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Friday, January 27, 2012

Looking at Preschools

Oh the things I never paid attention to before becoming a parent! Add the fact that I didn't grow up in this country and am not familiar with the system, the process, etc.

Julian will be 3 in August, so it's time for Preschool. But first can I just tell you how confusing all of this was for me? I've got it down now (I think), but I had no clue what came first, and what was what... Preschoo, Pre-K, Kindergarten! *?????*

Here is why: In Germany, you first go to Kindergarten (that's Preschool & Pre-K), then you go to the Vorschule (literally translated Preschool, but really it's what they consider Kindergarten here) from there you go to First Grade. So everything is backwards for me!

So as far as I understand it, in the US the order is as follows:
Preschool, then Pre-K, then Kindergarten, then First Grade!

Back to Julian turning 3 in August, when he can start Preschool. Our babysitter told us about where her older daughter went, and where she wants their little one (Julian's age) to go as well. This Preschool is at a United Methodist Church, option of going 2x or 3x weekly, 8:30 - 11:30am. She asked if we wanted her to continue watching Julian afterwards, which would be great but we would HAVE to choose that particular Preschool for him.

You might think what the problem is. Really, these aren't real problems, but considerations we are looking at.

- Julian currently stays home on Mondays with daddy, since hubby isn't working on Mondays. It's been like this since Julian was born. Hubby is currently looking for a new job, preferably working Monday - Tuesday so we can have more Family time.
- Not sure if the babysitter wants to watch him fulltime, we started Julian off with her only 3 days a week, then it turned to 4 days a week when he turned 1.
- Expenses. While we don't mind paying a little extra for a private babysitter, who really takes great care of Julian and where he gets great personal attention and is very happy and we think loved, our salary doesn't grow on trees. It would be cheaper to take him to a regular Preschool with fulltime Daycare attached.
- Continuity. The church based Preschool doesn't have Daycare. While we are struggling to decide whether we should take Julian out of his current comfortable environment (Preschool at Church would only be 2 mornings a week, then it's back to the normal babysitter), we are pretty certain we won't need a private babysitter when Julian turns 4. I don't want to then move him from an environment and new friends he has made to a brandnew Pre-K program where he has to get adjusted again. Wouldn't be a problem if the Church had Daycare available, but they don't.
- Church based Preschool. While I am not against him learning more about Christianity, God, Jesus, the spririt of Christmas, etc. I am not sold on putting him in a Church based school. What happened to separation of State and Church? Or in this case, School and Church? Our babysitter assures us that the focus on religion is minimal - her 6 yr old daughter who attended the same Preschool & VPK there recognized her old school because of the "lowercase t" in front of the building, and told me they were told stories about gods and goddesses, hehe. Ok, apparently she hasn't been preached to :)
- Naptime. Yes, I know it's crazy but if you are a mom, I am sure you understand the things I worry about lol. So far naptime has been in the comfort of our own home, or the babysitter's comfy cozy, very family oriented home. To the point that he goes to sleep by himself for naptime without any problems... but then wakes up after an hour, calls for the babysitter, and she will go and pick him up so he can continue sleeping on the couch next to her for another hour or so. And I don't care if you think we just encouraged and allowed bad naptime routines to be established and continue, I love the fact that our babysitter doesn't mind giving him that personal attention and caters to him. It's something a mom would do, and since I am at work, it comforts me that she treats him in this little special way.

I also know that I am far more anxious about all of this than I need to be, and that Julian will adjust much more beautifully to anything than I will. But hey, I'm a firsttime parent, and I do obsess about this stuff, so will you just let me please?

