Sometimes it seems like moms never have the opportunity to simply enjoy the magic of motherhood. When moms finish their first trimester, they are so excited to share the news of their soon to be bundle of joy. Instead of basking in the baby talk, they are quickly hounded by questions: Are you finding out the sex of the baby? What will you name him/her? Have you thought of moving (implied: out of the city)? Are you doing day care, a nanny, leaving your job, working from home…? What hospital are you delivering at? Have you picked a pediatrician?
Mommies to be can barely stomach ginger ale and ritz crackers, never mind can fully digest the logistical meddling of well intentioned friends and family. However, once these moms do get their ducks in a row and enter in to the excitement of nesting and nursing, the next surge of interrogation is soon to suffocate even the most calm and collected caregiver.
“Where are you sending your son/daughter for school?”
While that question seems so innocent, it can be the cause of much concern and anxiety for city bound babies and their respective tuition paying parents. The lottery for Boston public schools and the price tag on private education have families fretting over their child’s best options.
Boston Babies recognizes (and closely empathizes) with this dilemma and will be featuring posts on the school search process throughout 2012. Hopefully the information and tips provided, as well as stories shared by Boston based moms, will help inform families of all the wonderful opportunities that the city offers, and eneviatbly alleviate even some of the school search stress.
Featured first is Charlestown Mother of two, Jessica Diaz, who will be sharing her experience surviving the school search…
New parents are continually faced with important choices for their children. At times, all of the options can seem challenging and even overwhelming. For example, as families we decide whether to breastfeed or use formula, when to introduce solid foods, where the best place is to raise a family (city or suburbs), as well as many other daily decisions that affect the health and safety of our child / children.
As a mother of two, I always hope that I make the right choices for my three year old daughter and one year old son, even when those decisions may be difficult ones.
As a parent that has chosen to stay in the city, the “biggest” parenting decision I had to make thus far was where to send my daughter to preschool. I felt that this decision was a critical first stepping stone to the future academic success and happiness of my daughter. While I know that may sound dramatic, my perception was that in Boston, getting into the right preschool feels almost as important as getting into the right college.
When I began the search process for schools, I was surprised at how many options were available for our family. In addition to the overwhelming selection, the application process for my daughter’s preschool was reminiscent of that for my own college application. While there may not be required SAT scores, there are open houses, school fairs, interviews, lengthy applications, application fees, and tuitions to consider. I spent over a year researching schools, talking to school administrators, teachers and other moms.
The good news is that this city is filled with wonderful preschools, excellent early educators and many resources to help navigate through the school selection process. Since it would take a book to discuss the differences of each preschool in this city, I highlighted a few suggestions to consider when choosing a school that is the right “fit” for your family.
Selecting a Preschool:
1. Philosophy/ Affiliation of the School:
Preschool curriculums vary. Some schools are founded in religion, others in philosophies (i.e. Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) I recommend gaining an understanding of the influence the school’s philosophy or religion has on the class curriculum and teaching style.
Families may also consider a preschool that is affiliated with a local college, community college, or university that has their own daycare and preschool. I found that some of these tend to be less expensive for full-time enrollment than other private preschools.
2. Preschool Programs:
There are a variety of preschool programs to consider, from private preschools to daycare centers. Daycare preschool is a good option if you need your child to be in school for a longer day. Many private preschools now also offer extended day and lunch programs (requiring an additional cost to the core tuition).
There are a few international schools that offer bi or multi-lingual curriculums. Other schools offer COOP programs, where each family volunteers in the classroom, allowing you to observe what goes on and connect with other parents, your child’s classmates and teachers.
If a family is planning to stay indefinitely in the city, you may want to consider an early education program that also offers a kindergarten or even continues into grade school.
3. Age of Your Child:
It is important to decide at what age you would like to send your child to school. Most preschool programs have a similar school calendar to the city’s public schools. School begins in September and ends in June. Some preschools accept children as early as two years old and others at 2.9.
It is the age that your child will be in September that determines whether they are eligible for school (and yes, if your child is turning 2 or 2.9 at the end of September, it may mean that he/she will miss out on school that year). However, there are some schools that do accept new students in January.
4. Student to Teacher Ratio:
While there are school laws that govern the student to teacher ratio, this does vary from classroom to classroom depending on the program. In the COOP program there are always two teachers and a parent in the classroom. In some of the other academic affiliated programs there are student teachers assisting the “main” teachers.
5. Application Deadlines:
I would recommend identifying the deadlines for all of the schools you plan to apply to; some preschools do offer early decision deadlines in early to mid-Fall.
6. Other Important Aspects to Consider:
Other things to think of are the teachers’ backgrounds and educational degrees/certifications and the quality of materials in the schools. It may also be important to access the way in which the school communicates to you what is going on in the classroom (i.e. weekly newsletters, daily updates, portfolio of child’s work) and the social aspect of the school (athletics, art, school organized social events, playgroups, fundraisers, etc.)
Next Steps: Where to Start:
1. School Fairs:
There are a number of school fairs in local neighborhoods in September. I highly recommend attending these events. It is a wonderful way to preview a large selection of schools at one time and gather pertinent information.
2. Open Houses:
Most preschools will offer open houses and informational interviews in early to mid-Fall.
In addition to open houses, school visits, fairs and informational sessions, there are ample reports and research collected online regarding schools, their rankings, etc. Speaking with other parents and children attending schools of interest to you is also a personal way of finding out if the instituion is the the right “fit” for your family.
4. School Events:
Another great way to learn more about a program is to attend the school’s events. I had the opportunity to become familiar with many of the administrators and other parents of my daughter’s preschool by attending the school’s summer BBQ and spring fair.
The reality is, early education is very important. Does getting into the right preschool determine whether your child will succeed in life? I doubt it. I don’t think my sisters and I even went to preschool back in the day. However, knowing that I put care in to choosing my daughter’s first school, and seeing how she continues to blossom academically and socially, makes the whole process worthwhile.
Boston Babies wishes you the best of luck as you begin the exciting (and yes, sometimes stressful) school search process. Hopefully Jessica’s personal experience and tips will be helpful and allow you to enjoy this next step in your little one’s life.