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February 12, 2014

The Great Preschool Debate

It blows my mind that we are already at this point -- thinking about sending Henry to school. The reality is that in a little over a month he is going to be three-years-old. Technically, he losses the label of toddler altogether and is officially a preschooler. But, does that mean he should go to preschool? 

Morgan and I started thinking about preschools a few months ago. To be completely honest, I was completely set on sending him to a traditional Montessori children's house. Why not? We love Montessori. It provides a great academic base and a chance to gain independence. 

Well, then realty hit. Montessori is expensive. Really really expensive. Schools in our area were in the $400 to $500 a month range for two half-days a week. I would have to get a full time job just to be able to afford it. That just doesn't make sense at this point. Playschools were still an option, but I really don't like the idea of sending him to an expensive glorified daycare center. 

With Montessori out, I shifted to homeschool. Academically, I'm not worried about Henry. He knows all of his letters, most of their sounds, can almost count to 20, recognizes almost all those numbers. I could just continue what we do at home. 

But, socially, Henry sometimes struggles. He has a difficult time with transitions and crippling anxiety when it comes to separation. If he knows he is going somewhere without me, he will stress {including waking in the night to talk about it} for days ahead of time. Even if its just a quick drop off somewhere familiar. And, unfortunately, this is something homeschool can't help. But, he's only 3, so is this really a problem?

So, we continued our search. And finally found a great academically based program {although not Montessori} near our house for a reasonable price. Its in our local public school, and may be where Henry will go to elementary school. There were limited spots so we applied for the lottery. Yesterday we got notice that Henry was accepted! He starts September 9. 

I'm hoping we made the right decision. Have you made preschool decisions? Are you sending your 3-year-old? Homeschooling? Playschool? Waiting another year? What are your thoughts? 


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Jen @ the mama years
Isn't it yesterday they were just babies??! I totally understand your position. I think it's a shame so many Montessori programs are prohibitively expensive. I am sure the school you chose is great and the good thing is if you feel it isn't meshing with your idea of preschool, you can always withdraw Henry. I do think the socialization aspect will be helpful. It's why we started (my) Henry in a Montessori toddler program at 21 months and we've continued him in it. However, if you feel the school you go with isn't working out, you could always combine your tot school stuff (which is more than enough in terms of preparing him for school - you've done great and academically he'll be fine b/c of it!) with some scheduled classes or even group co-op stuff that is not in your house/you don't stay. I bet you'll find something that works!
Carrie said…
Olive is 24 months but she started a progressive preschool at 19 months. She was placed in a 2s classroom and it has been great for her. I was set on putting her in a Montessori environment but we've really enjoyed how open and somewhat unstructured her school is. They spend the majority of the day outside, the toys are swapped out based on classroom interests and the kids are treated with the respect and freedom you would give an adult. It's definitely not for everyone (I've had several people in our playgroup say that they couldn't send their child there based on our reports of Olive playing out in the rain, coming home covered in paint, not celebrating holidays or seasons in the classroom and not being allowed to take sweets to school) but it's been a great fit for us. Plus I've learned a whole new way of speaking and interacting with my daughter. All of this is to say, if we had gone with what our gut first told us, we would have missed the opportunity to find this amazing school.
Audrey said…
I'm all for preschool - previously being anti-daycare, when Teddy turned 1 it became necessary as I had to return to my PhD & boy, I have totally changed my tune! He has absolutely thrived socially (he turns 2 in April) and I honestly believe it has done his separation anxiety the world of good. Henry sounds quite similar in temperament to Teddy so expect it to be rough at first - but remember they usually stop the tears as soon as you are out of sight! It took maybe 3 months for Teddy to get to the point of no tears at drop off or pick up, but anytime I stayed out of sight to listen to him he stopped within 5 mins of me leaving. We opted for a Montessori children's house, where he will stay until school (the year he turns 5 if I don't hold him back a year). They offer long daycare, which we need, and run the Monte program 9-3 each day. Luckily, in terms of daycare it is as expensive as everywhere else! We were thinking of Montessori primary school (for us in Australia that means 5 years old until 12) but like you, we would both have to work full time to afford it. Public school it is when the time comes! Also, I'm not sure how many days Henry will attend, but in my experience (with Teddy and some of his little friends) actually attending more than 2 days can be helpful as the children seem to find their place & benefit from the routine. We started with 2 days but recently had to step it up to 3 (soon to be 4 eek!) and the change in Ted was instant. Good luck!
Lindsay said…
All of Ethan's friends, except one, are now in preschool. Many went very early (in my opinion) at 2, but the rest have sort of joined now that 3 is approaching. All I can say is everyone does what is best for them, and all I can comment on is what is best for Ethan. And that is keeping him home with me for now. He will be 5 in Kindergarten, and at 4 we will do pre-K from 9 a.m. - noon. I honestly never, ever, ever considered school prior to Pre-K (and that's not a dig at ANYONE -- like I said, everyone does what's best and I'm just talking about my own personal experience!) and really want Ethan to have this time at home. I want him to have time at home with the new baby before he begins his schooling career, too. And I just feel he's so young. Yes, he is attached to me and we've never been away from one another -- but I'm okay with that for right now.

Do any of the Montessori schools offer VPK near you? I haven't interviewed any schools yet, but I know a couple of the Montessori schools here do offer VPK (so it's free, the year before Kindergarten). I honestly haven't thought about Montessori vs. traditional school just yet, but I do want to interview both!
Brita Johanna
Brita Johanna said…
I had terrible separation anxiety. I was the kid they peeled off my mom's leg while the rest of the preschoolers gathered to watch the spectacle. So, my parents held me back a year and I did extra preschool, but I would definitely say it helped with social issues. Poor guy. I understand the separation anxiety.