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Reluctant Mother v Preschool


Just the word makes my stomach flip.

My kid isn’t even two years old yet, and already people are asking me about preschool?!

Am I the only one who thinks this is insane?   Why are people so obsessed with picking the “right” preschool?


Preschool is now a place where kids are wait-listed and tuitions rival that of full-time private schools and there are actual “curriculums.”


I’ve seen the studies.  I know preschool can be beneficial for children.  Do I think it’s 100% necessary for EVERY CHILD?  Absolutely not.

Would I like my child to go to preschool?  MAYBE.

Part of me knows his Father and I are perfectly capable of teaching him material he “should” know before he begins Kindergarten.  Part of me doesn’t really want to send him off to a structured learning environment at such a young age.  It seems a little “pushy” to me.  He’s going to have years of school and early mornings and extra curricular activities and pressure ahead of him.  Shouldn’t he be allowed to be a carefree little boy as long as possible?

But I also know about “the studies” and like any other parent, I want my child to be well-prepared for an independent and (hopefully) happy life.  I want to make sure he has adequate social skills.  I want to make sure he’s developed coping mechanisms for dealing with other people and difficult situations.  I know preschool can help build a solid foundation for those skills.

So, yes, eventually, Mac will likely head to preschool when he’s three. . .or maybe not until he’s four. . .Either way, by all accounts, it seems as if I should be working on finding that school NOW.

Type A, helicopter parent that I am, I’ve started a list of requirements for Mac’s perfect preschool:


1.  The school can’t be located adjacent to a Meth Lab (duh, obviously) or Central Booking. . .or near a Superfund site. . .or in an area where this is a high concentration of registered sex offenders living. . .or too close to other hazards like busy streets, swimming pools, or candy stores. . .(Oh hell, this is going to be harder than I thought).

2.  The curriculum shouldn’t look like a damned 400 level college course.  I want to see playtime, storytime, snack and quiet time prominently featured.  I won’t be impressed with talk of “Montessori” or “Reggio Emilia” teaching methods.  Both of these things sound like names of exotic cheeses, they do not sound like something I want my three year-old subjected to twice a week.

3.  The school MUST be located within walking distance of our home.  I’m just too damned lazy for anything else.  For one thing, I think it’s bullshit to be loading two children into and out of the car  and sitting in traffic just to get one of them to preschool.  Additionally, the further away the school is from home, the more likely that the kid’s new friends won’t be “local” which means my weekend drinking activities will be severely curtailed by driving the kid to parties and play dates, etc at “non-local” locations.  That’s crap.

4.  If the preschool predicates enrollment on the condition that parents must agree to “VOLUNTEER” a set number of hours,  Forget it.  I am paying for professional preschool staff.  STAFF that has been fully vetted.  If I wanted my kid around potentially creepy adults I don’t personally know, I’d just set him loose in the playground for a couple of hours a week.

5.  If your mission statement says something to the effect of “We believe children thrive when they are allowed to set their own goals and work at their own pace,” you’re OUT.  That’s ridiculous.  When I was three my goals included heckling my Mother until she wept silently in a corner, playing with snot, watching Mister Rogers, and reading Little Golden Books.  If I wanted my kid to set his own damned agenda, we could do that at home without the savings draining tuition you’re planning to charge me.  Structure is good. . .just don’t make it too rigid or complicated.

4.  Uniforms are a deal-breaker.  I don’t mind uniforms for older children, but for preschool?  Come on. Can’t they just be kids?

5.  If the only attendance options are five half days a week or three full days a week, NO WAY.  I actually like spending time with my kid.  I’m looking for the kid to learn some social skills, I’m not looking for over-priced, glorified daycare.

6.  If the enrollment package looks like a gawddamned Ivy-League college enrollment package, I DO NOT trust you.

7.  If the outdoor play area consists of patch of dirt and some shitty plastic picnic tables, we’re probably NOT attending.

