Monday, January 8, 2007

Preschool Paranoia


Jesus, I think I'm hyperventilating.  I have been naive, friends.  Very naive.

Addie's almost three, and it's only now that I'm starting to understand the whole "why schools matter" thing.  I'm ashamed to even write that.  I mean, I'm an educator, for God's sake.  I should know better.  But there was definitely a part of me that believed that hey, if the parents are pretty smart, and the kids are pretty smart, the school doesn't really matter so much. 

Then there's this:  I went to public schools.  My brother went to public schools.  Between us, we have six degrees from institutions of higher learning (which is maybe not so smart, considering how much debt we accrued).  Still, if public schools produced us, if they were good enough for us, aren't they good enough for my kids?

Well, some are.  And, obviously, some aren't.  This post isn't really even about public schools--Addie won't be in kindergarten for another couple years.  But this is the wild, wild roller coaster ride my mind took when I went to visit two Golden preschools today.  I imagined this being the initial step on a long road that would culminate in unwanted teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, mass murder.  Or at least in our kids not being able to realize their full potential.

Believe me, I'm gagging as we speak on the phrase "realize their full potential."  I do not ever want to be one of those moms who is going on and on about getting her kid into such and such a school.  But here I am, tottering on the brink, one step away from being one of those suburbanite freakshows who shoots her daughter's cheerleading nemesis.

But then.  I visited these two preschools today.  And, friends?  I got it.  In big neon lights, I got it.  Good schools matter.  The kind of environment your little kid is in 8 hours a day matters.  Oh, I get all the political implications.  I realize that my perceptions could be viewed as elitist, classist ridiculousness.  Or, it could be seen as a critique of the crappiness of daycare available to working parents in this country.  But I can't help it.  These schools were bad.

Addie, our klutzy, creative little smarty-pants (I'm paraphrasing from her parent-teacher conference last week--ahem) is enrolled in an amazing preschool in Denver, which also happens to be weirdly inexpensive, or at least affordable for us.  The two preschools I looked at today, by contrast, were like holding pens for toddlers.  I half expected there to be a cattle grate inside the front door.  One old lady who was teaching the 3-year-olds, the class Addie would be in if she went there, was screeching, "One at a time!  Shut your mouths!"  At the second preschool, there was only one teacher for the 10 3-5-year-olds, and one (very nice) woman for the seven babies, much fewer than what the state mandates.  Babies were lolling around on the floor like mewling kittens.  Nolie would never stand for it. 

Quick, get me the paper bag.

Maybe things will be better this afternoon.  I'm visiting another preschool, which charges much more than we can afford, and I'll make an appointment with the Montessori here to visit them, too.  But, honestly, if we don't find a good place for the girls that won't bankrupt us, we may be staying in Denver, and I may be getting very familiar with our local buslines into Golden.  Stay tuned.

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