Friday, July 18, 2008

HyperParenting - Exhibit A

Today, I present to you one e-book you'll never find me downloading.

[You didn't click, did you? You never do.]

That's okay, I'll tell you. It's an e-book for parents who struggle "with the difficult decision of picking the right preschool for their child."

That's right, folks! This book is chockfull (sp?) of checklists, worksheets, and planners that promise to enable you to find the right child-family-preschool fit. Also included: handy tips for navigating that tricky admissions process!

Whew! That's a far cry from our method of preschool selection. Essentially, Larry and I have only 2 criteria: location (Less than 3 miles from our house? Check!) and affordability (can we still feed everybody? Barely. Check!).

While it has never fit well into our family's budget (particularly the type with waiting lists and acceptance letters), there have been 2 times in our 16 years of parenting that Larry and I felt that some preschool might not be a bad idea. The first was when David was 4 and lay on the sofa talking to himself all day. Brian was only a toddler at the time, too young to really play with; and David had no friends who were boys. His loneliness and his weird behavior worried us (think Unabomber, okay? because we certainly were); so we sent him off 2 days a week to make some friends of the masculine persuasion and to stay out of my hair for a few hours.

Imagine our dismay upon hearing from a happy David after each (expensive) (for us) preschool session, "I played with Lizzie, and Sarah, and Hailey." Money well-spent, eh? But it did keep him busy, and he seemed to babble a little less when he was home alone; and by the next year Brian was old enough to be his playmate, so we were able to stop paying the big bucks for David to make more girlfriends.

We found ourselves knocking on this same preschool's doors 5 years later, however, with Rachel in tow. You know, Rachel - the 4-year-old of plumbing and taxidermy fame. We had a few qualms about dumping her for 4 days a week on her unsuspecting teachers (and Grandpa had to help us out with the tuition); but we were desperate to find something, anything, to distract her from the mischievous housewrecking in which she had been engaging.

[We tried the Marines first, but they wouldn't take her. Scaredy-cats...]

So there you are: no checklists, no worksheets, just a simple "Here's our child, feed her a snack, here's all our money to sweeten the deal" transaction that bought me some much-needed hours of guilt-free peace and quiet. Preschool, if you can afford it, is a wonderful creation, something invented with a mother's sanity in mind. If your child learns something (other than how to burp at snack), great! If he doesn't, who cares? It ain't Harvard.

And it definitely shouldn't cost as much.

[Don't forget - if you want to be considered for this week's book club giveaway, leave a comment on this post by Saturday evening!]

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29 comments:

  1. I thought of you today because my son crammed all his veggies in his mouth at dinner because I said no cookies until he finished his food. Then he gagged on the mouthful of edamame and threw up all over himself. I'm sure you're so happy to hear that.

    Anyway, the area I live in, you have to sign up your fetus for preschool of you want to get them into certain programs. And it costs like 70 bucks per waiting list.

    That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of and I refused to do it. A perfectly wonderful program fell into my lap unexpectedly last winter and we snagged the last spot. He starts Sept 15 and it costs Wayyyyyy less than Harvard. I wish people would quit acting like what preschool you went to goes on your resume.

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  2. Wow - yeah, I did click on the link and I was awed. I thought those obsessive parents who agonize over Pre-K admissions and such were only of TV legend. Apparently not. My standards are even more lax than yours - free and simple transportation. Yea! I'm looking forward to a couple of hours a week this year with no children. I'm just worried DH will bump up the housekeeping expectation to match the 9 hours a week of childlessness. But I guarantee for week one, Bonbons and blogging!

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  3. I absolutely agree with you (and MommyK). It's ridiculous, this pressure that parents buy into. It's pre-school, people. As in, not technically school (catch that pre-?) So relax...

    That said, I very much enjoyed sending my kids to a very affordable (read: cheap) preschool, which they loved as much as I did. The snacks rocked.