8.  If the school doesn’t have a “sick child stays the hell at home” policy, game over.

9.  If I see a TV in the classroom, we’re out.  I don’t care if it’s there under the premise it’s used for educational purposes.  I’m not paying a preschool to show my child television or videos EVER.  NOT EVER.   Certainly, well-qualified staff can figure out something stimulating to do with popsicle sticks or cigarette butts or whatever is handy.  If I wanted my kid zoned out in front of a screen for part of the morning, I could offer that at home – for free.

10.  The staff has to be top-notch.  They must be educated, patient AND POLITE.  If I walk into a preschool and see one of those women who lead bunches of small children through the park every day, barking out orders non-stop to “GET BACK HERE!” “DON’T DO THAT!”  “YOU’LL HAVE TO SIT ALONE ON THE BENCH, YOU FOOL!” I’m walking right back out the door.  I do not speak to my child that way, and I’ll be damned if I’m paying someone else to do it.

Can Reluctant Mother find the perfect preschool?  Time will tell. . .

In the meantime, I’m going to let my 23-month old enjoy being a toddler. . .and research home school curriculums!  😉


16 Responses to “Reluctant Mother v Preschool”

  1. Dani Ryan says:

    Oh, I am so with you on this one. We do this mom-and-me type preschool class on Wednesdays, and it is a lot of fun. But all of the moms are talking about putting their kids into the drop off program across the hall starting in September, when their kids have reached the requisite 2.5 year mark. Me? No chance in hell. I know she needs to socialize with other kids, but if I can do that with her in the way of germ-infested gymnastics classes, trips to the park, and playdates that we do together, then that’s what I’m doing. When she turns 3 or 4, we’ll start some sort of drop-off program a couple of days a week for a few hours so we can slowly transition to the idea of kindergarten, but until then, I’m pretty happy with our little set-up. Even if she does drive me batty some days!!!!!

    Oh, and the “keep sick children at home” thing is a real deal-breaker for me, too!!!!
    Dani Ryan recently posted…10 ways I’ve become the parent I swore I’d never beMy Profile

    • admin says:

      I’m SURE friends and family are taking wagers now on whether I can handle Mac AND the baby. . .thinking I might want to “ditch” Mac at preschool a few times a week. They completely underestimate my Type A control freak nature and stubbornness. It’s not happening. . .even if, like you, I might dream about it some days. Ha!

      If Mac comes to me at 3 years old and says the boy down the street goes to school and he wants to go too, then of course, we’ll follow his lead, but if that doesn’t happen, the poor kid isn’t leaving my sight until he’s four. 🙂

      I cannot even tell you the panic I already feel about what we’ll do with him for the night or two I have to spend in the hospital when the new baby gets here. Even before we got pregnant I made Chris promise he’d come home those nights to stay with Mac. I know that’s crazy but I’m finally ok letting my parental freak flag fly.

      • Dani Ryan says:

        No one has ever put my child to bed accept me, so the idea of spending a night in the hospital for anything (like giving birth) makes it physically hard for me to breathe. Of course, my husband keeps telling me I need to let him TRY, but I just look at him like he has 6 eyes. That’s my job, buttercup. And I’m not giving that up. 🙂

        Oh, so back to you (HA!!!)… I totally get why you would be concerned with that. I might be jonesing for a date night, but no way in hell is this child staying with someone else while she’s awake, or for more than a few hours when she’s sleeping. 🙂
        Dani Ryan recently posted…10 ways I’ve become the parent I swore I’d never beMy Profile

        • admin says:

          I hear you. Chris used to put Mac to bed when he was younger. It was much easier. Now Mac thinks Chris is Mr. Fun Times and pretty much refuses to sleep if Chris puts him in the crib. . .often a fit ensues. In fact, Chris sneaks upstairs while I’m reading to Mac so Mac doesn’t even see him about 30 minutes before bed. Chris can still get him to sleep at night in a sleepy wrap if the situation is dire – but it’s still a process. I know I need to let Chris start doing it more, but it’s just not worth it to me to go through all the drama and later bedtime. . .so I just do it myself.

          My Mom said when she had my sister, she returned from the hospital to learn that I hadn’t slept for two days! TWO DAYS!! I was about 36 months old! She said there’s nothing worse than returning from the hospital with a newborn and finding a toddler in the throws of complete sleep deprivation. I’m scared senseless. Hoping Mac out grows some of that this summer!

