How do you put the "care" in "preschool"?

I can't believe I'm actually going to type this, but I think my biggest issue with Z's current preschool is that it's not enough like.... daycare.

Crazy, right? I mean, I used to call Z's old daycare her "school" because the word "daycare" gave me the heebee jeebies.

I know I'm looking back through some rose-colored, memory-faded glasses but I really miss her old daycare back in Pasadena. I miss knowing that she had a "primary teacher" who was responsible for knowing her likes and dislikes, for reporting to us at the end of the day how her day went, what she ate, when she pooped. I miss getting to hang out in the classroom and feeling like I really knew what her day was like when I wasn't with her.

I miss her getting to play and learn and learn through playing and playing to learn and not correcting me when we play pretend school at home by saying glumly "No Mommy. We don't play in my school, we do works.".

They took care of her in her old daycare. They were not perfect (as I have to keep reminding myself) but they knew her and listened to her and cared for her. And they let her freaking play.

Last week, she told me that even when she asked, her teachers wouldn't help her in the bathroom. They told her she was big enough to wipe herself. Which, um, SHE'S NOT. NOT QUITE. When she told me this, I wanted to cry. The girl needs just a little bit of CARE, people. SHE'S THREE. How about you help her get to where she doesn't need help in the bathroom. She's almost there, we're working on it too. BUT SHE'S NOT THERE AND SHE ASKED FOR YOUR HELP.

*stepping away from the caps lock*

We toured another daycare/preschool last week and while it probably wasn't the right fit for us (it's not convenient, it's quite large and felt corporate-y, they only have full day, they allow 1/2 hour of "educational TV" which seems silly because HELLO if I wanted my kid to watch more TV I could keep her at home.) it was a good jumping off point to assess what we really want and where to look next.

We're still tortured about all this and every day we flip - "Today she said she loved her teacher! And she has friends! We have to keep her there!"- and flop- "Today she said she didn't want to wear a uniform, didn't want to go to school every day, didn't want to do 'work' because they aren't very fun. We have to move her.". It's exhausting.

We tour yet another preschool/daycare on Wednesday. We hope to come to a decision soon and, if we move her, move her by the first of the year.


Hillary said...

I'm with you. I really think "school" for kids younger than five should be about playing. Period. End of story. They are learning that way. My big criteria when we had to find a new daycare for The Boy (in a week! ack!) were: 1. Large outside play area and plenty of time to use it and 2. Lots of love for the kids.
Good luck in your search.

Erica said...

Oh my goodness, the bathroom part made my eyes well up with tears. Can't you just take her out of that preschool all together while you look for another one. That place seems so harsh and utilitarian, you know? Not a place where a child can grow and laugh.

I'm sure it's not all that bad or you wouldn't have enrolled her, but my Mother Bear instinct is in full swing after that "refusing to help her" bullshit. GAH!

Jane said...

Where are you in N. VA? I grew up there and have some friends who have kids in "school" (daycare, to be sure!) up there who might have recommendations. If you are reluctant to give me the exact city, can you tell me what letter it starts with? That will narrow things down.

parkingathome said...

That's depressing, they're treating kids too old for their age, plain and simple. I can understand the bathroom thing in a 4 year-old classroom because in that case the child is just probably being lazy or the parent being a douche, but not in 3s. I understand that they want to introduce them to school terms and make parents impressed with their curriculum, but some preschool programs really need to step back and take a look at how stupid they look. You walk into the kindergarten class, and it's less structured than this! I really hope you can find something that works, I'm sorry you're both going through this.

Swistle said...

Oh, this whole thing is so agitating!

Also, I spent like 30 seconds trying to spell "care" with the word "preschool" before I realized there was no A. And no R.

Jane said...

My sources in N.Va had a few recommendations: Merritt Academy and Nest Academy. Merritt has 2 sister schools that are for younger kids. The only part I hesitate on that one is that they incorporate Christian values into their day. Not sure how you feel about that. They are run by the same people as Sunrise Assisted Living facilities and have a program where the kiddos visit with their residents (intergeneratioal program) which I think sounds neat. They are online.

Nest Academy is in Lorton and I couldn't find a website. A few friends who work for Ffx. Hospital (Inova) have their kids at the daycare there. I don't know where Chic Geek works, so...

I hope this helps. It makes me sad that Zoe is not having fun and that it is causing heartache. I know how desperately important quality childcare is and how it can have a tremendous impact on everyone.

Good luck!

Marie Green said...

Our experience with Montessori was NOTHING like that. Yes, they had "works" but it was only a term they used to describe all the different toys. The kids played and pretended and GOT HELP IF NEEDED. I found it to be a very loving, homey, kind place. Sunshine-y and bright.

I think you'll find the perfect place for her. And I think your gut is saying that where she is at is NOT quite right for her.

Grateful Twin Mom said...

