Thursday, 6 June 2013

Pre-school Decisions

So as I stated in my last post, we've made the decision to change schools. This wasn't an easy decision, because there are many things we (and they!) love about their current school, but in the end, our reasons for leaving were non-negotiable.

However, I was adamant that we were staying in Montessori education, so I asked around and got a recommendation for another school from somebody who had worked there as part of their training. I visited it, loved it, and fortunately, that decision was a very easy one. It's twenty minutes away instead of two minutes away, but I always knew I wasn't going to find another school so close.  I'm just going to have to make that adjustment. (I am very unenthusiastic about the school run taking the better part of an hour instead of its current ten minutes.)

Complication number one was that they don't take toddlers.  They aren't licensed to change diapers or even help a child undress and clean themselves after an accident.  All children must be potty-trained with no more than two accidents per month. While it's possible that my daughter might be at that level by September (though I doubt it), I certainly don't think she's ready to tackle the full-blown children's house class yet (three to six year olds).

We pondered our options, of putting her in daycare or just taking her out of school altogether until January.  In the end however, we have decided to let her continue on at her current school, for one more term. Come January, though she won't quite be three, she'll have done a full year in the toddler class, and I expect she'll be fine for Children's House, though we can revise our options again when we get there. (I am fairly sure her current school would change her to the full year if we asked.)  Right now, she's perfectly happy where she is, and I don't see the need to change her routine for a single term.

Complication number two was an odd one. The new school wanted my son to start on their kindergarten programme.

To Push or not to Push

Just for background here, my son is four and a half. Going on the national standard, he would not have been expected to start kindergarten until the fall of 2014, so this is effectively skipping him a year. Kindergarten hadn't even been on our radar.

On the other hand, the Montessori system doesn't synch perfectly with the standard one--that's why it's a kindergarten programme, not a kindergarten class.  By morning, he will be in the same 3-6 year old mixed class that we intended to enroll him for.  The difference is that the older children stay through the afternoon as well and have a second, academic-focused, work cycle after lunch (plus some other opportunities).

Now, while I naturally think my son is extremely bright, I don't think he's any sort of child prodigy. The old school had not talked about starting him on kindergarten this early (although they tended to err later rather than sooner with such things). My initial reaction on hearing this news was that I did not want to push him. It wasn't that I thought he wasn't capable of handling the work so much as the load.

His prospective teacher admitted that he was younger than she had originally thought--probably because he was friends with one of the boys in her class. Said friend is only a few months older than my son, but he has an August birthday. I had never really appreciated before that, technically, they were in different school years, even if there's not a big difference between them academically. 

For Montessori purposes, they are in the same class and will be doing the same work--the friend is a little ahead of my son in most areas, but they could certainly work together on several materials. And when my son came in to work with the teacher, she felt he was where she expected her kindergarteners to be.

I did wonder if it would make more sense to start kindergarten in January, when my son would be five and would have completed two of the expected three years in the Children's House. This would let him settle in to the new school before making the switch to afternoons as well. However, when asked, my son (who was utterly dazzled by his new school) was quite excited at the prospect of staying at school through the afternoon. I think he's aware that this is a big kid thing, and is eager to be so grand.

The teacher said that he could start the extended day in January if I wished, but she thought he was ready now.  She also assured me that if she changed her mind after a few weeks, he would be able to switch back to mornings only. Finally, she told me that the school had a number of four year olds in the kindergarten programme, so he would be with his peers.

That last was what decided me.  I feared being a pushy parent, but even if he was exceptionally gifted, I would want him to stay with children his own age as much as possible. I was also a little wary that the school might just be trying to get him in the more expensive programme to get the extra tuition fees, and obviously I can't be sure that this isn't the case... but I don't think it is.

Finally, whenever we do go back to the UK, his education is going to be interrupted for a short while anyway, so I'm more than happy to have him a little ahead of the curve. It feels like we have a buffer against future problems.

I do feel a little ridiculous saying he's starting kindergarten in the fall, but I need to get over it. This is going to be nothing compared to university applications.

Logistics, Ahoy!

