Her corporate daycare was great, but I felt like she would benefit from a little more structure and learning. Not full-on academics, exactly, but just a little. She knows all her letters and their sounds, can count to 20 in English and Spanish, and can count up to 5 objects on a page, without us "drilling" her on this stuff - she just likes it. She asks a lot of questions and listens very carefully to explanations of things. She loves to "read" her books and speaks in very detailed, grammatically correct sentences.
So back to preschool. I like the Montessori style of learning - child-directed, learning advanced concepts while they play with the cool materials. OK, I freely admit, I looooove the materials. Most Montessori programs encourage potty training and actively help in the process. (Hooray!)
So we focused on Montessori preschools and looked at one "regular" preschool.
One of the Montessori places was nice, but eerily silent despite being full of kids. Apparently they were all about "quiet and orderly". We ruled it out as soon as we saw two preschoolers who were enjoying a spontaneous hug and giggles, get told that was "not appropriate" and they needed to be quiet. No Montessori Boot Camp for us.
Another one had great facilities, but we never met the director on the tour. Parents at work had some pretty bad feedback on the management at this place - tons of teacher turnover, parents' concerns being ignored, etc. So that one was out too.
The "regular" preschool was interesting. It was more of a standard age grouping, rather than the Montessori mixed-age classes. There were tons of toys, art projects on the wall, kids gathering at little tables to eat snacks. But it felt a little chaotic (as a room full of preschoolers might) - our eyes didn't know where to rest. There was *stuff* everywhere and it felt a little cramped.
The last Montessori school we visited was the one we chose. It's not super-strict Montessori, but has the little activities on trays and "work periods" where kids choose their trays and work independently. This school also does some more traditional learning, when the preschoolers are older, with workbooks and letters and writing. It is accredited for Kindergarten so we can keep her there for several years if we like it. It wasn't eerily quiet. But what *was* interesting is that nearly every kid there is Indian or Asian. Not entirely unexpected, giving where we live and its proximity to my workplace, but odd nonetheless, since I've only ever attended schools that very much were mostly white.
T has been at this school for not quite 2 weeks and here's what's been awesome:
- She loves it. One tiny bit of crying on the first day when she saw TJ through the window, but otherwise, she's adjusted well and talks about preschool excitedly on non-school days.
- She has told her teacher on more than one occasion that she needs to go to the bathroom. Like, before she goes. Woot!
- It's less than 10 minutes from our house, and for less than the cost of 2 daycare days, we get 3 preschool days (albeit shorter days).
- One of the other teachers comes and speaks Spanish with her for fun.
But there are a few small things I'm second-guessing. T doesn't know the names of any of her classmates but one (and she's usually pretty good with names). Part of that is that she's a little slow to warm up to new people and situations, and she's also one of the youngest in the class. Also, her class is huge - 30 kids or more (with 4 teachers) compared to 10-12 in her daycare. But I'm not sure how much they are being encouraged to play and work together.
For the past few days, I've been coming across the message that "play-based preschool is best" from a lot of disparate sources: the mothering.com forums, Gluten-Free-Girl's blog, and random conversations with other moms. It's got me wondering if we're inadvertently pushing T too hard. She has been coloring worksheets with letters on them, and "practicing" writing numbers with help. I feel like it's too soon for those things.
But I wonder if we should really worry about it, since she seems to be really enjoying her new school. No crying at drop off, in fact, she's so absorbed in her "work" that I have to interrupt her to say goodbye.
So maybe it's fine.