Thursday, September 15, 2011

Preschool Dazed

My son is not even two years old yet, and I'm fretting about school.

Perhaps it's indicative of my Type A personality, or perhaps it's just that we live where we live. (At the playground last summer, when Nate wasn't even one, I had other mothers asking me whether I was sending him to preschool that fall.) Regardless, it's taking up a fair bit of my mental energy right now, because I'm worried about, you know, getting it right. In preschool.

The first question, of course, is whether to send him at all next fall. Three is a pretty common age at which to start preschool, and Nate will, indeed, be three next fall. But the state age cutoff for starting kindergarten is five by September 30th, and so many of the preschools have a three-by-the-30th policy, and Nate's birthday is October 6th. Less than a week later. And so we're faced with the question of whether we'd rather he be pretty much the youngest kid in his class, or the oldest.

I'd initially hoped we could just postpone thinking about this issue until closer to age 5, when he has some preschool under his belt and we can see where he is intellectually, emotionally, and socially. I'd sort of figured that we could, if necessary or advisable, give him three years of preschool.

The more I think about it, though, the more it seems like we have to give this some serious thought right now. First, if we send him to a traditional preschool program, what is he going to think when all his classmates are going to kindergarten the following fall, and he's going to stay out for another year of preschool? Second, we're considering sending him to Montessori school, where the kids spend three years in the same Primary classroom, with the third year being the kindergarten year. If we go the Montessori route and start him next fall, we're pretty much making the decision now that he'll be the youngest kid in his class.

There is sort of another option, I guess, which is to put him in a twos or 2.5s program, although those programs are very popular around here and hard to get into.

If we do decide to send him next fall, assuming he can do a threes program, the next question is whether to send him to a play-based or a Montessori school. The Montessori schools, in addition to being crazy expensive, all seem to meet five days a week. Five days a week just seems like a lot to me, and there's not an option to attend for fewer days. At the same time, I love the Montessori philosophy and think he could really thrive in that environment (and, actually, that almost any child would thrive in that environment). We can figure out the money; if we decide it's the right fit for him, we'll just make it a priority. I just don't know whether either of us will be ready to be apart for hours every day.

(That's the other thing that's so frustrating. I'm thinking about these things an entire year ahead of time. But the preschool fair is next month, and applications are due in January and February, and the Montessori schools take applications on a rolling basis--i.e., now. And at $100 a pop just to apply, I feel like I don't want to send a bunch of applications willy-nilly in case we decide to go that route.)

The third issue is whether we want to send him to our parish preschool. The parish just opened a preschool this fall, and I'd initially assumed we would just send him there. There's a Montessori-based religious education program involved (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), but the bulk of the program is not Montessori. I feel like, unless we decide to send him to a true Montessori school, we should support the parish school, and I've always loved the idea of having more areas of our life be tied into our faith community. They are using the September 30th birthday cutoff, but I'm pretty sure that if their threes program isn't full next fall, they'd be glad to take Nate.

Of course, the biggest problem with all of this is that it forces me to consider the fact that my precious tiny baby is continuing to get bigger and bigger and all too soon will be in school, all day, away from me, and will one day leave me altogether. This, my friends, is wholly unacceptable. And unavoidable. With my boy at age not-even-quite-two, I'm not ready to think about it yet.

Maybe I can just scrap the whole "going to school" idea and homeschool him until college.


Linda said...

I have heard numerous times that it is better to hold back and be the oldest in the class rather than the youngest. But like you mentioned - help from the experts at preschool is very helpful.

Jessica said...

With all the talk lately about the struggles of age three I'm thinking a little time apart is key to surviving it. :)

claire said...

I feel for you! It is a huge dilemma. I was lucky that my son has a January birthday, so there wasn't any conflict about when to put him in the three-year old program (which he just started this week). When he was a baby I complained about his birthday being so close to Christmas, but now I'm actually glad because it makes school decisions so much easier.

In our area, we have the same situation with the Montessori schools. They're pricey, and they involve a heavier schedule than what I wanted for my son. Right now he goes two mornings/week for 2.5 hours/day, and that's more than enough for me! I see a lot of value in the Montessori approach, but I also love the play-based school that he's at now. I think it's awesome that your parish preschool incorporates elements of both. If you sent him there and found out that he seemed bored, would it be possible to have him "skip a grade" (I put that in quotes because it's kind of comical to refer to skipping a year of preschool as skipping a grade) and have him start kindergarten a year earlier than originally planned?

I also started researching preschools when my son was barely two. I had no desire to put him in a two-year old program, but I wanted ample time to make my decision and get my applications in early enough to get him in my first choice, which I did. One thing we did when he turned 3 was to put him in an "On My Own" story hour at our library, where the kids attend story hour by themselves while the mothers wait in the next room. This really helped in preparing him for preschool.

Good luck!

hopeforcambodia said...

Lauren, as a teacher with 17 years experience I know that from experience and research that boys do much better the later they start.

We are planning to homeschool but I honestly would postpone school as long as possible if we were going the school route. In Denmark, Sweden and Norway the children don't start school until seven or eight, and they have what is reputed to be the most successful education system in the world. I believe it is far better for little ones to be with their primary caregiver as long as possible.

He won't miss out! If you do decide on school, I would definately go for him being the oldest.


A'Dell said...

Claire is an October 8 baby so, same thing. And, it's annoying because Claire is kind of smart (I know, all the parents say that) so I feel like at this age, where the gap between just-turned-two and just-turned-three is so wide, developmentally, she might be bored or annoyed with being the oldest.

