The first strike: The promotional material we originally received last spring from Z's new preschool included many, many typos. The kind of typos that anyone can make, but would easily catch with a simple run of spellcheck. The kind that are sorta unforgivable when coming from an institution that hopes to teach my kid to read eventually. (The kind that are almost as bad as, uh, flagrant use of incomplete sentences and the word 'sorta'?) (BUT THIS IS A BLOG. NOT PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL FOR AN INSTITUTION OF LEARNING.)

CG wouldn't let me look at the material at first, knowing that I would howl at the typos like some kind of wounded-dog-who-happens-to-be-the-world's-first-canine-editor.

I decided I would try very hard to forgive them. Perhaps they were too busy making children into stellar citizens of the world to proofread or run spellcheck?

Strike the second: Their website sucks. It features a very basic, sterile design with small, unexciting photos in which most of the children are NOT SMILING. There is very little information on the methods of the school, the ideas behind the instruction, the reasons why we should pay so much money. Plus: last year's school calendar is still up on the site.

It all makes me wish I knew some html so that I could offer to spruce it up a bit because REALLY.

(So says the blogger with the most boring, plain template EVER. Whatever. DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO.)

Third strike and you're.... really starting to disappoint me. We hired a babysitter (Turns out our cul de sac is full of teenagers just waiting to be hired by us to watch our kids! And mow our lawns! Yipee!) to go to the Back to School night and it was pretty darned disappointing. Information about the methods of the school? No. Chance to chat with the teacher about our child in particular? Nope. Tour of the "work" that our child has done and will be doing during the school year? Nada. Explanation for the enforced pick up and drop off line that seems a little stringent for THREE YEAR OLDS? No can do. (Opportunity for those of us who DESPERATELY NEED FRIENDS HERE to meet and chat and exchange emails? NO FRIENDS FOR YOU.)

Passing out print material about suggested snack options and penalties for "uniform infractions" and then READING THEM ALOUD VERBATIM? CHECK. (At least there weren't any typos! *smiley face*!)

We are trying to keep an open mind about the school but we are struggling a bit here. It's not just the typos, boring website and pointless Back to School Night; those things are not nearly as important as our daughter's overall experience.

We're not convinced that this school, or Montess0ri in general, is the right fit for our daughter. I know we are all having to adjust from her previous warm and caring school/daycare, where she had a "primary" teacher who was responsible for knowing her likes and dislikes, for receiving her when we came in the morning and listening to what kind of morning Z had and telling me stories about Z's day when I came to pick her up in the afternoon. Of course this school is different. This is preschool now, after all. The fact that she used to be able to cut paper however she likes and now she has to cut paper in a certain way is all part of the progression of school, right?

But how do you know if your kid is so easily frustrated lately because her new school is so serious and strict without enough play or just because she's gone through yet another major transition and has to work through it in typical three year old CRAZY fashion? Is Z's new interest in berating her dollies that they are not playing with things "appopiately" a reflection of what she hears at school? Is her creative self being squashed by the insistence that she do each "work" in a specific way?

How do you know if your kid's (pre)school is the right one?

(This is just the beginning of feeling tortured about my kids' schooling, isn't it? I KNEW IT.)


grammalouie said...

Trust your intuition, your gut. No one knows your kid like you do. No one.
And, yes, this questioning goes on forever!

Hillary said...

We considered Montess0ri for The Boy when our previous school closed unexpectedly. My closest friends down here use it and love it, but for us, it just felt WRONG. I hated the idea of the drop off, the teachers seemed way too hung up on what kind of food my kid was getting, and it bothered me that, when I visited, the kids were almost silent. They're toddlers for cripe's sake. They whine and babble. Plus, in our area, the enrollment is almost entirely upper-middle class (read: white) kids, and I wanted more diversity. We went elsewhere, even though I felt a little guilty after getting so many glowing reviews, and The Boy loves his little church-run school.

I think you have to go with your gut sometimes. Good luck sorting it out.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

There is a Montessori down the street from us and I always thought it would be M's preschool. But when I visited it seemed like there were a ton of rules. I visited a different Montessori school and thought it was lovely even with the rules. I think a lot depends on the school. Montessori does have a learning curve because it is a structured environment. A friend of mine loved Montessori because her child learned to be incredibly self sufficient. He was able to get up and get himself and his younger sister cereal for breakfast at a very young age. We ended up going with a play based co-op. I work in the school once a month (and therefore meet all the other moms and work with them). If you could find something like it there I think it could address your preschool and social concerns. I think Montessori is a transition, but I also think it is fair to consider your options if you (and Z) are not happy and make a switch. Ask all those teenagers on your block where they went. Does www.savvysource.com cover your area? Good luck!