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  4. Apparently everyone in England and Wales is entitled to a couple of sessions of pre-school a week for their children. I'm a bit foggy on the details... at some point Peaches will go to ... whereever's convenient and has a place. I'm a stickler for researching these things in depth.

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  5. Oh, so good to be back (reading blogs and updating mine)! Sounds like the same dilemma exactly what we've been through a couple of times in our years of parenting. Preschool or no...the cost and just trying to get on a waiting list has determined "no" both times! I'm considering it for our 3-almost-4-yr-old but I'm sure I'm too late for any waiting list even for this year!

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  6. I was a bit like this with my first child. In my defense, I was 22, he was 4, and I did allow myself to get sucked into the idea that IT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION ON EARTH! Fortunately by the time his sister came along 8 years later, I was much smarter. Eight years and another child later, and I realized I just wanted someplace fun for him to go for a couple of days a week. Ditto for his sister two years later. It's amazing how much pressure people put on the preschool decision. In our area, I am definitely a renegade because we only did one year for each of them (except our 3rd, who did do the early 5's). At least where we live, it does not cost much at all, let alone anywhere near Harvard!

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  7. Last week my SIL, who has two very small children, asked me if I ever felt the pressure to enroll my boys in preschool. In my maturity I answered, "Not anymore."

    We enrolled our first son in preschool when he was 2 1/2 (WHAT WERE WE THINKING?), and after two years of cutesy, crafty things I couldn't help wondering just how many different ways are there for a child to learn his alphabet, because, truly, preschool doesn't get too much more complicated than that.

    So, with our third son (who is four) we are just now enrolling him for a three day a week mother's day out program in the fall (and we're doing so to get him used to a schedule since he will start kindergarten next year). Do I feel guilty for not having sent him sooner? Nope. He got stimulation from all of us, playtime with neighbors, cousins, and brothers, and, yes, he knows his alphabet.

    And like you, our criteria for picking out a mother's day out program was location.

    Really, preschool hysteria is riduculous.

    Now that you got me all riled up I'll go have a cappuccino ...

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  8. Ahhhh, the Marines. With our children even if they would take them, I am sure they (the marines) wouldn't last long!! I think your Rachel and 2 of my boys could take 'em.
    The money spent on a few hours of peace...... Priceless.

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  9. Our preschool was two blocks from our house and cheaper than baby-sitting. The kids were there from ages 2 - 4 . They loved it. No crazy curriculum. Just lots of fun and snacks.

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  10. I clicked on the link (Yes! I did!) and immediately scoffed at the book. Of course I won't read that. But then I thought back to when my girls were little and we were looking at preschools. You know what, I was so uptight back then that I probably would have read the book AND taken notes.

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  11. No kidding! I've never had a need for preschool myself, but my criteria would be the same: affordability and location. And maybe a caregiver with good personal hygiene.

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  12. We have the same criteria for our preschool choices; location and affordibility, because for the most part pre-school is more about socialization than learning anyway. In fact, the only reason we sent Maggie two years ago was because we got a scholarship and didn't have to pay.

    I don't think we will be sending Danny anywhere - he gets enough socialization by playing with his five siblings and the kids in the neighborhood. Plus I don't have $300 a month to spare, so he can make friends and play at a park.

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  13. I never thought I needed preschool until my 4 year old finished the ENTIRE CURRICULUM for preschool in two months then proceeded to make me crazy with requests for more learning. I made a random phone call to the closest one, they had just had a cancellation so he got in and loved it. I found out later people paid money and waited on lists for a year to get in there. I lucked out. Now my little girl goes there because her brother did (no waiting list for "legacy kids.") And our Kindergarten does ask what preschool your kid went to and they totally mark kids based on that. Ahhhh. . . Public schools. . . But I would NEVER read a book and get all obsessed. I like to go against what everyone expects. ..

