Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More preschools

Yesterday we went for another preschool visit and accidentally, ended up getting a peek at three different options. At our first stop, we thought we were visiting a preschool, but it was actually a daycare run by the same institution. I knew it was the cheapest option, but still, I didn’t like the vibe I got when we walked in. It felt cramped, the teachers looked tired and frustrated and unengaged. The facilities were overcrowded and while they had a lot of activities, I didn’t have a lot of faith that the teachers actually implemented them. The kids were 90% Hispanic, which I loved. I would love for River to be able to spend time with those kids, who may be poor, but seemed like nice children and have hard-working parents. Unfortunately, the quality of care seemed to be too low for us to consider it. Mark thought it seemed so bad that he thought the $5/hour charge was way too high. I felt sad that I can’t give my son the chance to be friends with those kids. And that the kids don’t have the exposure to better quality education and more diverse classmates. They are starting out disadvantaged and they will arrive at kindergarten just as disadvantaged.

Then we went to the nursery school. That seemed like an OK option, but Mark was more impressed with the 3-year-room than the 2.5’s. “It just seems like another warehouse,” he said, referring to the 2.5 class.

One of the six kids in the 2.5 class screeched Nyaaaa, nyaaaa in an aggressive, high-pitched voice. The teacher mentioned that child is in speech therapy. “Is that the kind of atmosphere we want him in, where he is around kids who just make weird noises for no purpose?” Mark asked. “Do we want him coming home and making obnoxious noises?”

I’m starting to see his point. I do think River would lack for stimulation in the 2.5 class because at 23 months, I think he is already beyond a lot of the typical 2 year behavior. He’d be better off around older kids. But then, I don’t feel so great about an English-speaking group of older kids. We spent 15 minutes in the 3s class observing. One kid came over with a plastic crab. “Oh look, it’s a cangrejo,” I said to River in Spanish.

“No it’s not!” the kids replied angrily. “It’s a crab!”

As River buzzed around the room, playing with different toys and muttering to himself and to me in Spanish, I could definitely feel the 3-year-olds eyeing him strangely. Unless he’s getting something really substantial out of the program, I don’t want him to feel ashamed because he speaks another language or to feel pressure to be like the other kids. I don’t want a couple of little kids to turn back all the work I’ve put into raising him bilingual for the past two years.

We still have a few more schools to look at, including the Chinese one (which is unfortunately, quite expensive). It’s not a question of River being ready. I think he’s ready right now. But we’re starting to question whether or not preschool will give our son any real advantage compared to what he has now (especially for what they cost – in the $10-$18/hour range – plus requiring the parents to put in a substantial amount of volunteer work). Perhaps continued home care, with regular visits to library story hours and the park, with some playdates, might be sufficient for a while longer. If nothing else, it will allow him to remain comfortable with the person he is. To me, that’s worth a lot.

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