I registered at Montessori C - end of last post.
One of my sisters is a CPA who works for a children's NGO and as part of her work she evaluates preschools for allocating funding. At some point in her career she wanted to quit her CPA profession and go into teaching kids. So she got a Master's degree in education and taught fourth and fifth graders in a public school. But they had to move cities at some point and she realized if she wanted to be the kind of very dedicated teacher that she was, she was not having much time for her family in the evenings. So she went back to her accounting profession. She has two children, one now in college and the other in high school, both really sweet kids (not so kid anymore) and very smart and doing very well in school. Why do I bring this all up? Well, my sister from her experience as a teacher and a parent has very strong, let's say - sure - views on this whole preschool issue.
After registering in Montessori C, I had a niggling feeling that it may not be the perfect choice in terms of the money spent and the time involved in dropping off KB (since it is out of the way for B and a 15 min drive for me). I had toured a neighboring preschool run by a church which had a good reputation. But somehow I just did not feel good about that school. I toured that school a second time with B and when we went, all the preschoolers were sitting in one group in a classroom with the pastor holding some picture and telling them some bible story. I grew up in a school where we were taught a lot of Christian hymns and nearly 90% of the teachers were Christian. It is not that I have a problem with them teaching bible stories - I just did not want so much religious instruction at such an young age. Oh my God, as I write this I realized that I had forgotten to mention this in the minus point for Montessori C as well. They too have some bible lessons every week - except that if KB went MWF for half days, he would miss it for the first year. Only the next year when I put him five days a week, he will have to attend bible study class on Tuesday mornings.
Anyways - I talked to my sister again about my concerns. That I was spending $300 MORE (so you can imagine how expensive - just for 3 half days!) than the regular preschools just because it was a "Montessori" and that the drive itself would take some 35 min each way - door to door getting both kids in and out of the car. She had gone along with my Montessori decision until then. But after seeing that I was not sure if it was necessary to spend so much for age 3, she came on more strongly with her views. In her opinion a)it does not matter at all which type of school they go to at age 3 if it is a nurturing environment b) In fact it does not even matter if they don't "teach" much until they go to Kindergarten because at age five pretty much a lot of children just catch up with each other. She felt very strongly that there was no need to spend that much more for Montessori just because I feel KB will learn more there or because it is supposed to foster the child's creativity by allowing for free play.
I decided to keep Montessori C as a back up option and check out more schools. My neighbor's friend, another Indian woman, had told me about another preschool - also a 15 min drive for me, but on the way to B's work. I decided on a whim to call them up and check it out. The admissions coordinator told me that she could give me a tour right then since the registration process was the next week itself. So I went along with KB and KG (B had already left for work) to tour the school. Let's call this preschool W. I went at the appointed time and as I was trying to enter the gate, another parent was coming out, so I walked in while she held the gate for me. (Will get to why I mention this).
The first thing that struck me was that this school somehow had a completely relaxed and very sunny atmosphere to it. It had a central playground and the class rooms all opened out into this playground. There was a roofed corridor outside the class rooms - it had a bunch of stations - a large bin with colored rice and macroni with a bunch of pots in it, a station with a ton of wheeled toys of all sorts, another station with a table and six chairs and many mini tubs of paint with brushes and paper laid out...the open play area had toy shopping carts, rope ladders, a small rock climbing area, a little covered house area with a little sofa inside where I found a child playing on a toy cash register...
On the other side of the play ground, I saw a "gross motor development" specialist with a bunch of little children running through hoops, hopping into tires laid on the ground and what not. She applauded one child who pushed a hoop down but held it up for the next child to go through and said "Great cooperation, keep it up". She did not put on a stern voice to reprimand that child for pushing the hoop down, instead applauded him for doing things right after that.
The thing that really struck me overall was how happy and at home every child seemed to be there. The classrooms were spacious enough (not huge or small) and had a "pretend play" area with all kinds of dress up clothes and toys (a little girl had put on a "fairy" outfit as I peered into that class room and looked at me cheerfully and smiled), a toy area, a writing area, a craft area and books on low lying shelves.
