Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Preschool/daycare advice?

I'm looking for opinions friends, so if you have one, please speak up. I'm in the gathering data stage.

Princeton has this cool program that if both parents are working at least 20 hours a week, then the university will reimburse $5,000 per kid a year in daycare cost. We qualify for it since I watch Baby X. The nice thing about it is that "daycare" is pretty much anyone that isn't you watching your kid.

That means that the $5,000 could go towards paying another stay-at-home mom to watch Madeleine a few hours a week, which is what several moms in the neighborhood do. It can also go towards really incredibly expensive pre-k programs.

Last year after debating a bit, I opted out of putting Madeleine last year. She was so little still and I didn't think it was worth the driving time. This year though she'll be almost 3, and I'm already being asking what program I'm sticking her into.

I'm not against sticking her in a school. In fact, if I could find a good match, I think she would love it. But here are the two that people keep suggesting and that I have looked into a lot myself.

My dream would be to stick in her a very well organized and run Montessori program three times a week. Montessori's main program is for 3-6 year olds, and it is one of the core methods that I use with her at home. I would love to have an outside person that she trusts to reinforce the ideas and rules we use at home and for her to start learning in a classroom situation. One of the things I love about the Montessori method is that kids learn from kids, and I think Madeleine would respond really well to this. It's also a child-led program. Madeleine can do what she wants within the rules that the teacher has set. I really like that. 

The problem is we don't want to pay for it. For Madeleine to go three times a week for 2 1/2 hours cost a little over $9,000 for the school year.  There are cheaper options (lowest I've found is $6,500) but they have less experienced teachers and it means more driving for me.

The other one that people keep telling me to put her in is the Waldorf school. We've gone to several of their festivals and the community and school is beautiful. A lot of our home structure (like our routines and our home surrounding) is strictly based on Waldorf principles. It's $8,500 for the school year for three times a week. It's beautiful and magical program and I love how art and nature are at the core. Things I don't like is that they are very hands-off with bullying and child-to-child interactions, and that it's adult led.

So those are the 2 programs that I've looked into and liked so far.

The thing is is sticking her in preschool really that important? Just about everyone that lives around here says yes. The reasons they give are: socialization, education, and sitting and listening skills.

Socialization is one of the least of my worries. Madeleine has Baby X that plays with her everyday, but other than that we play with neighborhood kids for 3-4 hours a day at least 4 times a week. We also have play dates, church, story time at the library. and parks.

Education is a weird one for me. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. I know she'll learn how to read and do things eventually. She's born into a highly educated family. College and PhDs are in her blood. She would be 4th and 5th generation on Matt's and my family. Matt and I are pretty sure she'll be able to find a job that will put her in the middle class. Something I do want to give her though is plenty of time to explore. I want her to find her own interest before she is told what she should be interested in at school. Thankfully, I think both of the schools above could give her that, if I chose to put her in.

Sitting and listening skills. Well, it's no secret that Madeleine does not sit. She's a wiggle worm. She wakes up in the morning and wants to go outside. By the end of the day, we find her with her blanket and doll at the door asking to sleep out there too. She loves to move and climb. This is something I can totally see as a problem in school. So I asked Matt if we should be worried about this and he said, "No, that's stupid. I've been in school for 20 years. She'll learn how to sit sometime during that period." He has a good point. Still...I think there are learning skills that come with sticking your kid in mainstream school and it's turn she isn't going to start school with them like most kids.

And last thoughts on this is when I actually look at the curriculum Montessori says to keep kids home until 3 and Waldorf says to keep kids home until age 7. Do I really want to give some of my income to pay for one of these schools? Would it be better just to teach her at home? Should I set up a small pre-k here in my neighborhood where most kids are kept at home or homeschooled? 

I'm really on the fence with this. So any advice or thoughts would be great.

Madeleine can make her own breakfast.

 Playing in the dirt
 Cutting up a snack
More dirt


  1. I'm very pro keeping her home and doing something yourself if you feel the need. You are highly educated and love her! Sounds like the perfect teacher to me. Plus the school system gets them for so long already.

  2. I'm very pro keeping her home and doing something yourself if you feel the need. You are highly educated and love her! Sounds like the perfect teacher to me. Plus the school system gets them for so long already.

  3. I think it's very telling that at several points you referred to "sticking" a kid in a school. That makes me think you are leaning against it. It sounds to me like Madeleine has a very well-balanced learning and social environment already.

  4. That is a hard decision. I didn't go to preschool until I was 3. Maybe hold out until then? Baby X would also be very lonely without her there. (I assume; I don't know him.) If you do put her in a preschool, I vote for Montessori. I really like Waldorf, and its focus on stories and fairy tales, but it does have a religious aspect to it that I'm not so comfortable with. The Montessori school would mesh well with your home life, and it would support her independence. But, she loves nature, and Waldorf has more focus on nature. Hmm.

  5. I do also think keeping her home for at least a little longer is a good idea.