          Mac’s Grandfather has watched him for a few hours a couple of times during the day. It’s worked out ok. Chris and I are usually at the house anyway and Grandpa takes Mac to the park, library and for lunch. BUT they are ALWAYS home in time for nap. Mac won’t nap for Grandpa either.

          Honestly, even if I WANTED to get away from my kid, it just wouldn’t be worth the trouble. I’m sure this is somehow my “fault.” Ha. Good thing I like having my little buddy around 24/7. 🙂

  2. Just so you know, not putting your child in preschool is the gateway drug to homeschooling. Says this mother of three, whose eldest is about to turn 11 and is still to clock any days in school, pre or otherwise… ;P Lovely read as always.
    nothingbythebook recently posted…Sometimes it goes like this…My Profile

    • admin says:

      Thanks! Honestly? I’d homeschool my little fellow in a heartbeat. I love the idea of the flexibility and no driving to and from school or bussing and having him with us most of the time. My Husband isn’t quite as convinced. I am secretly hoping once he sees our Baltimore City educational options he changes his mind. 😉

      As always, I appreciate your reading and comments!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I agree with nothingbythebook 🙂 The only reason I am not homeschooling my daughter right now is because our Early Childhood program has some excellent therapists that have benefited her tremendously. But those teachers see almost as much of me as they do her. In the two years she has been attending let me tell you how many other parents I have met – two.
    Now the kids in EC all have special needs of some kind. Kids can start receiving services/therapy through the school at age 3. The thing that bothers me the most is that all but 2 other kids in the past two years ride the bus to school. And the school actually presents the bus experience as some sort of positive thing?!!? A 3 year old with physical/cognitive/emotional disabilities on a school bus with a bunch of other 3 year olds with issues, yeah that sounds like a real positive learning environment. I was a perfectly healthy, smart, strong kid and I was traumatized for life by my bus riding experiences.
    I am the only parent that walks into the school and all the way to the class room with my child. I am the only parent that stays and participates in the therapy sessions with my child. It is really, really sad that the overwhelming response from the teachers has been one of shock, surprise, and gratitude at my constant presence. And double shock, my husband stops in when he can too.
    Apparently most of the parents seem to think it is entirely the school’s responsibility to fix their kid.
    I say proceed with caution and don’t be afraid to be the helicopter mom, at least until he can fly on his own a little bit. At this age they need mama bear looking out for them because they can’t necessarily speak for themselves yet.
    Jennifer recently posted…Just BecauseMy Profile

    • admin says:

      I’m with you on the BUS. I HATED riding the bus. It was HORRIBLE. This one older kid was always trying to touch my legs. I learned how to swear. I saw more pornography than I’ve seen in my adult life. If my kid NEVER has to ride a bus, I’ll be perfectly happy. And in Baltimore, some children ride PUBLIC buses. Can you imagine? Putting your grade schooler on PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION without adult supervision DAILY? I can barely breathe thinking about it.

      I have a friend who is a counselor at a Baltimore Public School and she relays the same story you are telling over and over and over. Parents just aren’t involved. Parents don’t show up for important meetings or events. They expect the school to handle everything. I know Baltimore City Schools are some of the most disadvantaged and challenged in our area (but I have plenty of teachers who are friends in suburban or “good” school districts that have similar stories).

      I also get parents have to work. Parents shoulder a LOT of responsibility. Not everyone has the benefit of even having the option to stay home with their children and homeschool them. I get it. I know how lucky I am.

      Still, I’m always shocked when I hear about parents who seem to be so UNINVOLVED with their children’s education. Like you mentioned, children spend nearly as much time in their learning environment as they do at home with their parents. . .I’m fueling up my helicopter for the long haul. Ha!

      Thanks for your comments! I’m always interested in hearing about your experiences. XO

  4. Alison says:

    I think our preschool is about as close to that as you can get, although they do do the occasional pajama party movie day.