I can't really do anything about THAT part - she gets the class she gets I suppose since the cutoff dates are all the same, no matter what school.

But! Is it terrible that when thinking about "hold her back/push her forward" I think "Hold her back!" because then we get an extra year before we have to pay for college? YES. I THINK ABOUT THINGS LIKE THAT. AM SHALLOW.

I loved the Montessori school. LOVED IT. I knew nothing about it going in but it was just so...marvelous and shiny and homey and I loved it to bits. The three-day program is too expensive when I'm not working so right now I have her waitlisted at two Methodist preschools that do a sort of half Montessori curriculum.

For now, I am fine with that. I have no ideas of keeping her at the same school because I have no idea what *I* will be doing over the next few years. I mean, it's entirely possibly that in six months she will be back to the Montessori school full time if I am working. I'm stopgap shopping.

But! Back to you! I love the idea of him going to your parish school. It just sounds like such a round circle to do that and very community oriented (YOUR community, that is).

It's good that you have choices. Around here, everything is all booked up and I"m feeling lucky to find an opening at all.

Adam Thomas said...

Nice blog.. keep up the good work !

Montessori Nursery School

Salome Ellen said...

Well, the one thing I know for sure is that he doesn't need preschool. None of our kids went, and I didn't even go to kindergarten, since at that time the kindergartens were private/church-based programs like most preschools are now. As long as Dad and (especially) Mom are doing all the "natural" teaching -- this is red, 1 and 1 together are 2 -- which I know you are, the only benefit I can see to preschool is the socialization, which came more naturally when (extended) families were larger. With our older kids we had "kid swap" days with some friends, which I guess you could call a rudimentary co-op preschool, but the later ones didn't even have that, just a big neighborhood with lots of kids.

Sarah in Ottawa said...

Teddy just started at the local co-op preschool this week. It seems to be a blend of play and Montessori. The kids have to be 30 months old and he's almost 32, so he's almost the youngest in his class. Frankly, it's the only time he'll be the youngest. Our cutoff in Ontario is December 31st and he's a January baby, so he'll always be one of the oldest.

Here in Ontario, we also have two years of Kindergarten, Junior and Senior. As such, kids can start school the year they turn 4. Most of the other kids in Teddy's preschool class this year will be in Kindergarten next year, but Teddy will end up doing two years of preschool, just like would be the situation with Nate. We knew that going in, and as the time approaches, we'll prep him for it. He'll spend his second year with kids who will be in his eventual grade, so that's a selling point.

Anyway, we love it so far. We're excited about going in to the school and helping out. Both Dave and I LOVED school, and Teddy seems to be enjoying himself. I'll keep you posted.

Your parish school sounds great, though. What a great option to have!

Aside: I was born in Quebec, where the provincial cutoff is Sept. 30th. My bday? Oct 2nd. My parents were dreading that call, but we ended up having to move to Ontario when I was a toddler so I didn't have to contend with it. That date seems so arbitrary for me. Why not either the beginning of the SCHOOL year or the CALENDAR year for cutoffs?

Lisa said...

Oh, yes. Preschool is hard. You will second-guess yourself forever. But I kind of think that's OK. Preschool is a good time to second-guess yourself because there's no shame in pulling them out and trying again next year. It might be harder, though, with a more rigid program, like the Montessori might be. We are pretty happy with our parish school so far, but I'm glad to have a couple of years of preschool to figure out if it's the right place for Olivia.

Rosemary said...

lots to think about here - have you considered Siena Academy in Great Falls? It is a Catholic Montessori school, and it is beautiful. I don't know where you live, but I wanted to put that out there b/c it's such a lovely school. I am taking the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Course there. Nate would only go for a half day initially, but I feel the same thing about it being so early to be apart from him 5 days. I would suggest checking it out, though, if it is anywhere close to you.

Lauren said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone. It's so helpful to know I'm not the only one who has struggled with this issue.

Rosemary, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Siena Acadamy, and have been over there for a Montessori class. Unfortunately, Great Falls is a long way from our house, even without traffic, and traffic on 66, the toll road, and Route 7 is such a bear (as you know). Oh, how I wish there were a Catholic Montessori school closer to my house. I actually know someone who MOVED in order to be closer to Siena, though. It's that good.

Rosemary said...

happy Birthday, Lauren!

I'm glad you saw Siena!

My boy is almost 4, and he hasn't been in preschool. We're still not sure what we're going to do for school. Kinda wish he had gone to Montessori - kinda wondering about all our options, wishing I had worried earlier! Ok not worried, but you are in a good position. You might go to adoration and pray for wisdom about these decisions. That's what I'm gonna do - though I wish I'd done it 1.5 years ago! :)

Amy said...

As someone with a 4yo with a late summer birthday (in an area with Aug 31st cutoffs) I feel your pain. After lots of waffling, we did not send him at barely 3. Every teacher we ever talked to voted for K at newly 6 rather than newly 5 and we just didn't feel like we needed 3 years of preschool. Now at newly 4, he goes to a modified Montessori school two half days a week. Its a perfect fit for us. Next year, he'll do a 4 or 5 day a week 1/2 day pre-K and be ready for K the next year. Will I still feel conflicted next fall when he doesn't start. Pretty sure yes. But, he's our oldest. I figure we have the rest of our life to live by the school district's schedule. I'll take one more year for us.