there. Too bad their director could star in the video, "How NOT to Win Friends and Influence People." I felt the need to defend my decision to send Q to Waldorf, and he insinuated that Q would need to be in a younger class because he'd be behind kids already in the program. He all but sneered at the other schools I told him we were visiting, going so far as to claim that his was one of only three quality programs in town (the other two weren't on my list). But what really annoyed me was how my friends who already send their children there told me lots of things that were different than what he had told me. Apparently I have trust issues.

So I've signed the boy up for the last school we considered. I'd first heard of it 10 years ago when a woman I worked with sent her child there - smart woman, smart child. It was also recommended by a local 1st grade teacher I know. After meeting Quake, the pre-K teacher was confident that he would do just fine in her class even though he hasn't had any academics yet. And even while telling me they didn't believe their program was right for every child, they made Quake and I both feel welcome.

Does it make me a bad parent that I've not based this decision on his preschool being the "best" academically? Am I terrible if I don't care that Quake's not going to be doing calculus or reading in French by this time next year? Will Quake spend years in therapy weeping in rage about how I ruined his future because I didn't send him to the "right" preschool? I'm not usually a gambling sort, but I'll take that bet.

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