Switching Preschools Again

I am the insane parent who sends my child to three preschools in two years.

As my long-time readers will remember, the first preschool Sophie attended was terrible: the teachers weren’t focused on the children, the curriculum was repetitive worksheets every day, and the staff actually lashed out at me when I pointed out (politely, I thought), that Sophie had come home with a bloody, dirty wound that no one had noticed or cleaned. So we switched schools.

The second preschool was ideal, full of sensitive teachers and creative activities. Soph’s latest thank-you note to her teachers tells part of that story:

Dear Mrs. T and all the other teachers, I will miss your hugs. I will always love you. At school, I have learned how to skip, sing lots of songs, write a little “e,” create beautiful art, use my words to say my feelings, make soda explode, and mostly have fun learning…

I cannot imagine more loving staff. They sensitively helped Sophie work through friendship with an aggressive girl. Sometimes they knew Sophie’s moods before I did.

They had incredible, age-appropriate activities: one day (during “winter week,”) they put out a large block of ice with some food-coloring for students to pour on it, just to watch what happened, and students & parents were mesmerized. When I mention to friends that for the last two weeks, Soph’s school has been focusing on seeing what happens when the kids mix acids & bases (making soda explode with a mint, making vinegar erupt with baking soda), my friends just marvel at this kind of curriculum. But it’s so much more than great hands-on activities.

Soph’s school managed to teach young children to play with a parachute without chaos, to sing “a tisket a tasket” in gorgeous ways, to jump rope and always wear a hat and each create artwork that was unique and fabulous. Their pajama day and Saint Patrick’s Day and lemonade-selling day were incredibly memorable without being overly focused on candy or consumption — which really isn’t easy to do. Their values were amazing. They never focused on straight academics alone, and because they didn’t overemphasize it, Soph has a deep joy in exploring the alphabet or counting in Spanish or doing the other academic things that she learned, along with skipping. Most of all, the staff all seemed so full of joy to be in school that Soph now wants to be a teacher at that same school.

I can’t believe I’m leaving this place.

But here’s the thing: the hours are horrible. It’s only open from 9am to 2pm, and this school takes more than 16 weeks of vacation every year. Between June and September, it’s only open for 4 weeks, and only for 3 days each week, and only to 1 pm. It’s twenty minutes away, too, so I really only get to work from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm: which adds up to about 9 hours a week of worktime for me in the summer. These hours were driving me crazy.

These hours may work well for stay-at-home moms, or even those who work part-time or who have extended family nearby to pick up the slack. Honestly, I think these hours are great for the kids. These hours are also great for the staff, who often have children in public-school and need to start each day after the public-school school-day, end before the public-school school-day, and take far more vacations than even the most vacationed public-school. But these hours weren’t great for me. I have a fabulous neighbor who picked up Sophie twice a week and watched her from 2-5 pm, but my neighbor kept telling me she couldn’t promise to do that forever. I was getting better at accepting that I would always find people to fill in the gaps in childcare — but those constant gaps were wearing me down.

When we were switching preschools last January, we had put ourselves on the wait-list of other schools we liked. And, a few weeks ago, a great school phoned to say they had an opening. This school is open from 7am to 6pm, allowing us to use whichever hours we need in that time-frame. It’s only 5 minutes away. It’s across the street from the home daycare that new Baby Everett will go to next January, so doing two drop-offs will be much easier. But is my convenience really a good reason to switch Sophie into yet another school? Some people tell me that a happy mother is necessary to a happy child, and I know I will need as much support as possible when I will have 2 kids.

We visited the new school again. It’s got better equipment: more space both indoors & out, more wooden toys and less plastic. It’s housed in a church, so it can afford this better space. But physical environment isn’t my highest priority, really, although I have to admit that Sophie loved the tricycles and the reading nook.

Two of Sophie’s close friends are already at this school, as well as two acquaintances, which makes both Soph & me much more excited. She already wrote sweet letters to those two friends, telling them how much she is looking forward to being in class with them. Much of her new class will go on to the local elementary school next year, thus easing the kindergarten transition. So I tell myself that the third preschool isn’t really introducing yet another difficult transition into Sophie’s life.

The staff seem loving and wise, and everyone I know enthuses about this new school. We’re going to make the switch. But I am oh-so-sorry to leave Solana Beach Community Preschool.

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2 responses to “Switching Preschools Again

  1. karla

    Sophie will do great!

  2. elewinnek

    Thanks for the reassurance. Soph is in camp for the next 3 weeks at our local YMCA, whose preschool is so popular around here that parents actually get in line at 4am on registration day, just to get a spot in that school. Soph likes this camp okay, but transitions are hard for her.

    What’s making my life easier is that her new Y teachers adore her. “What school does she go to? Because, you know, she’s really smart,” they told me yesterday, her second day there. Then, on her third day at camp, “Can we recruit her into our preschool?” Apparently, I don’t have to get in line at 4am a year ahead of time, because I happen to have an amazingly sweet, curious, good-student of a daughter. It’s making me feel better, this flattery from her camp counselors. I think it means she will thrive anywhere.

    We’re not going to the Y preschool, though. Popularity frightens me even in a school. And Soph says that at Y camp, there’s too much carpet-time, which gets boring to her, and she can’t remember her teachers’ names, and the boys keep talking about their penises (it’s hilarious, hearing Soph’s version of her day) and I know she doesn’t need yet another transition.

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