Marie Green said...

I know it's hard when you are "in" it, but does it help to try to keep the perspective of "it's JUST preschool"? I mean, technically, Z doesn't NEED it, given her home environment. If she has NO preschool, she'll still be in good shape compared to some of her peers, come kindergarten time.

For us, preschool was for 1. socializing and giving them some structured time in the day (so they weren't watching too much tv- AHEM) 2. to give me some "free" time and some one on one time with the baby and 3. to help me meet some people with kids my kids' ages.

We went to Montessori route (one of 3 option- all good- in our town) b/c I like that the toys were different than what we had at home and I like the aesthetics of the classroom.

So basically, if she seems to like it, it's probably fine to keep her there (TYPOS and all! Our preschool director was also prone to this type of errors!). If you're gut is saying it's NOT good for her, or she seems to hate it, then find someplace else.

Now that my kids are in the public school system, I see how just our family style (we read, we have bedtimes, we don't have scary huge fight in front of the kids, we don't pull the kids out of bed to "leave daddy", we eat together, we don't listen to inappropriate music/tv in front of the kids ETC) makes them LIGHT YEARS ahead of so many other kids.

Preschool? It's just gravy.

Good luck!

parkingathome said...

My mother is a preschool teacher so I know a lot of crap about the happiness of 3/4 year olds by the transitive property.

They usually will replay events from their day, like your example of berating her dolls for not doing things properly. The problem though may not lay with your child, she is probably just repeating something said to one of the idiot kids in her class. As we all know, there are tons of CRAP parents out there, and unfortunately preschool teachers have to teach to the lowest common denominator just like teachers of other grades do. When these crap parents don't discipline, don't read to their kids, don't teach about sharing, the teachers are left with teaching BASIC stuff, like "it's not all about you, kid" lessons, or changing diapers, or in the worse cases, berating the dumb underparented kids. There does have to be a lot of rules on food for the allergic kids and on behavior for the underparented kids, and it sucks for the well behaved ones. Trust me, a lot of the teachers hate the structure as well but they're stuck because jackass people have jackass kids.

My mom's advice was always to keep up what you're doing at home, because when you're a good mom (like you are) your child will learn much more actual stuff at home, and the only thing learned at school is patience for those jerkwads we all went through school with, and socialization. Make sure you keep talking to her to make sure there's nothing going on in the classroom that is unacceptable (like the teacher totally checking out on them the entire day), and if that's the case then I suppose you just have to move on to a different school, or choose to stay home and learn for another couple years.

It sucks that there are so many idiot parents in the world, doesn't it?

tracynicole22 said...

Sounds to me like you already know the answer. I don't care if it called pre-SCHOOL, it is still suppose to be fun. My daughters' pre-school does have a designated teacher who knows all about their likes and dislikes, I think that is very important. You can always look around while keeping her where she is, things may change and you can keep her there or you could find a new place that is just perfect. Good Luck!

Jos said...

oh, I am right there with you, although sadly I don't have any good answers except to echo others suggestion to follow your gut. I totally totally would have had the same reaction about the typos & lame-o website & over-focus on rules & uniforms to the detriment/exclusion of actual human interactions.

for me, having my child feel nurtured & engaged & happy in preschool matters most-- it's his 1st experience with school & teachers & I want it to be a positive one. teachers/administrators who aren't interested and/or don't engage with my child (or me) wouldn't sit right with me. and, yes, they should know how to spell. geez.

best of luck sorting it all out. I agree with others that the montessori method varies in different schools, so another one might be a better fit? we sampled a number of schools before finding one that we think is a good match for us. I agree this school stuff's an agonizing process, I'm finding it so even with a school we like.

Mommy Daisy said...

I'm with the majority of people commenting here. I say go with your gut. In reading this my immediate response was "pull her out now". If it doesn't seem right, then maybe it's not. You could give them the benefit of the doubt and test it for a few more weeks though. I don't suppose there would be any harm in that. But if I had any hesitations about something like that, my son would not be there for long.

Sarah said...

I totally say trust your gut. You know your kid best and this is her first experience with school. I would definitely look for other options that suit her better. She will have more time to learn the alphabet and cutting appropriately, but right now she needs nurturing caregivers.

Anonymous said...

I am a certified Montessori teacher as well as a graduate of Montessori elementary education. I am so sorry to hear that your school does not seem to be meeting your needs. There are reasons (very good reasons, scientific research supported reasons) for why things in a Montessori school are done a certain way. If I were you I would challenge your school to provide you with the philosophy that is the reasoning behind their educational practices. Also please keep in mind that the name Montessori has unfortunately never been trademarked and so may be used by anyone or any school (I have seen plenty of "Montessori" schools which fail to practice the educational method as it should be). I hope that that things improve (and yes I would be equally annoyed about so many typos!) as I hate to hear of anyone having a negative Montessori experience

Good Enough Mom said...