From what the admissions coordinator described to me, it seemed as if the kids played pretty much all the time. They had more than one hour of play time in the playground outside and in the corridors outside the class room. One hour of in class time where also they played a lot. And some twenty minutes total of circle time. I went to this school just randomly to see what it was like - I just did not expect to like this school as much as I did. KB just did not want to come back home with me - I had to physically pick him up and drag him out and convince him that it was time to go home!
(Only thing though I am sure if he had been allowed in the classroom at Montessori C, he would have done the same thing).
Now to my decision:
- Preschool W is $300 cheaper
- Teacher student ratio is 1:6
- it is NAYCE accredited - which according to my sister is a big deal.
- except for one teacher who is new and has been there for two years, every teacher there has been there for 15 years!
- they do not give time outs. If a child's behavior is disruptive, they are taken to the office and made to "think" about what they did. If it persists, they talk to the parent and work with both the child and the parent to get things in order.
- We managed to get admission for the MWF 9 - 11.30 slot by standing in line well ahead of time and getting our names on top of the list!
- They do not have any religious instruction except for Christian songs during X-mas time.
Concerns about preschool W:
- the second time I toured with my SIL and nephew, I found that I could walk in through the gates without any problem. We peered into the two empty classrooms in front and walked to the other side of the U to enter the director's office. I am not sure if anyone noticed that we had walked in. This still concerns me. I found that there are a few other parents who are not happy with this either but three other parents I talked to love this school so much that they don't even think of this as an issue.
- well, this is not a concern, but more something to contend with. The popular "Indian" parent choice seems to be Montessori that is "academic". I get a little worried as to why I am gravitating more towards this preschool W where they only pretty much play all the time. The teacher reads them a couple of books a day, a music teacher comes once a week, the teacher herself sings songs every day. But there is nothing "academic" about this school. And what ever they do teach for age 3 kids, KB knows quite well already. Colors, shapes, numbers, letters...I mean what more does a three year old has to learn in an "academic" setting - I really am not sure. It makes me a bit nervous if I am making the right choice or not when I talk to a couple of my Indian friends who are very serious about the academic part at preschools. I feel KB will enjoy Montessori and may even learn a lot of different things there that he may not learn in this developmental preschool W. But I feel my goal at least at age three is that he should have fun - what ever basics he needs to know to go to pre-K or KG, he will learn at home anyway. I just don't know if I am missing something when I think about why a lot of other Indian parents don't like this kind of play oriented school. Left to myself, I will be happy if he played played and played all 2.5 hrs that he is there. I want him to learn to be with other kids and have fun interacting with them. There are parents who send their kids to Kumon at age 4, have a phonics teacher help them read at age 3 and it really makes me nervous if KB will be behind compared to these kids at age 5. And then if I pause to think about it, I realize I am just nervous around such parents. When I am in the peace and comfort of my home, I feel this is the kind of school I want for KB at age 3. What I will want for him at age 4 when he will understand a lot more and may actually benefit more from any other interesting things he might learn in a Montessori, I am not sure. But for now this is my choice. Except that the gate issue is really worrying me. I don't have too many options. Two other schools I looked into - one does not have an outdoor playground - forget that. Another home based Montessori - I have not toured it yet - but out of four hours, they only have 20 min of outdoor time. They have* to read a book every weekend and talk about in class every Monday. Too rigid for my taste. As of now I am down to these two options: preschool W and Montessori C.
If I am able to come to terms with the gate issue, I will choose preschool W. If not Montessori C is my only other option as of now.
For the kind ones who managed to read this far, thanks so much! :) I really mean it! I just wrote down my thoughts as fast as I could before the kids woke up!
I welcome and appreciate your comments on this topic!
By the way - both schools require KB to be completely potty trained. Am hoping and praying I should be able to do that by September for sure!