Friday, April 4, 2008

Have Boy, Need Preschool

I've been in denial too long, I have to acknowledge I've got one of those boys. The ones who don't want to sit still, who pushes kids back when they push him, and plays when he should be napping. In other words, a typical boy. He used to be so sweet, the teacher's would constantly praise our parenting skills when we picked him up from preschool. We don't get snuggle notes, but I now I hear about his misbehaving with these long drawn out explanations: "well, he pushed x when he was in his way. It's so unlike him, and I wasn't sure what to do and we were having marshmallows for a treat so I told him he couldn't have a marshmallow." All said in a serious and very quiet tone, followed by "he's not the only one who's ever done this," in a much cheerier voice, as if I was so worried, or was going to reprimand her for punishing him or overreact to his actions.

I'm all for discipline, no worries there. I'm glad she gives him consequences, but would prefer not to have to spend five minutes straining to hear the intricate details unless it's something really awful or habitual. The last time really threw me for a loop, though. These women have a long day - 8:30 to 5:30 with about 35 kids ranging from 2 - 5, and they start and end the day with a movie. Not the most ideal, but I can live with it. But the last time he got in trouble it was for talking during the show. "He was peaking around the corner, making faces and talking to x. He knew he was being disruptive, so I had to give him a timeout." C'mon, he should sit when he's supposed to, but if he's fidgety at the end of the day, can't he go play if he wants to? I have enough trouble tearing him away from the TV at home, I don't need it thrust upon him. He also makes noise during naptime, clearly growing out of the need to nap. The kid just cannot play quietly, even when he's playing alone he makes car and dinosaur noises, his toys have conversations. He's my social kid, takes after his daddy. Loves to play with other kids. And it's eerily similar to my brother, who would constantly get in trouble for making some smart remark that the teacher couldn't hear, but would make the kids around him laugh. He never tried to cause trouble, he just seemed to attract it.

We really think he's just bored, and in fact today the teacher even said perhaps this is no longer the right place for him. So off to find another preschool, or "pre-K" to be more accurate. I keep calling it preschool and getting corrected when I talk to the school directors (I guess really it's pre-K/daycare as I potentially need full-time). If only he didn't miss the cutoff date, he could just start kindergarten in September, but no. In reality my main requirements are convenience, cost, a fun and relaxed environment with lots of outside play, and teachers who understand the various behaviors of kids (not having skirts to pull up, boys just talk about their superman underwear, a lot). But living here I feel some obligation to explore my various options (so glad I do not live in NY). And to be realistic the kindergarten readiness that most pre-K programs include are probably a good thing, both to give him the challenge to prevent the boredom which leads to his disruptive behavior, and because he's not his brother and actually sitting in a class and doing a project or drawing a picture is not so easy for him.

The first preschool we visited was the polar opposite of the current one, super academic, but perhaps that's what he needs, I email my husband. Hung in the office are amazing renditions of photos by famous artists, done by a kindergartner, a 2nd and 5th grader. Color me impressed (no pun intended). We walk into the pre-K and see these wild paintings the kids have done, all a copy of a painting by a dutch artist. There are also these incredible (for pre-K age) pictures of toucans. The teacher seems very proud, emphasizing how much they look like the original. At first I find it pretty cool, learning about this artist, and these impressive paintings. Thinking about it more, however, I realize why it also disturbed me a bit. Why are little kids copying another picture? My older son does that with Pokemom (what else?) but it's his choice. It never occurred to me to have him copy an artist. I don't see anything wrong with learning about a new artist, but I didn't see any artwork that looked like my kid's typical "painting" - basically all brown since he likes to mix the colors all together. No discernible shape at all. While I'm sure he could learn this, I just don't think it's for us.

Fortunately we loved the second one. Also unfortunately, since my husband now sees no need to look further. I feel like we should at least tour rest of the list (especially the one close to my work). This one goes from 2 months to 10 years, and is in a very school like environment, also next to a park. You walk in the pre-K and the first thing you notice is the noise. The kids are all laughing and talking and playing. Even circle time is noticeably louder than the last school. And the artwork? Giant sheets of paper with all the colors represented in all the different shapes and patterns, no two look alike. There were other things, too, but the kicker was naptime. The kids have a choice of napping, playing quietly in the other room, or playing a very active game outside. And you can tell the teachers if you do want your kid to nap and they'll do their best. The conversation with the director left us with good feeling. He's just going to learn the art masters elsewhere.

Cross-posted by the author at Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

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