Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Preschool

Ever since Joris turned two it seems like one of the first topics of discussion on the playground (or park or other place where toddlers and their care takers gather) is about preschool. As in "so, what are you guys doing for preschool?".

The first few times I laughed it off with an "oh, he's only two and see how he's practically still attached to my belly button? He won't be going anywhere by himself anytime soon."

But then he started to really blossom at Oranjeschool; participating, even leading in activities and, not needing me around anymore (except for when he wants me to get him a snack) and, most importantly, asserting himself vocally. That last skill he has been practicing a lot with Avery lately, and I can tell that it gives him more confidence - on occasion so much so, that it turns into bossiness (see previous posts). But being able to communicate very clearly about what it is he wants, or doesn't want, combined with the newfound independence and the daily pleas of "Joris go Oranjeschool?" convinced me to do some preliminary research on preschools, because, who know, he might actually be ready for something.

So, I spend a few hours on the internet, looking up nearby schools, review and prices and HOLY SHIT FUCK it turns out that we might as well start teaching Joris to say "do you want fries with that?" since we are obviously the most negligent parents around.

We had not really considered still being in Seattle for the (pre)school years. The plan was that Jacob would have finished his dissertation and landed a job in crappy-ville Midwest or hell-hole deep South by... oh well, let's just say by now. So there was no need to look into this preschool business really, and until a couple of weeks ago, when Jacob announced yet another 6 or so month extension of the project, I was still hopeful that it would indeed still be so. Not that I want to leave Seattle, because I love it here - especially with having a child - but I'm ready to move on in lifestyle, if that makes sense.

I will most likely always be frugal, but I'm kind of looking forward to the day when I do not have to worry that the $7 fee for the toddler farm visit seems like an awful lot of money for an hour and a half of entertainment, even if the hayride elicits the most joyous laughter from my little guy. And sometimes I just want to be able to buy a piece of clothing that is not on sale, just because I like it. Which I know is silly 'cause GOOD LORD we are so much better off than many others, but still. I feel like I'm done waiting and want to move on, although to what I don't necessarily know.

In any case, it looks like preschool will happen in Seattle and because everything is competitive here, there are insanely long waiting lists for everything. Seriously, when I first started looking it seemed like everyone but us had been on preschool waiting list since their second date and the implications were that not having done so will probably ruin any chance our kid has to become a halfway decent person.

It's not true of course, but it's like when you google "sinus pressure" when you have a headache and after looking at a few results come away convinced that you have a brain tumor.
(The waiting list situation, however, is true. Joris has been on the UW childcare waiting list for almost two years now - we'd done it just in case - and he has now moved up to about the middle of the list. He might get in when he's ready for kindergarten! I just hadn't realized the same situation was true for preschools as well.)

After getting pretty discouraged by the long waiting lists and astronomical fees (the preschool at the church across the street, for example, charges $675 a month FOR TWO DAYS a week of preschool, and that is not the highest I've come across) I'd settled on just getting him into a HeadStart program in the fall of 2010. But then we ran into a preschool group holding their last class of the year outside, next to the playground we were playing at. Joris got as close as he could, while still technically being within playground boundaries, listening intently and clapping and cheering when they clapped and cheered. He asked at least five times "Joris go school, too?".

So, I re-examined the idea of trying to find a place where he can have fun for a few hours a few times a week, maybe learn a thing or two about functioning in a group, make new friends, be away from me for a little bit and take instructions from someone other than his parents.

We are now on the waiting lists for a couple of places near the University that we probably won't get into, but like to try anyway and a couple of co-op programs, which, though time consuming would be a nice, gentle intro to the world of preschool.

However, the prospect I'm most excited about is a program that a friend happened to tell me about. It's a small preschool in Maple Leaf, the neighborhood just south of us, that focuses on children with hearing loss. They have blended classrooms with a maximum of 6 kids in each class, half of which have hearing problems and half of which are peer models or typicals or whatever you'd like to call them. We're meeting with one of the directors on Friday to see if the school would be a good fit for Joris and Joris for it. They would consider him either for this fall, January or next fall and it seems like the school is so small and under the radar that there isn't even a waiting list. I'm very curious to find out more.

If we don't end up getting Joris enrolled anywhere this fall, I will just continue the search for next year and enjoy the time I have with him. Although I think it will be fun for him and he'd get something out of it, I don't feel like we'll be depriving him of anything if he doesn't start before next fall.

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