Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Choosing the "Right" Pre School

My Little Guy is 3.5 years old. His birthday is 15 days AFTER the cut-off for school so he will be an "older" child. Which means THIS is the fall that he will start pre-school. I've really enjoyed NOT babysitting other peoples children this past year so that he and I could do some special things together.

So, we have begun the process of pre-school selection. When My Big Guy was of pre-school age I didn't have to go through this. He was in a Day Care environment that did a pre-school program. Since my schedule went back and forth between first and second shift it was a hit and miss thing for him. The poor kid spent his first 5 years of life being shuffled back and forth between myself, my husband, sitters and grandparents as we juggled college and work schedules. Thankfully he is a bright, boy who wasn't affected negatively by the situation I put him in early on in his life.

However, now that I'm a better mom I'm really taking this process seriously. After all, this is MY BABY!!!!

We went for our first preschool visit last Tuesday. It was a Christian based program that they are thinking of making into a 3 day a week program for 2.5 hours. (Right now it is 2 days a week for 2 hours.) A good friend of mine is getting ready to send her 3rd child (who is my Little Guy's best friend!) Before our visit I was positive that I was going to have him go there. I thought it would be cute if My Little Guy was able to go to pre-school with his friend and I figured since I admire her as a mother that I too would love this place.

I really thought the teachers were very sweet and I liked the emphasis on Christian values A LOT. My problem was with the curriculum. For the first hour that the children had free choice. Which left one more hour for snack, potty break, story and a couple songs and that is about it. I felt like it was very rushed and seemed more like a daycare environment than a preschool environment. I don't know if the addition of another day and an extra half hour will change the curriculum or not.

Last Friday we went to our elementary school in our district for a screening. My Little Guy was a little apprehensive about going into the room for the developmental tests but once he got in there did great! He tested above average in his cognitive and language skills and below average in his fine and gross motor skills. So, he's got a good brain but can't walk a straight line....neither can I!!

When he came out of the room he was ready to go home! But he still had a vision and hearing test to do. He started getting a little weepy on me and then they were ready for him. He did NOT want to go! So, I went with him thinking it would ease his worries a little. However, it went from bad to worse QUICK!! He was NOT going to have anything to do with the vision and hearing screening!! The Pre-K teacher at the elementary school came in and asked me to leave.


They were able to test his eyes but not his ears. He refused to put the headphones on but I don't have any real concerns about his ears so no big deal. He ended up qualifying for the program at our elementary school. It is considered an "At Risk" program and as I was looking at the checklist of qualifications I couldn't figure out how or why he qualified. The only thing I could come up with was either his low motor skills score or the fact that he couldn't adapt to a new environment.

It is a great program out there that does a lot of good for that age group. So, we are now considering it. We are doing a visit there in May. I haven't seen the way the classroom environment there works yet to determine if I like their curriculum better or not but I know that they encourage a lot of parental involvement and it makes a smooth transition into kindergarten. If he went there for the next two years it would be the one and only time he and his brother would be in school together. The downside to this program is that it is a five day a week program, 3 hours a day and they ride the bus. I've already decided that if we do decide to go to the program at our elementary school that I will be driving him for at least the first year.

I called another preschool within our school district and set up a visit day with them next week. The woman I talked to explained about their program a little. 2 days a week for 3 hours. They have free choice for about a half hour then move into large group activities of weather, story, etc and then from there they move into doing their project for the day. They are also a Christian based program so I'm anxious to see how they run things in comparison to the other one.

I know what is good for one child and family is not necessarily good for another. So, I am going to base my decision on what program I think will most benefit My Little Guy. I can't make that decision until I've looked at all of my options. I just didn't think it would be this tough of a decision! I don't think I did nearly this much researching and deliberating when I was choosing my college!


Kathryn said...

My daughter also missed the cutoff - by 9 days. I was unhappy about it at first, but now I'm so glad I get the extra year. Not only so I can spend time with her, but so I can find the right school. It is so hard. Good luck on making your decision!

dawn said...

From everything I've read and what teacher friends have told me, kids who are older usually end up being leaders among their peers and perform better in school.

That said, you are being too hard on yourself. You did what you had to do, what you thought was right at the time. Your son is fine and now you're doing what you think is right. Don't beat yourself up and don't let your son know you feel guilty. Kids sense these things and will use it against you.

One other thing about preschools...Much of what I've read says that the single most important factor in choosing a preschool is how much fun the kids have. Does the school instill a sense of joy in learning new things? It's not so much what they learn at this age, but whether or not learning is fun. For instance, my son's school was teaching them about weather this week. To learn about wind, today, they made kites. My son loved it and had so much to tell me about the wind when I picked him up. He loves going to his school!