Having him stay at school until 3pm will completely change our daily routine though.  Up until now, our afternoon plans have hinged on when his sister wakes from her nap.  Now they'll start from when we pick him up and they'll have to be accessible from his school.  We're not going to be able to keep their gym class up, for a start, and I don't yet know if we'll change classes or change gyms. Fortunately, we don't do any other extra-curriculars.

Of course, this is only going to get worse in January when my daughter starts at the school as well.  It's going to be one thing driving ten blocks to pick her up from school at lunchtime and then going back out for her brother at three.  It's going to be quite another to spend forty minutes on the round trip to drop them off by 9, forty minutes to collect her at 12 and forty minutes to collect him at 3.

The most convenient option is to have her lunch and nap at school, so I'm picking them both up together, but that's a lot of extra fees for her to sleep through. Also, I don't think there's any alternative should she drop her nap. In other words, the nap will be enforced on her whether she needs it or not, which could create a different set of problems for us in the evenings.

Anyway, we are very much crossing that bridge when we come to it. Thankfully, it's going to be a relatively short term problem, but it's going to be a royal nuisance as long as it lasts.

Also a problem? Finding a week's worth of packed lunches for my son when peanut butter sandwiches are banned. It's not a huge surprise, since most schools don't allow peanut butter these days, but his current school doesn't have a problem with it, and they're just about his favourite thing to eat. I am going to need some serious research on packable meals before September rolls around.

But right now, I'm trying to deal with the thought that tomorrow is his last day at the old school--something which is giving me many more pangs than it is him. I really need to take a leaf out of his book and be excited about what's to come rather than mourning what will never be again.


  1. It's easy to celebrate your children's firsts but harder to celebrate their lasts because it makes you realise that they are growing up! We had a choice to make around pre-school - keep E in the pre-school attached to nursery or move her to one attached to a school closer to where we live. In the end, we chose to keep her at nursery although she is unlikely to go to school with any of her current friends. Today, she went up a 'class' at her singing group. No longer do I have to sit with her - the children go in on their own and the mums sit in the kitchen having a coffee and a chat. All of a sudden, since turning three, she seems very grown-up and I'm becoming redundant...

    1. I had a redundant moment myself this week, at the playground! Then I realised that although I could just sit on a bench and watch them, I could also go and play with them (I did both, since the sun was too hot for me to feel comfortable running around for long). I think we're in a sweet spot right now between 'not needed' and 'not wanted,' and I feel the pressure to make the most of it!

  2. I will face the same schedule come September. Stevie starts nursery as well, but only until lunch, while George is still enrolled until 4, since he eats lunch there so well, and naps. It will be quite a stretch to go pick up Stevie, have him nap at home, then go back for George, and then finally having a bit of time together. I do not want to let Stevie for more than mornings, he is too young to stay away from me so much, and George might change his schedule, altough I hope that he will still nap in the afternoon for a longer while, something like a cople of years, maybe, please, god, to make up for all the not sleeping he did his first year, yes, please, pleaaaaase?
    Anyway, 40 mins is a lot. It will be unpleasant. On the other hand, it will last a year? Two?! When does school start? In Germany, children can start kindergarten at four, must go to kindergarten at 5 and school starts at 6. I too worry about the work load, they seem to do an awful lot here... They are only children... Anyway. Sadly, it is true the saying with small children, small problems, bigger children, bigger problems. It was so easy to ony have breastfeeding to figure out.

    1. I suppose it will be the status quo for a couple of years. We've discussed if it would be possible for my husband to drop them off in the morning to save me one trip at least (doesn't seem likely owing to his early start). Still, we've got six months before we have to make a decision on this one!

  3. Catching up on your summer posts! The back-and-forth sounds tough...maybe get some audiobooks or rockin' music to make it less blech? We've been packing peanut-free lunches for years (and though we just realized my son's little friend seems to have outgrown his allergy, I still save PB-sandwiches for weekends). Their favorite is "hummus sandwich" where I make hummus with half green peas and half chickpeas. Also "veggie chicken salad" sandwich blending peas/lima beans with poached chicken and yogurt or mayo + seasonings. And finally the ever-popular chicken & pasta.