We did it! We picked a preschool!
We visited our first preschool last Friday, one that came highly recommended by multiple parents. Oh. My. God. It was awful! The kids were seriously so slow. The 2-year-olds couldn’t even string a 2-word sentence together. They looked so lost and stupid! What is wrong with these kids?! We left running. We were totally depressed!
On Monday we visited the preschool where Gabby’s favorite buddy goes. It was huge and beautiful and clean. The children looked present and well-adjusted. We were so impressed by the location, the director was very nice and she really had the stuff together.
On Tuesday, we visited a second place, another one that was recommended to us. My first impression was “ugh” because it looked so messy. Not really dirty, but there were just so much STUFF everywhere! But as the visit went along, I found myself really liking the director. There too the kids looked present, engaged, and well-adjusted.
So now we had two good places to choose from! Both the same price, same hours, etc. And yet, they couldn’t possibly more different from each other!!! Place 1 was structured, clean, quiet, and calm whereas place 2 was chaotic, energetic, loud, free and full of life. Chris and I talked and talked and talked about whether Gabby would benefit from a structured place that could calm her down and complement our very free parenting style (providing something we clearly don’t), or whether she’d do better in a place that was an exact match to her wild personality and our lifestyle at home.
We organized a one-hour observational visit with Gabby to both places. Wednesday we brought her to Place 1. She was really excited! She saw her favorite buddy, he showed her around, she tried all the toys… she had a blast. We weren’t expecting to see how she’d be on a normal day there, because of course everything was new to her. But while she was there playing, we got a chance to see how the preschool ran. And as beautiful as the place was, it just felt so sterile and military-like. The toys had to be put back in the exact right spot in the exact right way. There was no art on the walls. The children were so quiet, happy but quiet. The director kept talking to us about the importance of calm and structure. It was all very consistent with the “Montessori way,” but Chris and I just looked at each other and said “that’s not normal.”
On Thursday we brought Gabby to Place 2. Again, she was happy playing and touching everything while we got to see how the place was run. I felt a lot less overwhelmed on this second visit. Yes there was stuff everywhere, but it was tons and tons of art supplies and the kids’ completed art projects. It was HAPPY stuff! The teachers were young, engaged, happy, communicative, informal, and honestly just plain fun! The director said things like “yes we expect them to put stuff away, but THEY’RE TWO YEARS OLD, if they put away 60% correctly, that’s pretty good” and “yes we keep some structure, but THEY’RE TWO YEARS OLD, they’re gonna do what they want to do.” She was funny and we felt relieved that they obviously had realistic expectations and didn’t pressure the kids to perform. Even I felt less pressure to be perfect while there, compared to the first place where I felt I should dress up for the visit and was constantly worried about Gabrielle acting perfectly. We love that they encourage the kids to get dirty, don’t force them to draw inside the lines, put the kids’ art up on the walls, and that the school is super involved in the community.
Everything the director said, everything we saw, it was up to par with our attitude at home and our parenting style. It just felt right. So we signed the dotted line right on the spot! Gabby will attend for a couple of short sessions next week then start full time on October 1st. Tonight they have having a Back To School night, so we will attend and meet the other parents. Exciting!
Oh and you won’t believe this, when we were touring I saw a little girl that looked like Gabby’s birthday twin from our neighbors at our old apartment. And it was!! We were neighbors, had babies the same day, moved out of the apartments in the same period, incidentally moved into the same neighborhood, the guy works one building down from me, and now our girls will be in the same class! Isn’t that funny?!
Gabby is super excited about the change. When we visited the place yesterday, she kept saying “look mom! Big kids! A lot of big kids! Oh my gosh! WOW! Oh I love that!!” And when we brought her back to Kim’s place, she really acted out. She’s so ready for this move!