Sunday, December 13, 2009

An answer

I’ve been fretting about preschool lately, more than I’d like to or I think I should. We’ve made the rounds and I’ve found the one I think is best – an immersion Chinese preschool. I think the challenge of a third language can only do good things for River’s brain circuitry. I also liked the high academic standards there, and the inclusion of math and science in the curriculum, starting in preschool. I also liked the parents better than anywhere else we’ve visited. They seemed to be intelligent, involved people who truly cared about academic stimulation. I envision that parental involvement there is not focused upon baking the best cupcakes for snacktime (bonus – they don’t even allow parents to send sweets) or best decorations for the homeroom, but instead coming up with enriching ideas and experiences for the kids. I also liked that in the elementary school, they provide tutoring not only for kids who are having trouble, but also for kids who don’t feel sufficiently stimulated.

Unlike the other preschools we’ve visited, they would allow River to enter the 3’s class next year (despite being 2.75), which I think would be good for him. But it’s also expensive and I think he’d then be pressured to start kindergarten at 4.75, especially if he continued on in the Chinese school. I definitely don’t want him to enter kindergarten early. Partly because I want him to have five full years of childhood. And partly because the earlier he goes, the earlier he moves off to college. I want him within our family unit for a solid 18 years, though perhaps I’ll think differently when he’s 16.

So, I think we’ll hold off on preschool for next fall. Not because he wouldn’t enjoy it (I think he would). But because the cost is not worth what he would get at this point. I’d like him to maintain his Spanish immersion, I don’t want him pressured by other kids to either ditch the Spanish or to adopt unwelcome behaviors, and two years of paying out the nose will be easier on us than three.

I try to reassure myself that he’ll continue to attend story hours and other events at the library and in the community, which tends to be around four times per week. I think that is decent group stimulation. If we get in from the waiting list, perhaps we’ll put him in a low-cost daycare one morning per week. The quality of care looks poor, but most of the kids are Hispanic. It would allow River to develop some Spanish-speaking friendships and to have a special place to go play each week. The teachers weren’t impressive, but the kids seemed nice enough and River enjoyed the time he spent there. I don’t think one morning per week of less than stimulating care is going to have a long-term effect.

While he’d pick up the Chinese more quickly at 2.75, I’m hoping that 3.75 is still early enough to make it fairly easy. He’d have at least 2-3 years of 100% immersion in Chinese. If a Chinese public school opens locally and he gets in, he might have an entire education primarily in Chinese. That is something I definitely wouldn’t have foreseen even a few months ago and am now starting to get pretty excited about.

It feels good to have a plan. I do worry somewhat that he might be a bit bored next year. But I guess we can always change our mind if the circumstances change.

In the meantime, I’m learning that I’m not as laid back as I thought I might be. We skipped most of the early enrichment activities in the first year of life, and didn’t even do much reading in the first 6-9 months. But now that it’s clear that the knowledge is entering, that it’s having an impact, and that he enjoys it, I find myself passionate about maximizing opportunities to learn. My excitement seems to be strongest in areas that I never even attempted, much less mastered – subjects like Chinese and robotics. The thought of seeing him easily take in things that are beyond me makes me feel like I’m giving him a step up.

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