Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Preschool: Down to Two

Another crazy day today -- a trip to Oak Park, a mortgage applied for and tonight a scramble to get together those mortgage documents so we actually have a chance of closing on time.

Our preschool visit to Oak Park wasn't too great, since I caught them at a bad time, but in the brief time we spent there I thought it looked like an OK place. So we have to decide whether to send Nutmeg to the Montessori school or the parks system this fall. Here are the pros and cons:


Montessori: fosters independence, sensory experience, a nice calm atmosphere, 3 teachers per class keep files on each child's development and learning, parent teacher conferences, Montessori activities, mixed age class, not too far from new house. currently has one spot available.

Park class: half a block from new house, much less expensive, four kids in the class live on our future block (and plan to return for fall), has a wider range of activities than the preschools I visited yesterday (i.e. cooking, more art projects than just coloring). no computer use. only a one-quarter committment.


Montessori: not sure how we would afford it. not as close to our house. although not a strict montessori program still somewhat dogmatic. occasional computer use. must committ fora full year.

park: the system seems disorganized based on the communication problems i've had just setting up visits. i only met one of the teachers and she seemed kind but the way she spoke gave me the impression she is not very educated.* she was also not brimming with enthusiasm; after giving a few details she summed up the activities as "your basic preschool stuff." I didn't see the class doing anything as a group, just playing independently, so hard to judge the program. technically has no spots, left, but i am first on the waiting list and they are thinking about allowing a larger class for fall. higher student-to-teacher ratio.

OK. So basically you get what you pay for and the Montessori school clearly offers a higher quality program. But. I am really taken by the idea of Nutmeg attending preschool alongside other nearby neighbors. No doubt most of these kids will also attend kindergarten at the public elementary a block away.

If Nutmeg turns out anything like I was as a kid, it's her social development that will need help, not her academics. I could really be doing her a favor by setting things up so she has a good chance of entering gradeschool with built-in friendships.

Now I sound like the kind of invasively-involved parent that I never wanted to be, the kind that micromanages her child's social life. But hey, I'm just saying, if I send her to this place, maybe the friendships will happen. It's not like I'm sitting there on the playground forcing them to hold hands.

On the other hand, I'm intrigued by Montessori and really think the independence kids learn there would make our whole family work more harmoniously. Since the plan is for the girls to attend public schools, I also feel like preschool is our only chance to choose a school based on quality and to expose them to an educational approach that's outside the conventional.

It would be safest to grab the one spot left in the Montessori school. I don't have a guarantee that she will get into the park school in the fall. But after talking to the director, I feel like she most likely will get into the class.

Lord, what to do? I am leaning towards the parks class.

I'm kind of sad because no program I saw in OP made me as happy as the co-op nursery school in the city, which Nutmeg actually got into. I had to turn the spot down. But on the upside, both our visits to OP this week were full of encounters with friendly moms and general good feelings. We got a brief peek at our branch library during an emergency bathroom run and it looks adorable (we couldn't stay and check out the children's section because I forgot our new stroller on the SIDE OF THE ROAD and we had to drive back to get it).

Nutmeg's vote seems to be on the parks preschool. As soon as we walked in she sat herself down at a table, grabbed some markers, and started drawing. When I told her we had to leave just a few minutes after we got there, she threw herself down on the floor, kicked off her shoes and cried. After I managed to get her outside, she sobbed, "I just want you to drop me off."

Yeah, she's ready or preschool. And yes mom, I know you're thinking of a similar event circa 1976.


Kori said...

I'm impressed, as always, by your incredibly detailed and thoughtful account of the schools you are investigating. I have to tell you, though, that I love you most because at the same time you are being so thorough about the Nut and Filbert's futures, you left the stroller on the side of the road. Because isn't that just a great metaphor for real-life motherhood---you abandon the stroller while you try to ensure your child's future?

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who uses the Oak Park Park District playschool/preschool for her 3 year old and she's been fairly happy with it. I think meeting other kids on the block, especially for summer will be worth it. You can always switch it up next year. (The Catholic schools in town are also pretty good)

Carrie said...

Kori -- Uh huh. Actually since Fil has been born my forgetfulness is at an all-time high. I think my brain is now at full capacity. I'm full.

Notta Wallflower said...

Ha, ha - "just drop me off". That's sweet and sad all at the same time. It's nice because you know she's ready, but then sad because it's kind of the first step into the "I don't need mom for everything" stuff. I don't view your parenting as micromanaging. You simply know your child and what she needs to work on. From an educator's standpoint, I get more frustrated with parents who know what their child needs to work on, but do nothing to facilitate those skills outside of school. I also see not enough parents focus on social skills in favor of academics.

Kendra said...

I am definitely not the type to give advice. This is your family. I do, however, know what you mean about going into school with built-in friends. I know that helped me a lot when I was young. I was shy, but at least I had my friends to fall back on and give me support.