It feels like just yesterday that I was
standing patiently pacing in the delivery room waiting for my daughter to make her debut. Fast forward three years and two kids later–Charlie is already walking and Ava is getting ready for preschool.
I can’t really remember my preschool experiences. I’m not even sure if I was in preschool or just day care. Maybe what I’m remembering is summer camp. Do normal people even remember preschool?
The only two memories I staunchly hold onto are because I have physical evidence that they actually occurred: I’ve got graphite in my left leg from some girl that stabbed a pencil through my wranglers and a retinal-floater after she gouged me in the eye with her dirty coke nail. Whatever early childhood program I was in, the experience was a real treat!
I know a lot of parents at opposite ends of the Ivy League Preschool spectrum.
On one hand, you have the parent that could really give two shits about what type of preschool they send their kids to. If they’re out of your hair for a few hours a week and they don’t come home with any burns or piercings, ‘HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE LORD’. Teach them some nursery rhymes and make me a ziti necklace for Father’s Day. So long as the place doesn’t look like the Fratelli’s basement with Sloth as the teacher, splendid!
On the other hand, you have the parents that are on preschool steroids.
They are so yolked out about the admissions process that they’re willing to do almost anything to crack the toddler ivy league. They’ve got their 2-year old doing Spanish and Italian Rosetta Stone while chomping on Campbell’s physics equations soup.
They’re pumping out powerpoints that illustrate how many kids in this preschool from the last twenty years went onto Harvard or Yale. They’re doing everything from sleeping with the administration to jump ahead on the waiting list (might be happening), to making ‘sizable’ donations (definitely happening) to ensure a spot in the class. I’m not trying to cut anyone down if this is your game, because quite honestly, it’s your prerogative–and in some major markets, it seems almost necessary.
It makes it difficult for me to understand since my wife and I fall somewhere in between. Of course we’re concerned about safety, how clean the facility is, the art exposure and basic curriculum, but we’re not gonna froth at the mouth like rapid zombies and go mad on this thing.
In my humble opinion, shouldn’t preschool be about learning how to color in between the lines? Not to hit, spit, scratch or cannabalize another child when they steal your Shopkins? How to share, follow directions and build simple social skills?
Last week I found myself doing the tours. My wife handed over the neatly organized applications, which included details like hours, price, educational theory, price, teacher/student ratio, and PRICE and we were on our way. It’s not easy to tour these places with two kids in tow. Up and down stairs, in and out of classrooms filled with toys and kids. Charlie was manageable, but only because he was strapped to my chest; Ava thought every preschool was ‘her new school’.
Toys, check. Other kids, check. Snack, check. She was already sold. With her running loose, annihilating bins of crayons and popsicle sticks, I was trying to remember my questions for the director.
Again, I don’t know what kind of parent you are and what kind of weight you put on this process, but I thought it might be helpful to give you the list I took with me, because who knows, maybe it will help when it’s your turn. I’m sure it’s not perfect and I know I missed some things, so maybe the ‘comment’ section will help build the perfect list.
QUESTIONS I ASKED THE DIRECTOR:
- How often do you send home progress reports or have parent conferences?
- Do they have to be potty trained? Do you help wiping when necessary?
- Do you check ID’s during rolling pick-up?
- What is the teacher to student ratio?
- What is your educational philosophy?
- What kinds of activities do the kids do?
- How much of the day is playtime vs structured instruction?
- What types of art projects do you do?
- Will my child have homework (they better not freaking have homework)?
- What is the behavior management/discipline policy?
- Are snacks provided or do we send them in? Are there any restrictions?
- What is your vaccination policy?
- What do you do about recurring biting, hitting or scratching?
Now…once I had the kids in the car and was driving home, I thought about the questions I WOULD’VE liked to have asked her.
QUESTIONS I SHOULD’VE ASKED THE DIRECTOR:
- Will you potty train my kid since I clearly suck at it?
- If I’m late or don’t show for a pick-up, can Ava just crash at your place for the night?
- What’s your policy when my kid yells ‘fuck’ on occasion (which she does, Lord save me) in a tourette-ish manner?
- Will the school provide candy cigarettes for smoke breaks or is that on us?
- Are room temperature beer and pork rinds an appropriate snack? Can she trade up on the playground for something healthier?
- Can I attend snacktime? Nap time?
- Are there any particular apps I should download to her ipad (MY FECKING IPAD) before the first day?
- Do I instruct her to defend herself with an open or closed fist?
This whole process can be intimidating, but if you get the answers you like from my ‘real’ list of questions above, you should feel good about it, right? Because at the end of the day, the preschool you choose has no bearing on whether or not your son or daughter becomes a doctor or nuclear physicist. Sleeping with the Dean of Admissions is what gets that done!