Choosing a preschool
Preschool: A fun place for toddlers to learn or preparation for the apocalypse? No big deal or choose wrong and your child becomes a homeless meth addict?
OK I don’t mean to be glib (or insensitive, for that matter) but for some reason the process of choosing a preschool in this day and age has gotten out of hand. Why are we putting so much pressure on ourselves to choose The Perfect Preschool? Why has preschool become the new college? (And not to mention the getting in part! Waitlists! Essays! Interviews! Application fees! And DEAR GOD THE TUITION!)
It seems there are as many options nowadays as there are shampoos in the soap aisle at the grocery store–both of which send me into a mild panic for fear of choosing wrong (except one might give you ugly hair and the other
will could of COURSE damage your child, probably irreparably). Montessori? Reggio Emilia? Play-based? Waldorf? Tools of the Mind? Which is the best? Which is the best for my child? Which particular school of this pedagogical nature? Which should *I* probably have done when *I* was a child? (Follow-up thought: If only my parents had LOVED ME ENOUGH to do [X]…)
In exploring options and talking with other parents in my “birth cohort” (as I’ve taken to calling it), I have found it is really easy to get sucked into this mindset of pressure for perfection–that I have to find the perfect environment that will lovingly nurture all the qualities I want my child to possess, preparing her for The Perfect Life of Genius and No Suffering. And yes of course on an intellectual level I want these things for my child. I most certainly want to do my due diligence to find the right school and give her the best I possibly can because I love her more than my life. But as I get drawn into this current of anxiety (OK admittedly I pretty much swim in that current anyway) I have to firmly plant my feet on the ground and say, “Hey, wait a minute! She is TWO. TWO. It’s going to be OK. REALLY.” I liken it to going to Costco and forcing myself to fight the feeling that HOLY SH*T THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING AND I NEED TWELVE CASES OF BEANS IF I’M EVER TO SURVIVE. (Did I mention I run anxious?)
I were to give any advice (unsolicited, as I do) on choosing a preschool, I would say 1) don’t panic; 2) it’s going to be OK, it is just preschool; 3) calmly educate yourself on what’s out there; 4) stay calm; and 5) visit places and see for yourself what feels right. Something could be good on paper but feel wrong when you see it for yourself. For example, I visited a school that seemed great on paper and great as a facility and a modality, BUT when I visited, I saw a teacher belittle a student for having to use the bathroom at a time that was inconvenient to her. Um really? Going to go with “hell to the no” on that one, despite how great it seemed on paper.
I’m sure part of it too is that, in parenting, we are always (whether we mean to or not) projecting our unfulfilled childhood wishes onto our children. Sometimes it is difficult to tease out what we are doing because we think this is the right thing for our child versus what would have been the right thing for us as children.
Which is not to say that I didn’t choose a modality for my daughter that I would have ROCKED as a three year old.