Friday, January 22, 2010

Preschool Selection

When I shared news of my pregnancy with my colleagues, some of them had asked with concern and shock - Why did you plan a December baby?? Dont you know now she/he will miss a year of school!! Well I hadnt been thinking that far and now both of us are secretly happy she will be the oldest in the class, more so as she still behaves and looks like a baby. Anyways fast forward three years later, same colleagues were once again concerned and shocked that I hadnt researched preschools. It had been on my list of things to do - being a very conscientious Mom and all but it shot up to the top after being jolted by the realisation that school admissions are opening and peer pressure and all that....

SO P and I visited a private school to start with.....We opened the front door and stood in a dark musty smelling corridor for the longest time as parents dropped their kids off in classrooms, teachers glanced at us for a milisecond - so much for school security, when finally a teacher passing by had pity on us and tracked down the receptionist or school tour giver or whoever the smug I-know-you-are-dying-to-come-to-our-private-school lady was.

She started the tour with the gym where two gym teachers were making five whiny kids run in a circle. Next stop was a dinky bathroom - hot and sea shore smelly where we were informed kids had fifteen minutes to change into their swimsuits and vice versa and NO help would be given.

Next was the swimming pool where kids were seriously swimming laps and strokes like professional swimmers...I was still mentally in the bathroom, trying to sort through my memory to see if I had observed a dryer - how would R dry her hair? And then Ohmygod, look at this little girl with the long plait, I should ask her Mom how she dries her hair and other non specific things while the smug lady was telling us about their swim program and how kids learn to swim at three, know all strokes at four and are ready to participate in competitive swimming by five etc etc...

Then on to classrooms where kids sat seriously in a circle, another classroom where they worked on their own individual projects, daycare room, music room and so on. In 15 minutes the tour was done and we were back in the musty dark corridor talking about fees and when the application forms open and how we need to get in ASAP or we would be on the wait list and so on and on. Finally smug lady gave us a politely fake smile and we were off. Dark, hot, smelly and seriousness was what we walked away with. My first impression of this school wasnt very nice at all.

One of my friends used to send her kid there and was surprised why I thought all kids were serious and she tried to soothe my fears of changing in the bathroom and said they get the hang of it pretty well. This school is definitely different (and more expensive) than the normal preschools as they have swimming for 45 minutes every single day and then one activity each day - either gym, singing, music instruments, painting and something else. In the summer, they have field visits every Friday - petting zoo, water parks, Brookfield zoo, plays etc. Their learning program is based on individual capabilities so each child can do his own thing and like a GMAT exam, based on his performance, he gets an easier or more difficult activity to do. My friend said that a child could easily go through an entire year of school by doing nothing but pouring water out of one container into another and they wont force him otherwise. But they are all good swimmers by the end of school, no doubt about it.

Today I visited a church affiliated School. The receptionist was warm and courteous and she apologised because I had been standing there for a milisecond and she hadnt noticed me. The director of the school came to take me around and was equally smiling, warm and friendly. All the rooms were big and bright and colorful. They have a Home sweet home room with dolls and toy appliances and beds and what not. A farm with stuffed cows and what not. Big cheery classrooms, I actually saw children skip from one class to another. BIG teachers - yes while gym teachers at the private school were actually fit and young, these teachers all looked like good old fashioned honest high school teachers. I cant remember the classroom teachers at the private school, I was more focused on looking at the kids.

Director Madam was prattling on about their philosophy, Bible studies, Xmas programs, discipline policy - We teach children to Listen and Obey, Listen and Obey and on and on....Finally we ended the tour in a brightly lit conference room where she went over all the brochure information with her assuring me that in the first few weeks of school, they had plenty of Moms and Grandmoms volunteer to just have extra people around to wipe away the tears of children who found transitions difficult (you won my heart there lady!) and the tour ended with her giving me crayons, stickers and a coloring sheet for my baby (you have won R's heart Madam). I walked away thinking Ahhh this is how a school should be, now if only I can look beyond their Bible philosophy and Listen and Obey Listen and Obey drill.

I cant make up my mind - I am tempted by the private school with the promises of swim lessons and exposing children to different activities - music, painting and so on and letting them learn at their own pace while on the other hand the big cheery classrooms and the cuddly wipe your tears away philosophy pulls me the other way....What do you say?


  1. Oh sonia, selecting a pre school i believe is harder than selecting a university.

    All the best, dear.

  2. Haha - so true, the whole hoopla created around it....I have decided to let R choose, if she is miserable, I will pull her out, no need to let her sweat it out at this age...