I am off to tour another preschool…so I leave you in the incredibly capable hands of todays guest blogger, Jessica Edelen.   Jessica’s article on how to pick a preschool is spot on.  The number one thing I took away from her article is an important parenting lesson for us all to learn – trust your gut.  It is so easy to get caught up in the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘have toe’ and the ‘maybes’, but at the end of the day, across many parenting topics, the most important thing is your parenting intuition. So, I am off to trust my gut about this next school…enjoy!!

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How to Pick a Preschool
By Jessica Edelen
Now, I want to make clear right out of the gate that this is not a researched and tested methodology on choosing a preschool. There are plenty of books out there that will give you that. This is just *my* opinion based on *my* experience. But you’ll begin to see (hopefully, if I’ve written this article well) that *your* gut feeling and intuition are really what matters in this arena. So here we go.
You could say I was a bit overwhelmed when I had my first child. There were the usual joys of newborn-hood: sleepless nights, mysterious ailments and rashes, learning to swaddle, forgetting what a moment to yourself feels like…And then we moved from the city to the suburbs. And he wouldn’t take naps, and he got an ear infection, and I quit my job, and I joined a Mothers’ Club, and he smiled for the first time… And slowly, but surely, we started to get the hang of things. And then: SCREECH. What?! I’m supposed to have him enrolled in preschool by this point? He’s 9 months old!
Luckily or unluckily (because believe me you can look at it either way), my mom is a preschool teacher. So, on her kind words of wisdom, I put my child on the list at two preschools in the area. I had not been to either one. I did some research, if you can call research seeing the word Montessori in front of one (my mom is a Montessori teacher), and knowing that a friend liked the other one. Now, if you’re familiar with the suburban environment of any major metropolis, you probably know that being on two preschool lists is NOT a lot. Some of my fellow mom friends were on seven. I kid you not. That’s a lot of applications to fill out, not to mention the $50-$200 deposits!
After I officially had his name on the lists, I sort of forgot about preschool for a while. I had a lot going on. Then, one Spring morning, I got the call: It was time for his interview at school #1. “Interview”??? I called my mom. She said, “Have you even seen any of these places?”  “Um, no,” I replied. So with my mom in tow, we toured all two of the schools.
Here’s my summary of each:
School #1: Lots of “hardscape.” This was my mother’s assessment and I remember it to this very day as it was so accurate. But before I get to that, I want to make clear that this was a place where the children were happy. They looked occupied, stimulated, and healthy. And the classrooms were sweet, with bright raincoats hanging on wooden pegs, puzzles and dress up clothes strewn about, and little beds for those who napped. It was also very different than the preschool image I had in my head. Located in the downtown district of a neighboring town, there wasn’t much grass to speak of and the playground was on a patch of black asphalt shared with the parking lot. Now, you should know that I had lived in a big city for eight years; I was not unfamiliar with urban environments. But this wasn’t the city…it was the suburbs.
So I left with a good feeling about the children and teachers, but less so about the campus and what I could only describe as a bit of a distance between me and it. I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy. I didn’t necessarily “see” my little guy there.
School #2: The first thing I noticed upon visiting school #2 was the sense of calm in the classroom. I couldn’t believe there could be 30 three- and four-year-olds in the room and yet, hardly any noise. The children were “working” on their jobs (Montessori lingo), happily; sometimes together, sometimes alone. And the materials were clean, engaging and age-appropriate. I loved the sense of warmth during circle time, and believe me, the fact that the school is housed in an old Tudor-style home didn’t go unnoticed.
Now, here’s the thing: You might think I was biased toward school #2 because it was Montessori-based. But really, I almost wanted to NOT like it due to the fact that it was more expensive, philosophically narrow-focused, and of course, my mother’s first pick.
But in the end, my heart tugged when I saw the little “wash the baby” job at school #2 — something I just knew my son would love. And I could envision his name on a bright red cubby; I could almost see what photo we’d send in to stick on the front. It resonated with me, this Montessori school in a location not quite soooo close to home. And though school #1 was absolutely wonderful, it wasn’t for us, for OUR family. I know many children who truly thrive there, and I’m so happy they do. But we chose #2 and are still there today — three children later.
So please do your due diligence when choosing a preschool. Get on lists, go on tours, talk to your friends, go SEE the campuses. But in end, go with your heart. Because as your mother probably told you (and she’s right, darn it!), when you do that, you can never go wrong.
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