Will the school let you spend some time there to observe? I'm ALL ABOUT getting to see what's happening, especially if you're having doubts.

I agree about the questioning going on for a long time, but once your kid is in a place that feels right, it can de-intensify...

Good luck!!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

First of all, thank you all SO MUCH for your support and comments. Wrestling with this seems easier after sharing it with you and reading your comments.

CG and I have decided we need to have a meeting with the teacher/administrators PRONTO. We need to figure this out and will only do it by diving in.

I will, of course, keep you posted.

Existential Waitress said...

I absolutely agree with trusting your gut. I enrolled my son at a similar preschool and ended up cancelling his enrollment before be ever attended the school b/c I had a gut instinct that it was the wrong preschool for him. This turned out to be a good decision based on stories I heard from other parents later about the institution. Sounds like a good idea to meet with the school to gather information and then make an informed decision based on what you find out and mother's intuition. :)

Eleanor Q. said...

So I used to teach first grade and I told that parents that my main priority for the kids was that they develop a love of school. Education is a long road and its much easier if kids feel happy, loved and good about themselves while they are at school.

I think your decision to meet with the teacher/administrator is a wise one. Don't let them give you fluff answers. Feel free to keep asking "why" and pressing until you understand. You are the parent, you need to understand and you need to be part of the process. Think of this experience as a triange with you and the school working to help Z. grow and develop. Its a partnership, you should be on the same page.

Good Enough Mom said...

I meant to also reply to your question asking how you know when your child is in the right school. We just moved our son to a new school for Kindergarten (3rd school in 3 years--all moves strategically planned to get him into the school he's going to now--is that insane or what?). Anyhow, when I pick him up from school, he is energized, happy, eager to tell me about his day, excited about new things, and is generally kind to everyone. He is a very sweet boy, but his reaction to school has never been this positive...I know he matured over the summer, but I also think that we finally found him the right fit.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck with the parent meeting--sounds like a great plan.

Gerbicks said...

you don't know me from adam...BUT my 3 year old is just starting preschool on monday (we live in ohio & all districts here have preschools for special needs kids--she has a severe speech delay--but they also have spots for 'typical' developing kids.) what i wanted to say is that my daughter who is not easily taken away from her mama is joyous to go into her classroom & leave me behind. b/c it's through the school district they especially have to adhere to all the state regulations but it is a very fun environment with teachers (1 teacher, 1 assistant) who have met with us several times. so what i'm trying to say is that your preschool experience should be better, eh? we looked into the montessori in our area & were disapointed with the high structure & dress code (not to mention the tuition--egads!)... trust your mama intuition. if i public school district can get it together & be open & warm, i would certainly hope a private preschool could do the same?

Astarte said...

You are not happy. That is reason enough to switch her to somewhere else. You should not have to convince yourself that your child's selected school is decent, especially then it isn't even public school that she has to go to. She sounds less than happy, you are unhappy, the end.

When Josie turned two, I pulled her from her home daycare and put her into a center with a big playground and lots of other children right up the street from my office. I soon had a funny feeling, and she started acting in a much more sullen way, but I wrote it off. I don't know if I will *ever* fully forgive myself for not listening to myself *immediately* and pulling her out before she had spent three long months there. When we moved to a new house, I didn't have to switch her daycare, but there was a nice little place up the street from our new house that I decided we should check out on a whim. From the minute she walked through the door there, she was the little girl I knew again, and the problem was obvious. It turned out that she was being discriminated against because she was white (she was one of only a few white children there, and all the caregivers were non-white as well), and was being singled out constantly for punishment, but she was too little to tell me in any way other than her sullen attitute and her exhaustion at the end of the day. I learned much later from one of my neighbors that this particular place, which was a national chain daycare that rhymes with Finderfare, had a reputation for singling out white kids. It makes me feel like shit to even write about it. My poor baby!

Patrick went to a Montessori preschool, and I have to say that I would recommend that style of schooling over any other, any day of the week. He benefitted so, so much from being around the older children; it encouraged him to learn more and try harder to keep up with his older friends, and allowed him to also be a leader in areas he was stronger in and help children who weren't as great at things. They provided different levels of all the activities in the class, and all the toys were really creative and yet basic. His particular school went up to K, and I really credit his experience there for helping give him the desire to learn to read.

Wow, this was a total book, sorry!! I really think you should give yourself more credit. You know what's right for your family, and this isn't it. Even if she was obviously happy there, and you weren't, that would still be a reason to switch her. Has she said what she wants to do?

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