Monday, April 11, 2011


I am trying to chose a preschool. Why is this so complicated?

Redwood Grove at the Children's House of Los Altos

I have two criteria for choosing a preschool. First, it can't be a parent co-op preschool. We are hoping to have a third child so I can't imagine myself "helping" in the classroom while pregnant. Plus, I have another child so it doesn't make sense to try and find child care for the other child just so I can help out in Blake's classroom. That would be fine for me if he was our only kid. Second, I want drop-off. I love the option of driving up to the preschool and having them get your kids out of the car for you. Some even put them right back into your car at the end of the day. One of life's wonderful inventions!

Here is how my decision process has morphed:

In The Beginning:
- Decided that Blake should go to preschool in the fall of '2011.
- Wanted to chose the cheapest program since Palo Alto preschool prices made our jaws drop.
- Toured the cheapest preschool.
- Decided that "kind of ghetto" wasn't the feeling we were going for.

In The Thick Of It:
- Went to the Palo Alto Preschool Fair put on by my parent's group.
Found out that we will have to bite the bullet and pay the equivalent of a car payment for a Land Rover if we want our kid in a decent program.

I decided to tour private schools just to see what all the fuss was about. Here is the breakdown:
Challenger School
I loved their academics (3's write sentences, 4's write short stories). The four year old class uses kindergarten curriculum. All art is teacher directed. I asked the director what would happen if my child took the paint brush and painted his face during art time. She looked at me bewildered and said, "That has never happened before." The children only get to play on one play structure and throw balls into a basketball hoop. Once again, my kid would be smart, but would lose muscle tone and creativity.

Waldorf School of the Peninsula
The academics blew me away. Waldorf has the stereotype of being super hippie where kids learn to read at the tender age of eight. Not true! They have a fantastic way of teaching academics through story telling. The artwork is all done in the same style and all the kid's drawings look the same. I am sure the children learn great art skills, but why does everything have to be so synchronized in private schools? The physical education is top notch. They really do a great job of developing the whole child. That night, I told Andrew I was going back to work so my kids could go to Waldorf. He slipped me the tuition handout, which I had not looked at, and I broke out laughing. Getting a job probably wouldn't cover the $20,000/year tuition plus childcare for Blake's siblings. No longer an option!

Back To Reality:
- I scheduled a "trial day" for Blake at a preschool I had toured and liked (Children's Corner).
- I didn't really dig the teacher and when asked his opinion, Blake replied with, "I want to go to another preschool." That answered that.
- Went back to the stack of preschool fliers
- Decided to tour Andrew's pick (Children's House of Los Altos)
- Really enjoyed the preschool. Faced with the dilemma of choosing between the two campuses. - Still wanted to tour one more before signing up.
- Toured one of the City of Palo Alto preschools (Barron Park). Quaint, bare bones program. A breath of fresh air from the academic spiels of the other programs. The outdoor area was a bit too small for my tastes.
- Andrew told me to sign up for the Los Altos preschool, but I have one more tour scheduled for next week (I promise that will be my last).
- So maybe Montecito Preschool???

Footnote: You may be wondering why I didn't mention any Catholic or Christian preschools. I checked out the Catholic schools and there are only two in the area who offer a preschool program. One was something like $17K a year for preschool and the other had a three day program (I am looking for a two day program). I don't consider myself a Christian (not speaking for Andrew here) so I didn't want to have to open that can of worms for Blake. I am completely comfortable with the exposure, but I would rather not have to challenge my child's innocent school work from preschool.

I had no idea I would be knee deep in preschool program decisions. This area has every school for every walk of life, but it gets a bit overwhelming when all you want is a "normal" school for a "normal" kid.


laz said...

bah preschool. did you go to preschool when you were 3? how many stories did you write when you were 4? do you think it really matters now?

Shannon said...

Believe me, this is not purely about education. To me, it is the ratio of good outdoor play to price.