    I think the most important thing kids learn in preschool is how to socialize and follow the teacher’s directions.
    Alison recently posted…Uterus and IMy Profile

    • admin says:

      PlEASE tell me your preschool is a couple blocks from my house? 🙂

      (I would never begrudge an occasional movie day IF it meant I didn’t actually have to get the kid dressed for school that day! Ha)

      I agree that likely most of what I’m looking for in a preschool is a place where Mac can learn to interact with children and adults (who aren’t related to him).

      Although, obviously we might have other ideas once he’s a little older. When did you start sending your children to the school? Do you have any thoughts on 3 v 4? Or even 2? Any other wisdom you want to share? Please! Help us out! 🙂

      You know I write snark to be funny but honestly, I really do embrace the idea that every child and family is different and I don’t honestly believe there is one RIGHT way for any aspect of parenting (except of course, love. . .love those babies hard!)

  5. PM Kester says:

    Great blog post (as usual!). I actually tagged your blog for a Liebster Award. Check out my blog where I mention you and t he award instructions.
    PM Kester recently posted…Liebster AwardMy Profile

    • admin says:

      Awww. Thanks so much! I’m really terrible with awards. . .the passing them along part. The details make me dizzy. 🙂 But I’ll be sure to give a shout out in an upcoming post. Again, thank you! 🙂

  6. Love my little one’s preschool where they go 2 days a week for 3.5 hours in his two year old class. And I’m pretty sure as the lone working mom in the whole class (and most likely school) that I’m the only one who isn’t around a bunch- but no forced volunteering, great playground, and goals include things like ‘hopping’ and ‘clapping’ which I love. It’s a wonderful place! However, being the lone working mom I hate being the outsider. Ug. But my part-time working/SAHD husband is a rock star and I’m pretty sure would still go insane without those 7 hours a week.
    Anita @ Losing Austin recently posted…The Big StoryMy Profile

    • admin says:

      I’m hearing a lot of folks tout the 2 days a week for 3 to 4 hours. And this sounded perfect for us too. I think that’s even the the frequency of when I went to preschool myself as a kid.

      What does your husband do with 7 hours a week?! You give him 7 hours a week?! (Joking, of course).

      PS, I’ll bet no one thinks you’re an “outsider” either! (Well, unless of course you do really weird stuff. Then you deserve it. hahaha) But I’m sure no one thinks of you that way just because you have a career outside the home too. They probably all think you’re Superwoman! I know I think women that work full time and raise children are pretty incredible.

      Hope it’s a great week! 🙂

  7. Carol says:

    I remember the first time the subject of preschool even came up – another mother was passing by as I loaded up my son on his very first day of day care (a.k.a. “Mommy-needs-time-to-breath-care”) after my second was born. He was 2.75 and too young for the public program nearby. We struggled a lot with that whole daycare arrangement until another mother, at the park one day, asked me if I had him in preschool. So I revisited that whole idea. I couldn’t be happier. I know I probably sound like a horrible mom for needing to let someone else take care of him…but I just did. And thank goodness for his preschool because now I don’t feel so bad about it. They have a wonderful curriculum. He only goes two days a week for three hours a day…the teachers are great (from what I can tell)…Honestly, some hifalutin, ivy league preschool wasn’t even my priority. It was structured learning, with nice, fun, educated teachers…and I got it. I am just not organized (or resourceful) enough to give him those things right now. So, Yeeeah for preschool!
    Carol recently posted…When new jeans aren’t a good thingMy Profile

    • admin says:

      I don’t think you’re a horrible Mom AT ALL for having your son attend preschool. And who knows? Once the second one arrives here, maybe Mac and I will BOTH be ready for a little time apart from one another (and him from a newborn too)! In my head, I think two days a week for 3 hours would be the “perfect” schedule for us too – just a little time to learn some basics and develop some social skills.

      Your comment and the others are encouraging. It doesn’t seem nearly as difficult to find a decent place as everyone in “real life” makes it out to be. Ha! And the folks who commented who homeschool, also had good things to share. . .So clearly, there’s no “right” way and it’s all what works best for your family. Moms everywhere really should hear that message more often. 🙂