All at the same time a moment I both dreaded and eagerly anticipated (yes, you can feel both of those feelings at once) arrived. It was time to get serious about preschool.
Talk about overwhelming! I was floored that there was no one, comprehensive source in Chicago that listed all the potential options. After doing a lot of digging, I did what any self-respecting, super-anal, pro/con-lister would do – I created my own massive excel spreadsheet to capture all the findings from my investigation. There were play-based, academic-based, Montessori-based, art-based, language-based, creativity-based… There were half-day, full-day, and one-two-three-four or five-day per week options. There were independent (aka, private), and public (but not all public elementary schools had a preschool), religious and non-religious, and something called “cooperative” preschools. There was a range of tuitions (and no free options that I could find). There were schools that started at birth and schools that went all the way through high school. Every application process was different with its own steps, requirements and deadlines.
As we started to speak “preschool,” we also started to contemplate what our values were as it related to our child’s education. What’s important to us? What’s important now…at this age and developmental stage…and what will be important longer-term?
We also felt our fair share of worry, contemplating school still with only a two-year old at home: a wonderful little girl who – in a group setting – took life in as an observer first. I had heard other moms describe their child as “the mayor” or “fearless.” There were the kids that bustled their way to the front of the slide line at the park. Or took a dive into the piñata candy explosion. That was not our child.
We wondered: Will our daughter feel ok being away from us? Will she be scared? Will she talk to anyone? Will the teachers be kind to her? Will they pay attention to her, really? Will she make friends? Will her friends be nice to her? Will she always get bustled to the end of the line? Will she start to figure out who she is and what she really loves to do? Will someone help her go potty? Will she engage in what the class is doing or will she keep a safe distance? Will she decide she likes going to school? Will she still need a nap in a year? Will she learn she can overcome things that might feel scary at first? Will she be excited to learn about the world and everything in it? Will she gain confidence? Will she feel liked or even loved?
We started to realize our questions and therefore our priorities had much more to do with social and emotional growth at this stage than anything else. Of course we wanted her exposed to math and science and letters and language and small motor and gross motor activities… but not at the expense of learning how to feel confident being her wonderful self outside of home.
About the Author: Anny Gary is a happily married proud mama to two girls – ages 8 and 5 – who keep her running all over town to school, dance, gymnastics, theater, swimming, art classes and social activities. She serves on a variety of boards with several leadership positions. In her spare time, she works as an independent consultant with an emphasis on marketing and management. Oh, and she loves to write.