The Preschool Decision

Ever since my son’s preschool conference in January, I have been plagued with making a preschool decision.

 

For some reason, this decision seems monumentally hard.

 

I have finally succeeded in figuring out why…this is the first parenting decision I’ve had to think about.

 

Weird, right? From the time we find out we are pregnant we have to make parenting decisions. Doctors, birth plans, breast or bottle, crib or in your bed, stay at home or work, decisions, decisions, decisions.

 

The thing for me is, I already knew all of that stuff. I knew I wanted a natural birth (which didn’t happen…I wound up with a c-section.) I knew I wanted to breastfeed and have the baby in the bed with me and do baby wearing instead of car seat carrying. I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom and I knew with 100 percent certainty that those were the RIGHT decisions FOR US. And they absolutely were.

 

When my son turned two I wanted him to start preschool a couple days a week. We found a preschool we loved and even though I had separation anxiety in the beginning, I knew it was a good choice. My son had an excellent year and I adore his first two teachers so much.

 

Then this year he is having kind of an off year in preschool, which made me wonder if his current preschool is still the right choice. He will also be old enough to start the Virginia Preschool Initiative Program this fall, so I wonder if we should take advantage of that resource. After a speech screening we also discovered that he needs speech for slight articulation issues which we have been paying $55 per half hour for once a week. He is not eligible for free services through the school system because his articulation is not severe enough to affect his development. So then enters a financial issue that we can not afford to continue private speech therapy AND next year’s preschool tuition. I am also the Parent Council Chair at my son’s school this year which has turned out to be a huge job.

 

Enter stressed out indecisive Mommy.

 

I think I’m having a hard time separating my frustration with Parent Council duties and my son’s experience at the school. Taking a step back, I realize that I do need to make the separation. I really do not like working with some of the Board members at the school, but if I was just a “regular parent” I would no longer have those responsibilities.
Our first year with his two year old teachers was so amazing, and unfortunately for whatever reason this year  has not felt that way. Part of it is that my guy is more of a “terrible threes than terrible twos” and part of it is that their teaching style seems to be much more supervisory rather than hands on. I also think the class size is too large and other parents have had a difficult time this year too, which is unfortunate. Also each year the tuition rises but unfortunately our budget does not.
BUT, my son still loves his peer group at his current school. He has been with the same kids since he was two years old. Taking a step back, I realize that part of what is making my Parent Council job so difficult is that I’m working so hard because I really do believe in this school and think it’s great. It’s felt right since the first time I toured it and I hate to take him and I away from an environment we’ve both become invested in. I believe his school experience would be teacher and peer dependent no matter what school he went to and know more about the teachers for next year at his current school than I do about ones in a new environment. If he goes back to his current school next year his hours would be Monday-Thursday 9-12, a schedule I feel good about.
The publicly funded (and FREE) Virginia Preschool Initiative program was developed for lower income schools and “at risk” kids, but is still an opportunity for a free preschool program at our local elementary school. The school down the street from us is really working hard to recruit new students and make it a true neighborhood school rather than all of the “privileged families” sending kids to private schools. My concerns are that the school day would be Monday-Friday 8-2 and what he would be exposed to in a lower socio-economic peer group. My son is the youngest in his class, and I worry that a full time schedule like that might be too much for him. Selfishly, I’m not sure I’m ready for him to be gone all day every day. Financially, it’s a great option. Our neighborhood school has this whole parent movement going on right now which is great, but I am nervous about my guy being in the guinea pig class for the new movement of changing the demographics of this school.
I also toured the Preschool Learning center, an entire elementary school devoted to the VPI program. It’s a great concept to have an entire elementary school of 4 and 5 year olds, but I did not feel at home during the tour. I think it was just too big, and it’s hours were Monday-Friday 9-3. With a 15-20 minute drive to get over there, I feel like I would just never get time with my little guy.
I have also looked at other private schools that would be less expensive for us next year, and even one that offers 5 day fours for less than what our current school offers 4 day fours. An extra day for less money sounds great, but I find myself still drawn to our current school because I do believe that in the midst of all of the drama it’s a good school.  And I do wonder about the consequences of changing my son’s  environment for pre-k, then again for Kindergarten, and then again when we most likely will move after my husband completes his residency.
Another factor to consider is our impending move. My husband will complete his residency in the summer of 2014, so we will definitely be in Richmond for one more year. He has applied to a fellowship that would allow us to be here through the summer of 2015, but we do not know if he’s been accepted yet. In Georgia, where we grew up and will most likely be moving back to, the cut off for school is September 1st. In Virginia, the school cut off is September 30th. So here, our son is the very youngest in his class. In Georgia time, he would not be old enough to start pre-K yet, and he will be the very oldest when he does start school there. This is another reason why I’m not sure that going forward with full time school is a good choice at this point.
The other component is speech. After a speech assessment with a private company, they said he needed private speech which we have been doing on Fridays for 30 minutes at $55 per half hour (!) I took him for a screening through the Richmond school system where he could get services for free, but he does not qualify for school services because his articulation issue is not affecting his development, communication, or comprehension. We can definitely not afford the cost of weekly speech and private preschool tuition. I wonder how much he really needs this private speech since the school system doesn’t think it’s a very severe problem.
We are not an older established family like a lot of the families at our current private preschool. We are still at the working our way up point and though tuition increases each year, our budget does not. So between finances, the option for a free state funded pre-k program, and a frustrating year, I’m just not sure what to do.
So that’s where I am now. In between choices and just feeling like this decision is so big because I don’t KNOW the right choice like I did with all of the other parenting decisions.
So many people have talked to me about this from my family to sweet blogging friends on Facebook and Twitter, my friends, and even my son’s sweet first teacher.
My husband is on board with the VPI program because it’s free and he thinks our son might do well with a longer school day and more structure. I genuinely don’t know what would be the best for our son.
I guess I’m writing this post not so much for advice, but for my own processing and to let you all in on the craziness that goes on in my mind.
And now I am going to lay it to rest for a week, because it’s Easter and next week is Spring Break! It couldn’t come at a better time. Happy Easter!