Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Picking a Preschool

I decided it would be a good idea for Elena to start preschool in September…that was the easy decision. I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to determine which preschool would be right for Elena.

As awesome as my Mom is for committing to care for Elena while I’m at work, it is a lot on her…more than that, Elena needs the opportunity to learn & socialize sooner than entering Junior Kindergarten. I believe her speech would improve if exposed more to other children her own age. I also believe that, no matter how much my Mother & I love Elena, it doesn’t change the fact that we have zero experience or training in early childhood education & don’t know the first thing about making sure Elena is learning what she needs to meet her best potential. I’m not just being a proud parent when I say that Elena is very intelligent & I know she needs more challenge & stimulation than what my Mom & I have to offer her.

I started out looking at Montessori schools…though very expensive, still affordable since I would be looking for just part time, 2 mornings a week. I believed they must be “the best”. I don’t know much about the Montessori philosophy & investigated these preschools purely based on that assumption that the must be “the best” because they were expensive & seemed, I don’t know, elite.

My brother convinced me that there were plenty of fine “regular” preschools & that I shouldn’t sell them short. Upon his suggestion I widened my search & looked at what else there was, including the “church basement” variety as he put it.

I was able to narrow the search down to 2 preschools that I would seriously consider…one in a centre type environment, the other a “church basement”.

The front runner in my mind from the start was the “church basement” one…though it was actually a synagogue. This piqued my interest since right off that would offer Elena an experience into another culture & religion. Theirs is a multicultural enrichment program. Their vision is to provide a safe, secure and loving place for children to learn, grow and develop. Their motto hooked me instantly, “The first pair of arms away from home should be the most loving”. Touring their classrooms, I was glad to see photos & quotes of Martin Luther King & Mahatma Gandhi among other along with various art prints. Meeting the teachers, I could feel the warmth & caring. The whole atmosphere was very family-like. They also have a Friday drop in program my Mom would be able to bring Elena to so that she is familiar & comfortable there come September. They have a fabulous outdoor area & get the kids out in the fresh air every day, weather permitting. I was also pleased with their non judgmental, practically non-reaction when I mentioned Elena was donor conceived. It came naturally to bring it up with them. Beyond that this was not new territory for them. They’ve had kids there from various back grounds & situations including twins with 2 moms. I just felt it in my gut that this was a good place.

I had to visit the other place…I couldn’t just pick the 1st & only place I visited, right?

The Centre type place was good. I didn’t get a warm & fuzzy feeling there…but I didn’t get a bad feeling either. They’re located in a more upper class area & their price, though still less expensive than Montessori, reflected that. They didn’t have an outdoor play area or an outdoor program whatsoever. The owner was very friendly & obviously very knowledgeable, the other teacher just didn’t give off a good vibe…not a bad vibe…they both just came across a little condescending. The owner mentioned a lot of, “we’re thinking of doing this” & “I want to implement such & such”. She seemed to have a lot of great ideas but it came across as a little too much, it all seemed...forced. They also have a summer program Elena could attend but she would be on her own there right from the get go…I understand the logic of that but my Momma’s heart hurts at that thought.

Even as I’ve typed out these thoughts on both preschools, it was clear in my mind where I want Elena to begin her school experience…I bet you could tell too? What do you think? Any input or advice is very welcome…maybe I’ve missed something?


  1. That's great that the first place you went to seemed to really feel good to you. I really wanted to get Chloe into a preschool program this fall, but held off since we don't know where we will be living if we in fact move. I agree, I think kids take off when they are around others their age. I know Chloe isn't getting the stimulation and socialization she needs now being at home all the time. Let us know how it goes once she starts!

  2. Both my sons went to church-basement preschool! Well, it's actually housed in the dedicated early childhood lower level of a five year old building--so everything is very modern and up to date. It looks a lot like a center, but it still operates like a more intimate setting. I have loved everything about the experience. Coupled with what I see happening at my son's kindergarten I am now a converted believer in small, parochial settings. (And that says a lot coming from a liberal-minded, public school teacher!)

    I agonized over the school decision(s)so I definitely get how hard it is to make up your mind. Sounds like you have lots of information--you'll make a good decision. And if it's not the right one for Elena, you'll know it and change. You always have that option.

  3. I'd be drawn to the one that felt warm and fuzzy too. I finally decided on a school for L, and it was the private one that felt warm and fuzzy.

  4. Oh, I think you've made the right decision. It sounds perfect!

    I'm going to start Finn in preschool next spring, once we move, for all the same reasons you've mentioned. I'm looking forward to hear how Elena likes it. :)

  5. The first one sounds wonderful! I considered starting J in school twice a week a while back but haven't revisited the thought since then. Let me know how she likes it!

  6. Go with the first place. You can't argue with that "warm and fuzzy" feeling. It's certainly preferable to "forced and condescending!" Trust your instincts. I can't even think about Michelle going off to school. I can barely part with her for an hour!

  7. Great decision to put Elena in preschool. Even though SR is in "daycare" I feel she gets a full school program. They follow the new kindergarten curriculum, she knows all the kindergarten songs including the months and the days, there are different themes and units each month and she has learned so much and has become very independent - putting on her own clothes and such. I'm glad you found such a warm environment. I'll be honest, drop offs are still tear filled (mostly mine) as it's so hard to leave our babes in the care of others who aren't family. Your mom will cry a lot. Lol.

  8. That first one sounds great :-) Warm and fuzzy and have out door and most importantly your gut feeling!

  9. We sent my son to a Montessori school, and we never regretted it. I would love to send N. to preschool next year, and am hoping to have a job by then so we can afford the same place ... it really made such a huge difference (and I'm in education, so I have some understanding of what that difference could look like).

    Thanks, too, for stopping by and for your lovely comment!


Your comments are greatly appreciated so I've turned off the verification!