It’s that time of year again when parents of preschool-aged kids have to lock-in their decision about what kind of school their kids will (or won’t) be attending next year.
While our journey has been a lot different than today’s contributor, (between them, my kids have attended play-based, religious, secular, outdoor, and montessori preschools). One thing I can definitely relate to is the surprise at having to wrestle with the decision again and again each year and with each kid.
I naively thought I’d find a great preschool when my oldest was 3 and be set.
But circumstances change (we’ve moved since then), options change (I just couldn’t pass on that outdoor preschool experience once it opened and the next year I needed more hours than it could provide), and – most importantly – each kid is different and sometimes even the same kid’s needs change from year to year.
So here I am, with 6 collective years of preschool under my mommy belt, once again looking at a whole new place for my 2 1/2 year olds’ first preschool experience next fall.
I have to say, Jessica’s experience makes me feel like at least I’m not the only one!
Who knew we’d be shopping for preschools with kid number three? But here we are, basically waving the middle finger at our old preschool as we motor past to the new one, all because we recently discovered that we have serious preschool deal-breakers.
And the price tag is one of them.
I felt a twinge of guilt last week when I sat in the playground, filling out the paperwork for the new preschool, the one our wildcat of a four year old will be attending in the fall. But then I looked up at my son zooming down the slide and back down at the monthly fee highlighted on my clipboarded papers, and I instantly felt better.
Obviously, the bottom line isn’t the only reason we’re changing things up. But all the deal-breakers I had the first time around – the stuff that had me wrinkling my nose when we toured preschools, like an older facility and teachers lacking education-based graduate degrees – don’t really matter anymore.
Five years ago, we were impressed by an immaculate facility with its hand-painted murals, coded entry, sprawling play sets and child-sized garden plots off each classroom. We approved of the emailed notes sent home every day by our kid’s teacher, and we thought the academic-based curriculum was important, even though socialization was the actual point of preschool.
For the privilege of sending our son here twice a week from about nine am to just after lunch finished at one, we paid $315 every month.
Our preschool priorities were: nice facility, educational curriculum, involved director, highly qualified teachers, good parent/teacher communication, great location and reasonable price.
When our second child was ready for preschool, we went back to the same school. Easy peasy.
Because of the August birthday craziness that completely messed up our preschool/kindergarten scheduling with number three, it’s been a while since we shopped preschools. We hadn’t planned on shopping at all, actually. Why would we?
Well, because the new monthly price for the same twice-weekly schedule at our old preschool is $525.
Am I the only one who blinked at that?
I was actually willing to suck it up because A) it’s important that the first school experience is a positive one, and B) our other two did so well there.
But as we were discussing whether it was worth what amounts to a monthly payment on a very, very nice car, our oldest two cut in.
“I hated [old preschool],” our seven-year-old daughter said flatly.
My husband and I looked at each other. He laughed. I did not.
“Really? I thought you were happy there,” I said, wrestling with sudden feelings of inadequate mothering.
“The teacher was fine, but the kids were mean,” she told us. “I tried to be friends with the other kids, but they wouldn’t. Parsley was my only friend.”
We looked at each other again. Parsley? As I wondered how I could have been so completely oblivious that I missed the fact she’d apparently had an imaginary preschool friend, my husband started laughing again.
“You mean Presley,” he said. “And I’m not surprised there were lots of snooty kids there.”
The school sits right at the entrance to one of those enormous master-planned communities with golf courses and clubhouses and a heavy-handed HOA. Lots and lots and lots of money in some of those neighborhoods, and more than a few entitled kids, apparently.
“Yeah, I didn’t think it was so great either,” our oldest said. “Everyone talked about tennis all the time.”
I may be willing to cough out an insane amount of money for preschool, but it goes without saying that my kids should be happy there.
We had already arranged a tour so our son could check things out, and I found myself eye-balling all the kids in his prospective class.
He didn’t know anyone, and while he seemed taken with the playground, my overall impression of his overall impression left me wondering.
So, we started preschool shopping. I asked around and got many, many recommendations for a Christian preschool not far away. Our son would know a handful of kids in his class before even starting, which couldn’t hurt, and a good percentage of kids there go on to our local public school.
As a non-practicing Catholic, the idea of a worship corner in the classroom kind of tripped me up, but only for a second. We say prayers before eating dinner as a family – it’s a nice reminder to be grateful for what we have.
We talk about the real meaning of Christmas and Easter, and we have children’s Bibles somewhere around here too, so learning specifics about basic Bible stories won’t be completely out of left field for him.
The directors were straightforward, the classrooms were dated but organized and clean, the playgrounds had interactive areas designed by real live Boy Scouts, the curriculum covered all the basics to prep kids for kindergarten, and the front office appeared well run.
All of this mattered to me, but there were two big decision-makers. One was the price tag – $295 per month for the same twice-weekly schedule.
The other was our son’s reaction to seeing his friends in a classroom setting sized just for them. When we left, he asked us again and again if he could go to the school with his friends.
Of course you can, buddy. And it’s going to be great.
More Preschool Posts on MPMK
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