Monday, March 5, 2012

It's Only Preschool

When Braden was two years old and one day, he started preschool at a neighborhood Montessori. It was a rough beginning, with a lot of leg clinging, and a lot of tears (on both our parts, I have to admit).  But my God, he looked so adorable on that first day of school.

I did have some guilt and a bit of trepidation about starting him in school so young.  But with work and a second baby on the way, I fledged ahead.  And after a few months, it proved to be a good decision.  Braden loved the school, I loved the school, and I had my mornings with Casey.  We were in a groove and Braden was thriving.  He was in a cute little classroom with 11 other cute little kids and two awesomely loving teachers.  

This year Braden moved from the 2's room to the "real" Montessori room.  Real Montessori meaning mixed ages (3-6), larger class size (around 18 kids), and real Montessori work.  I was a Montessori kid myself, and I believe in the philosophy, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.  Braden has a September birthday and would be one of the youngest kids in the class. He is a little wild.  He is a little sensitive.  He is a little shy.  He's a little boy.

On week 2 of this school year, the teacher told me that Braden was having some trouble "following the rules."  No shit?  He doesn't follow the rules at home, why would school be any different?  I have to say my husband and I had a bit of a laugh about it.  He's only 3 for God's sake.  But nonetheless, we had talks with him about sitting in circle time, standing in a line, cleaning up, etc.  Word from his teacher was that he improved.  Okay.

But as the months went on I started to have a few more small concerns.  Braden seemed to be on his own a lot.  He seemed to be growing shy at school - a stark contrast from the incessant talking, dancing, jumping, singing, etc. that he does at home and on playdates.  With a lack of structure in the classroom, he started acting up during transitions.  And then, in an incident I am sure I will laugh about someday but which still traumatizes me, he ran off the stage screaming during the school holiday performance.

Overall, he is fine.  The school is fine.  But the above issues had gotten me thinking.  Would Braden be better in a smaller class?  With kids closer to his age?  With a more structured environment?  With a play base?

I have no idea.  But on a whim, I applied to two other preschools.  These preschools are those hoity toity preschools that require playdate "interviews" and have lengthy waiting lists.  But, by all accounts, they are awesome play based schools with great teachers and small classes and expansive playgrounds.

I assumed he wouldn't get in.  I almost hoped he wouldn't get in, because then I could say that I tried and did all I could, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.  And then he could stay at his current school and all would be fine.  Because who is to say that either one of these preschools, despite their stellar reputations, would be better?

Of course, this morning we got the call.  He got into one of them.

And now I have the next few weeks to agonize over this decision.  Because surely this decision will affect the rest of his life and his career and his ability to make friends and meet a wife and raise kids.  Surely this decision means EVERYTHING and if I fuck it up then I am the worst mother ever and have doomed my child to a life of isolation and despair.


I totally am going to lose sleep over this.


  1. Uh, take it easy baby. It's not a make or break decision. You are already a terrific mother. The boys will be fabulous. Step back. Lunch Thursday.

  2. Okay, yes, calm the fuck down. But, two, if he is not happy in his current school, and you think he will be happier in the new school, I say do the switch. Montessori is not for every kid. I stressed with a decision to move my daughter from one school to the other when she was 2; the school she was in was not bad, but the classes were large, and she just seemed lost. I also took her for a free day at the new school and asked her at the end which one she wanted to go to and let her decide. Yes, at 2. She chose the new school, and we have never looked back and have been thrilled with the decision (that was 2 years ago).

    So, can he spend some time at the new school, even if just an hour or two? See which he likes better? He is ultimately the one who will be there, and who needs to feel comfortable and, most importantly, have fun.

  3. My son Sam recently started "kindy" here in New Zealand at 2 1/2. It was traumatic (for me) and I was full of guilt but I knew it was the stepping stone he needed to become more independent, outgoing and assertive. I chose a kindy I felt was right for him - smaller classes that grouped the children into close age groups. He goes two mornings a week for now because I feel this is the right balance for him. Trust your intuition as a mother! After all, you probably know Braden better than he knows himself.

  4.  I totally get where you are right now. Let me begin by saying, let's not forget to celebrate the small stuff, because it's all small stuff. Letting go of our children is the first step, the difficulty of which is way under aknowledged in my opinion. The fact that you were able to let go of Braden during those earlier days in pre-school was an accomplishment unto it's own.  Speaking to what you shared in your last post, woman are expected to be able to do it all, to smile and put on a brave face while often repressing certain maternal instincts in order to meet career demands and developing societal expectations.  What you were able to do with your child at 21/2, has taken me 51/2 years to build to.  I admire the strength woman like you have in order to push through those times of self doubt while you have a toddler gnawing and bawling at your leg and juggle it all. Really. 
         Unfortunately, once we have given ourselves a pat on the back for that crucial first step, the question of where to educate becomes the pressing issue. In my own case, this is where my 5 year old has taught me not only about letting go of her but also of my own baggage; relinquishing my preconceived ideas in favor of what she  needs based on who she is, not what I need (this can be muddy sometimes).  In search of the perfect kindergarten experience, I visited teachers from five schools, hammering them with questions only to come to the conclusion that none of them - not even the highly sought after francophone school- were good enough of for her (me).  Instead, after much agonizing, I proceeded to enroll her in a Waldorf School in the mornings with the intention to home school in the afternoons and do some wicked kick *** projects. Although, we did do some great science/art projects and I  valued  the time with her, in the end the Waldorf school turned out to be something out of lord of the flies and my daughter really did not want me to play teacher (after all what does a mother know).   She was clearly not thriving under the current arrangement, she was miserable too much of the time and so was I. She really wanted school desks, orange buses, a school with books (yeah, I know, crazy eh) and to do what her big kid neighbor friends did.   So, my five and a half year old is now in year one, full day school and seemingly thriving. So what if I don't get to make my baking soda, vinegar volcanoes and a solar system mobile with her again or if I never get around to finishing that geology collection we started. The lesson for me is that we have to take our cue from our children. They are individuals, what is right for one child may not be right for another. Trust your intuition, no-one knows your son like you do. Follow your heart, not your head (cliche, and easier said than done, I know). My own opinion is that in the end, I don't think the school they attend, when or how, will dictate their success in life. Ultimately, if a learning environment is conducive to the development of a curious mind and they generally seem happy to be there, they will be fine and this is often role modeled by their parents anyway.

    As is the case with motherhood, we will always find something to stress about given the opportunity (I really like what has to say). And, as I always tell my daughter (and myself) when taking into account the factors needed to make a decision, look at the whole orange, not just the slice.

    good luck!

    P.s. Sorry if I overstepped any boundaries in my last e-mail. Communicating over the internet and particularly through a blog with someone you haven't met is strange in the way that normal social barriers can be hazy and I am still sorting out where they lie.

  5. whoops....I mean

  6. In fact, it is only preschool and you can relax because whatever you will decide won't make any difference in the long term. So just do what you think is for you more interesting and practical. In my experience it is very worth to have schools or pre-schools in the neighbourhood. Children stay together when they go to school, parents live nearby and can help eachother and so on. On the other side, just follow your feeling. I think you already decided for the new school, so go ahead!

  7. Just wait for kindergarten :)

  8. I think it's important for them to be around kids their age, so they don't feel so isolated when they are doing things out of sync with the older kids. And the teachers get into a routine with kids that same age so they don't expect more out of him (because they are used to bigger kids). But ultimately, you have to follow your heart. :-)

    We should do a blog swap article sometime.


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