I've been busy touring nursery schools over the last couple of weeks. Before I started this process, I must admit, I never understood why parents (and who are we kidding, mostly moms) stressed so much about which pre-K to send their kids to. What's the big deal?! You are going to send your newly verbal child to a school where he's going to finger-paint and learn to play with others. There will be a snack and circle-time, and before they know it, you're going to pick him up and go on with your day wondering where the last 3 hours of peace went.
Well, I'm eating my words. I'm realizing now that there's so much more to this process. I didn't expect such variety in the schools. From the facilities to the directors of the schools and the philosophies. When we first moved to our area, I saw a couple of pre-Ks and assumed that when we have little one of our own, we'd just send him to the local schools. But now that I have an actual toddler who exhibits tremendous strong will and an infectious sense of humor, I realize that I can't just send him to any old school. I want a school that will harness his strength (my son doesn't have weakness of course!). I want him to be able to continue to display that incredible self-confidence that came with his pint-size package.
My mom used to tell me that your worries become greater as your kids grow older. At first you think that if only he'd sleep through the night you'll be able to get through the next 22 years. Today, I'm finally starting to understand the wisdom of her words. K does sleep through the night (I thought this day would never come), but now I'm the one up at night, roaming the house wondering if I'm going to make the best decision for K. I try to remind myself that it's only nursery school and not the rest of his life -- my parents certainly didn't spend weeks visiting one school after another, and I turned out ok.
I think what I'm most scared of is to let my own baggage affect my final decision. I think all parents do it (mostly subconsciously); letting the good, the bad and the ugly of their own upbringing influence how they raise their children. We learn from our experiences and we set certain aspiration for our kids -- perhaps goals and achievements that we never reached. My European schooling and upbringing (read formal and rigid) is directing me towards a nursery school that will truly be an enriching experience for K. After all, I am paying all this money to send him to a school. If it's just to play with other kids and sit still for storytime, I should just keep him at home or send him to a daycare, and not a nursery school with a tuition that contains more zeros than K can count.
As they say, kids are like sponges. They learn so much interacting with daily life -- K for instance loves the grocery store and watching me cook (fingers crossed he turns into an amazing chef). We talk numbers, colors, textures, smells. But that's as far as my teaching skills go. I'm looking to theses schools/teachers' expertise to teach K things that I wouldn't be able to, in a way that only a good teacher can.
Looking at how stressed out I am over nursery school, let's hope I find a way to take things in stride by the time he's applying to colleges.
I will have to make a decision very soon. I hope I make the right one. I'd really love to hear from you and what influenced your decision to send your kid(s) to a specific pre-K.