Let's not panic, it's just Preschool

Here's a truth: I'm a worrier. As a response to my worries, I go online to research. Practically 97% of the time I go online, I end up getting even more worried. Or, I come up with even more things to worry about. It's a terrible cycle. 

Even though it causes me to worry, I am thankful to have the Internet as a mom. I have so many questions every day. I don't know how my mom and did it without the Internet! Not only that, but who knew that part of being a mom would require you to also take on a research job? I shouldn't call myself a stay-at-home mom, I should call myself Child Raising Researcher (CRR). I hereby declare this a new thing. 

When I first had Caleb, the fact that I literally had NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING was terrifying. However, I press on and tackle each new thing as it comes. I still worry about missing something or not even being aware of something I should be doing. For instance, I didn't know that you had to basically teach your kid how to sleep. Yes, really, to sleep. I thought it was a totally instinctive thing. Sure, sure, they can sleep...but sleep through the night...yea. And, yes, I read an entire book about sleep. 

Anyway, let's get to the point. The latest worry (and research mania) for me has been about preschool. When I first became a mom, one of the million things I worried about was school and realizing too late that I should have started him eight months ago. Or, I'd miss the window of opportunity to enroll him and find out all the classes were full everywhere. Truly a worry. 

Luckily, when you become a mom, you naturally start surrounding yourself with other moms. And mom's talk. And they talk about their kid(s). You talk about your kid(s). So you generally know what everyone else is worrying about. Because I'm pretty sure we are all worrying. This gives me encouragement. 

The latest mom talks these days is preschool. When are you going to start? Where are you looking? What do you think of this place? Do you like the (fill in the blank) method? At first, I was like, excuse me, Waldorf? Isn't that a chicken salad with grapes (you know it is)? So I talked to mom friends and went online, of course. 

I know you're dying to hear some of my findings and thoughts, so let's get the show going:

  • What age do you start preschool?  This depends on the family and child. Generally, I see preschools list ages starting as early a 2 years old. Although, it seems 2-1/2 is the most common age to start around here. Of course, you have to look at your child's birthday and when the school year starts. I've seen some schools let you start mid-way through, while others have you wait until the school year begins. We are going to aim for just over 2-1/2 with Caleb and start in the fall 2018.
  • When does preschool start?  They all seem to run on the school year calendar and start in the fall around September and run through the start of summer. 
  • When do you need to enroll? One of my worst fears just happened. I learned it was open enrollment already at one of the schools we're considering. It's pretty popular so it'll likely fill up quickly. I literally just called the school to set up a tour. That said, some have started and others will be starting soon - like February and March timeframe.
  • Does it cost money? Surprise, yes it does. Even the co-ops cost something, but they are definitely less expensive. On average, I'm seeing an enrollment fee and tuition. The co-ops also seem to have a registration fee for the parent(s) at Bates Technical College, which is where the co-op programs are based out of. 
  • Where should I go? Ha. Hahahaha. Beats me! I'm new at this. I thought Waldorf was (and, it is) a salad. Let's dive into this a bit more. 

First, you'll want to consider either cooperative school or a traditional preschool. A co-op is much more hands-on and involvement on the parents' end, whereas traditional is less so. Since I knew less about co-ops (which I thought of as a type of grocery store before I learned it's also an educational method), I broke down the pros and cons of a co-op. 

Next, you mind consider some of the educational philosophies or approaches. Most preschools follow a play-to-learn type approach. Come on now, we're talking about toddlers. Can you picture them sitting at a desk, raising their hands, and paying full attention. NO! So this play approach makes sense to me. Here's how I broke this down...although there are more than just these. 

Then, I may suggest you think about what your goal is out of preschool. Socialization, independence, finding parent friends, glorified childcare (no shame in that!), or whatever. For instance, if you just moved to a new area and would love to meet some friends for your kid and yourself, then maybe co-op is a great choice for you.

Also, you might consider going to visit the top preschools on your list. Many of them actually host open houses, or at least let you come take a tour. The visits I've found very helpful! Some questions you mind consider as you review and tour:

  • What is the philosophy of this preschool (e.g. Montessori, Waldorf)? 
  • Does my child need to be potty-trained to attend?
  • What is the cost to attend (Registration, Enrollment, Monthly Tuition)?
  • How is the school kept clean?
  • Do the children eat snacks? Who provides the snacks?
  • What are the expectations of a parent/guardian? 
  • What is the average class size (teacher-student ratio)?
  • If it's a co-op, what is the parent-student ratio?
  • How often and how long are classes?
  • What does a typical class day look like?
  • Is the school accredited and licensed?
  • Are the teachers credentialed?
  • How is discipline handled?

Lastly, I suggest you go online and talk to mom friends to see where other people are going (or better yet, find moms that have kids currently enrolled where you're looking and get their opinion). I do a lot of talking to my friends. They also remind me to not be a crazy mom. Like just the other day, I got an awesome text from my friend reminding me it's all just learning colors and shapes. And mainly just socialization and figuring out how to be a human in our world. So, don't be like me and worry and freak out. Be cool. Be calm. 

I'll leave you with a few schools that we're considering. Are you looking for preschools? Have your kid attended preschool? Tell me what you know!!

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My Sources: Great Schools, PBS Comparing Preschool Philosophies 1, PBS Comparing Preschool Philosophies 2, Quill The Big Three, Noodle How to Choose a Preschool