When I tell my mom about these things and what worries me she reminds me (every single time) of my first week in Preschool (or Kindergarten in Germany). It was so traumatic that I even remember it!! I was such a mama's girl, the youngest, overly attached to mommy, very shy, very intimidated, very introverted, very unsure of myself. So the first day of Preschool I cried soooo hard when my mom left me there that once the teacher was able to pry my hands off my mom, I held on like a lioness to the nearest POLE at that place just so that I wouldn't have to fall into the evil hands of the teacher. Watching my mom walk away and crying my lungs out for her, tears streaming down my face. Yes, I remember this! What I don't remember, but what my mom loves to remind me of, is that I apparently cried so hard that eventually all the kids in Preschool were crying along and they had to call my mom and ask her to come pick me up LOL. For that first week, my mom had to sit in class with me every single day to help me get adjusted :D My point is - I know, I know, apparently I survived that traumatic experience and turned out to be a normal and independent adult. And Julian is definitely less shy and introverted than both hubby and I used to be as children. It doesn't make me worry less, but it does help aleviate some of my anxiety. I just worry that Julian is more of a quiet kind of child who sits back a little bit to observe first. He's easily intimidated by other kids who are a little louder and rougher. But he is also very kind, he is good at sharing, he is considerate and always checks on other people, and with family and friends so far, he gets attached and close to them very easily.

Hubby and I made an appointment to tour the Church based Preschool about two weeks ago. It was a very nice, bright, friendly place.
Pros are great ratios, 10 students to 1 teacher with a floating assistant. Many of their teachers have MBA's in early childhood development, they have a great curriculum and have lots of opportunity for parent involvement.
The director was very friendly and personable, eased our minds with Julian speaking three languages, our mixed faith family, etc. and we connected well.
And he gets to go home with the current babysitter afterwards and stay there the other days.
Also, she will take him with a lowgrade fever and even give him Tylenol if needed, so we don't have to take vacation time.
And we don't pay her if she doesn't watch him, so we always adjust the pay based on how many days she watches him.

Cons are no Daycare in case the need arises, and the kids going to Church for storytime once a month in Preschool, and once a week in VPK/Pre-K.
The other cons are that we are sometimes limited in how long he stays with his babysitter afterwards, and that we sometimes have to take vacation time to accommodate their vacations.
Julian has to be absolutely potty trained, no ifs and buts. They don't even allow pull ups. Yes, we hope that won't be a problem, but who knows??

Today I thought I'd take him to a Daycare/Preschool right in our neighborhood, recommended by one of my friends whose 3 year old son and 1 year old daughter go to, different branch but same franchise name.
Pros for this place would be location, schedule and hours available. Drop off as early as 6:30am, and pick up as late as 6:30pm. Which doesn't mean that we would leave Julian there for 10 hours, but it's good to know there is an option, just in case. And of course fulltime means Monday through Friday.
Price - definitely cheaper, especially on a fulltime basis.
More friends - who knows, Julian might enjoy having more friends to play with all day long, instead of just the limited amount of friends 2x a week, then back to his two buddies right now.
Adjusting to all of this at 3 is probably easier than at 4.
Cons - we pay no matter what.
Julian will probably come home sick more often than now, with so many children there.
I can't get over naptime... 15 kids together in one room each all sleeping on a mat instead of a cute bed in a cozy home.
Larger student to teacher ratio.
Teachers seem to be less advanced as far as their educational background.
Price - our babysitter is not the cheapest, and while it's not a big deal right now, we are planning on Child #2, then expenses will definitely have to be considered.

I wish someone could just hand us the perfect solution on a silver platter! I am sure we will figure it out though and make the best decision for all of us.

When we got back into the car, I asked Julian if he liked it there and he said "Yes!", in that cute little soft but excited way. Then I asked him if he would want to go back and play with all those nice kids and all those toys and again he said "Yeah!", soft but excited. Hmmmmm... do I trust him??? :)

On another note... we went to the mall afterwards and had a great time together! Rode the carousel, Julian chose a new buddy, his monkey "Bacci" at Build A Bear (he picked the name "Bacci" even though later I realized that's just what it sounds like when he tries to say "Monkey", and I asked him what the Monkey's name should be LOL), got new pyjamas on sale at the Disney Store, and a new Lightning McQueen car at the Disney Store.

And I finally had the chance to try the new Pho place at the food court. I was so excited a Pho-place opened last time we went to the mall, but had eaten something else already! And surprisingly, the Pho was delicious! Unexpected, but definitely great! Not many options, but who cares? Great affordable Pho at the mall, sign me up!

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