Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What's up with Preschool

After having a second child, we didn't feel right having the grandmothers taking care of a newborn and a 3 year old, so we've been shopping preschools. As much as we are proud of never returning to the nest after college, we realize we're still dependent on them for free childcare. Even so, we don't want to put our sixty year old mothers, during their "retirement" chasing around a hyper three year old while heating breast milk and soothing our infant, no matter how adorable she is.

We've official been to about half of the preschool facility within five miles of our jobs and our home. I think we've made a decision. Some are affliated with universities; some are very commercial national programs, and we've seen a range that deemed themselves "Montessori." Some places require potty training which is makes my wife and I share knowing glances like we got a secret venereal disease as we mentally run through yesterday's potty accidents.

We even looked into having our son put into a special education preschool class with one of our friends' kids even though he doesn't have special needs which looked promising but it wouldn't work out with the scheduling. Because I need to be at work around 7 am, that has automatically eliminated ninety percent of places that do not start that early. We are looking for a slow transition, beginning my son with a half-day, three-day a week schedule. It seemed for many schools, nothing much happened after lunch and nap other than more of the same. Knowing my son and as a teacher, I wonder what huge blocks of "circle time" or "structured play" looks like given his limited attention span.

As an English teacher, I have to admit I'm partial to literacy practice and exposure. I know that developmentally he won't be ready for certain things and I don't want a stigma from pushing him too fast too early but I don't think some academic curriculum, a little writing, some phonemic awareness and reading circle, is going too fast during a 6 hour day. I'm skeptical of completely "play-based" education -- trust me my son is all about playing. Social interaction with other children will also be a big plus since outside of the occassional play date, his only regular interaction is limited to adults.

One thing I can't help but noticing is that at all the preschools--the students are almost entirely white and east Asian. That is definitely not the case at the public schools where I teach which are at least 50% Latino. This is not true of my city in diverse Southern California which has significant populations of African Americans, Latinos, and even Pacific Islanders. I know the cost of preschool can be prohibitive but as a teacher, its not like I'm raking it in and I can afford it. I know the value of utilizing extended family and I know an independent daycare or childcare provider can be much cheaper but is there a true cultural difference? Are there more stay at home mothers? Where do black and brown kids go when both their parents work?


Maxine said...

Great post. One piece of advice I have is to let your children 'choose' their own school. My son is a brown boy (mixed) in a mostly white class, although there are some Jewish and Italian kids at school. in the area where we live (in Australia) I have little control over the bakcgrounds of his classmates, but his pre-school teachers are Indian, Australian, Chinese and Spanish. We chose the school, or rather, He chose the school, because our of the five we investigated, he refused to leave when we went there for a visit. One and a half years later, he still loves it there: a win for all of us.

Unknown said...

As an English teacher, I also am partial to making sure children spend a significant amount of time with language development. They say that with language comes math. So, without it, they fall behind.

Not much happens in circle time, and stations, and all that. They are merely using those things in Pre-School as ways of socializing a child into what will become their daily schedule in a regular school. It teaches social skills, following directions, and basic manners.

As for your concerns at the end of the post, I don't know. I don't know what the economy is doing to child care, and I don't know if more children are staying at home with one parent because of a layoff, and maybe some are still going to grandparents because of the economy.

I know that here in Florida it doesn't matter if you're black, brown, light beige, or white. Most likely you're going to be in preschool. It's partly because of the free VPK program, but also because a lot of elementary schools are recommending that parents do so before enrollment.

Jeff said...

One thing I can't help but noticing is that at all the preschools--the students are almost entirely white and east Asian.

The same was true for my kids' preschool. Although the city we live in (San Jose) and the city where the preschool is located (Milpitas) are fairly diverse, most of the students at the preschool were white or Asian (both South Asian and East Asian). I suspect that the ethnic breakdown of the school has to do with cost and the value that those families put on education. My kids go to a private school which is less expensive than the preschool. Also, some of the local private schools require passing a test to get into Kindergarten, and many parents are looking for edge, sad as that may sound.

We too had an option for having grandparents help out with the day care, but like you we didn't want to stress them out a lot and we wanted to have the kids more socialized and get ready for Kindergarten. The preschool was a Montessori preschool which gave the kids a lot of choice on what to do and work on. I really didn't want them into some intensively academic preschool - there would be enough of that kind of pressure later. It worked out well for my three kids, who all passed the tests and got into one of those selective private schools.