Wow. Z's really having a hard time. I hope you find a place she loves soon. I, too, felt so sad reading about the lack of help in the bathroom. Really? She's only 3 1/2. T1 needed help until he was 6 1/2! Any time they're away from us it's hard. My twins are in after school at the parks and rec. Not ideal, but definitely sufficient for 2-3 hours, 2-3 days a week, 2-3 weeks a month. right? I worry nevertheless.

desperate housewife said...

I'm just floored that they wouldn't help her. I mean, most of the time Addy, at age OVER 4 NOW, can handle pee wipes herself, but I ALWAYS help her with number two. And sometimes she just gets freaked out if she's waited too long to pee, and needs me in there to walk her through the process, or she flips out and has an accident. Definitely still needs help!
I'm kind of wondering the same thing as Erica. Could you maybe ask Z how she feels about just taking a break from preschool until you find her a better one?
Good luck with this! How yucky.

Good Enough Mom said...

Swistle-you crack me up!

CBHM--I totally feel you with the exhaustion of flip-flop decision making. I go through this CONSTANTLY. (And I really do mean CONSTANTLY--like with every.single.decision--even ones I've already made). It is so, so, sooo tiring. And it's so hard to know what the right thing is for your kid.

When I reach my limit with this, though, I try to make myself step back and think about the big picture:

Your kid is doing great. She is healthy, loved, nurtured, and thriving. She has you as a mother, and that is tremendously protective for her. So, even if the school is not what you'd wish for in every single way--she will be fine. And even if she has pee-pee underwear (awww!), she'll be fine. And any decision you make for her, whether you keep her there or move her, will be the best decision, because you are a kind, generous, and thoughtful parent.

So, there. Now tell me these words back next week when I can't figure out where my kid should get swim lessons...


ali said...

I know things are different in the US in that here in Australia kids don't attend anything really (apart from child care if needed) until they turn four but does she have to go to anything really?
Is it a requirement that she go to "school" or is it that you need some time when she is not in your care? Just trying to understand, it's a bit different to what I am used to.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

I am sorry this is so stressful. It is no fun wondering if they are OK. M is in a great T/TH program we love but in an Italian preschool on Fridays we aren't so sure about. It is exhausting trying to decide what to do about the Italian school. A friend even told me, "You never say anything nice about the school so why do you stay?" Excellent point. I am observing on Friday and then we also have to make a decision. Good luck! I hope you find a school you don't have to worry and think about.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Erica, Semi-desparate housewife- We have thought long and hard about just pulling her out and as soon as we approach that decision, the next day, Z is calm and happy to go to school. We are not struggling to get her out the door every day (though about once a week there may be some tears) and she is having separation issues from me in general so it is very hard to tell what is this school and what is just her not wanting to be away from me/home. She is learning A TON there and has days when she comes home happy and chatty about all the things she's learned.

ali- This, being preschool, is totally voluntary and COMPLETELY about keeping me sane. Being new here and not knowing anyone and having a 5 month old who's sleep has gone to HELL, I honestly don't know how I would survive being home alone with both of them all week. Sadly, it is only a requirement for my mental health. That said, my mental health is quite important to me so... yeah, preschool is where it's at.

Jane- Many thanks for the recommendations! That was very sweet of you to research. I am in a small town, feels like the boonies a bit, further out than the places you mentioned. We're trying to stay right in town for convenience which means that our options are quite limited.

Anonymous said...

It's been a few years since I looked for preschools, but I found two things:
- the type of school you're looking for (where play is where it is at) are called developmental preschools.
- church or synagogue-run schools are often developmental preschools and I found the ones I used to be staffed by loving, creative teachers. I used one at an Episcopal church, one at a Methodist church, and one at a synagogue. They were laid back about the religious stuff.

Amie said...

I hope you find the right fit.

Gina said...

The refusal to help her in the bathroom is definitely too harsh. Can you talk to her teachers about helping her when she asks, they should be able to accommodate your request. We are constantly saying to our kids, "use your words". It seems cruel that she was doing just that - expressing herself clearly and reasonably - and they didn't honor her needs.

I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but had you stayed here in Pasadena things would have changed as well. We were in Koalas up until last week (we're taking a break now) and it is definitely not as warm and "caring" as Penguins. I still love the center and think it is far and away the best daycare/preschool around - but in Koalas there are no "primary" teachers and the kids are expected to me much more independent.

I hope you guys are able to find a good fit soon. Have you looked into co-ops? They generally don't offer as many hours and they require more parent participation but they tend to be very play focused.

Astarte said...

I can't believe no one would help her. That's ridiculous. I mean, I know that a preschool is a school and not a daycare, and they want to teach them to be independent, but refusing to help with anything at all isn't good, either. It sounds like there are parts of the place that she likes, but really, those same parts will be in other places, too, ones that won't have such big drawbacks. It sounds like she - and you - need a more relaxing, more nuturing, less rigorous environment.

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