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  14. AMEN.
    I have no desire and no cash, for preschool. When Scoter was little, I applied for a job at a day school thinking to "bring some money in...Ha. After PAYING for Scooter's class, and taxes, I would have made about $50/week. NOT worth it.
    Pax, E

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  15. You're totally right! What's the big deal with preschool. It's PRE school, right? The only reason I took my kids was for a little socializing before kindergarten...Oh and I admit, I needed those precious "me" hours too!
    :-)

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  16. What is up with this manic need to educate our children from birth on?I recently saw a commercial for something called Baby Einstein. It's frackin'crazy I tell you.

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  17. You have GOT to be kidding me! A book and waiting list for a preschool?? WOW, where did the days go of asking friends.

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  18. I loved reading your thoughts on preschool registration...because that is exactly what I'm doing this month! I own Kid connection here in my little town and we play in a little red school house. I have run this for seven years now, and have met both types of parents. One side is totally focused on a "higher education" and the other realizes that preschool is a fun, socializing moment for their child a few times a week. I charged twenty-five dollars for reg. and 75 for Tues/Thurs class...95 for Mon/Wed/Fri class (2 and half hours long). Families return over and over for years! I love the job-but have tried to find a buyer this summer. I do flowers for weddings over the weekends :) Anyone want a preschool here in Utah?! It's a great job!

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  19. Aaah, the joy of not overthinking things!

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  20. We gave a heck of a lot of though to the preschool Micah won't be attending this fall. We're not happy with the EI one he's at, but a "normal" preschool will be too academic. We were looking for a second-rate one. Weirdly, they don't really exist.

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  21. Shortman went to preschool and loved it. He now hates "real school", but his first "girlfriend" in 6th grade was a girl that he did go to preschool with.

    I loved showing them their class picture from when they were 3.

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  22. Little goes to a small on base day school a few times a week. I love it, he loves it and at the end of the day I am SANE!
    Some of the parents here pay a finder firm to locate the best Japanese schools for their kids. The enrolment fee up front is about 3 grand. Then 400 a month. NO WAY! I think its all just a prestige thing. To be able to say they spend so much:/

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  23. Necessity is the ...oh crap. Forget it. There is a brilliant quote somewhere in the nether regions of my brain. Anyway, my attitude towards my kids and preschool has always been "whatever doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger."

    Your parenting philosophy is so much like my own.

    The Marines were scaredy cats. Good one!

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  24. I'm so glad you wrote about this. I've been thinking that I might want to do part-time preschool for the upcoming fall/spring year, but I've been agonizing about it as if there has never been a more important decision in the universe. All my friends can rattle off the 5,000 priority-ordered criteria they used for picking their children's preschool (and, naturally, they were all over this back in January because they do that whole "thinking ahead" thing that I've heard so much about), which makes me all the more nervous since I was thinking that it didn't matter THAT much. Whew! I feel better after reading this.

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  25. Okay, to choose a preschool, I just asked a friend about what was good nearby. But I did tour it first, and I did go there at 6:30 am on registration day with the kid's birth certificate in hand, so he'd get in.

    I also visited a few that smelled of pee and/or had too many kids per square foot.

    I'd say ask around, visit a few, and make a choice based on whether the kid may have fun. For corn's sake, how many ways are there to glue beans on a piece of paper in the shape of the letter "B"?

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  26. Oh, I hear ya on the preschool front. Who are these crazy people that freak out about preschool? My son went to preschool in the basement of a church. My daughter will be starting at the same place in the fall. And best of all, it is free because we are godless heathens and so my grandma-in-law pays for it so that the poor children aren't sent to hell or something. Amen.

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  27. ParentZing!August 27, 2008

    We have a related post over at ParentZing! that readers may enjoy. It's about how insane the whole preschool selection and application process can be (and how, in retrospect, absurd). Enjoy!

    www.parentzing.net
    ParentZing!
    ....is urban. style. parenting.

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  28. Love it. Thanks for the link. I have definitely relaxed about next year and I feel GREAT about the all day decision.

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