MFA Dad & I went to our first preschool open house. It was a Montessori school & I was simultaneously wowed by the school, terrified at some of the questions parents asked & a little bit hopeless about our prospects for getting in. In other words, I was reminded of why I have always feared the preschool rat race in a big city.
Preschool is a strange beast. Most of the public schools where we live offer some sort of preschool program. But my son is not guaranteed a spot & because of our socio-economic situation he’s likely low on the list (& rightly so — students with less opportunity are prioritized). So here we are, pursuing both public & private options.
As a product of public (albeit suburban) schools, I cringe at the thought of interviewing for a spot at a preschool. Not to mention the stress of having to figure out how to get an interview in the first place.
Which brings me to why I was terrified at some of the questions posed by some of my fellow parents at the open house. Who cares about ‘academics’ at this point?! What about just ensuring a healthy play environment?
I’m drawn to the idea of sending T to an alternative school (namely Montessori or Waldorf) because they eschew traditional grades, embrace simple toys & activities, encourage parents to not over-schedule their children, & focus on character-building rather than standardized tests or a spot at an ivy league school. Yet some of the questions asked during the open house made it clear that for at least some parents these alternative approaches are nothing more than another, better way to try to make their children smarter. In other words, the rat race in a different form.
Which is not to say that I don’t want T to reach his full potential. But I’m not worried about art lessons or bilingual instruction or elaborate field trips just yet. I want a school that will provide a healthy & safe environment for T. I want a school that will support T’s emotional & developmental needs. That’s pretty much it.
As MFA Dad reminded me, there are many paths to ‘success’… Whatever that ends up meaning for the individual. He’s right & so I’m trying very hard not to put all my emotional eggs in one basket. It’s just preschool after all. If it’s working for T that’s all that really matters.