Mission accomplished. Registration papers for Grayson's preschool are in and he's enrolled for the fall. The best news of all is the fact that he keeps asking to go there to visit his classroom and his teachers. In other words, he's just as psyched and ready as we are!
Being a former educator (and even a short year long stint as a preschool teacher) myself, I felt very confident that I'd "just know" when we found a great match for Grayson. I tried not to set my expectation bar too high or too unrealistic because after all, it is preschool and he'll thrive in
any environment that provides other children, activities, and a monitored playground.
That being said, neither my husband nor I set out looking for a rigorous academic curriculum. However, Grayson loves to learn and he's thirsty to know it all right now so we wanted a place that does offer some instruction and not all play. Don't get me wrong, we both believe children learn through play while interacting with their environment, other children and adults. We also understand the importance of kids feeling safe and accepted by warm, friendly, and professional staff and teachers. As parents who also happen to be pessimistic adults on occasion, we know you never get everything you want so we were ready to "go without" one thing over the other. To my sincerest astonishment and awe, we both feel this preschool we chose just yesterday really does offer it all. Or enough of it all that we're sold.
I'll spare you details but I knew this place was gold when we walked in to the classroom and it felt like we were visiting an old friend. The classroom was set up to feel like someone's playroom in their home. There were toys but not too many. Every play thing was obviously well thought out and neatly stored in baskets on small shelves within reach of little hands. There were tons of children's artwork but not every single inch of wall was covered with googly eyes and construction paper cutouts. There was a blessed amount of negative (as in clutter free, think-easy) space. There were two tables of children "working" with clay but each was making their own shape du jour and not simply copying the teacher's model even though a model was available. A little boy with brown eyes came to show us his "clayburger" as my little boy watched silently but very intently.
I knew we'd found the right place for Grayson because he physically exhaled in this classroom after five minutes of observing. When we first arrived, he began to shake so badly his left leg almost collapsed right then and there. My heart wanted to scoop him up and run back to our car but I'm so glad we persevered because minutes later he stopped shivering, looked up at me to smile, and breathed out a long audible sigh. So loudly that even the Director noticed.
Trying to let things sink in slowly for Grayson, I didn't say much. I wanted to give him the space and time to make up his own mind about this place. We walked the halls and peeked in to some more classrooms in various stages of their comfortably busy (not frenetic like so many of them tend to be) daily routine. He remained interested, engaged, and alert. But still quiet. Then we came upon their music room. Here, Grayson was overcome with words. "Piano!" "They're singing!" "ABCs, I know this song." "Those chidwen are sitting on letters, Mommy!" "That looks fun. Can I go?"
Then the Director explained that we'd have to belong to the Community Center (preschool is affiliated) if we choose to enroll Grayson here. My eyes fell to my shoes. Another fee? We can barely manage the preschool tuition as it is. Now we have to pay a monthly fee for membership too?
"Oh," The Director started, "Just so you know, there is free childcare when you come to use our gym. And the pool is heated."
Gym? Free childcare? Poooool?
My 401K will miss me this year but this opportunity is too golden to pass up.
We start in the fall.