Preschool: Traditional or Co-op?
Believe it or not I still haven’t settled on a preschool for my son. I began contemplating the preschool versus no-preschool option at the end of last year and visited a few open houses in January. I applied to two schools in our area and my son was accepted into both.
Initially I wavered on the idea of sending him to school at all. I really enjoy my time at home with him and I certainly don’t want to kick him out of the nest any sooner than necessary, but there are not a lot of children in our neighborhood to play with during the day. The majority of kids attend daycare or preschool, so on most days my son and I are the only ones at the playground. I’ve tried to set up play dates with other kids, but they tend to fall through more often than not and while I do not believe formal socialization is necessary I do think it would be nice for my son to make a few friends his age.
So I’m pretty certain I’ll send him to preschool in the fall and I narrowed my choices down to two very different options. The first, is a co-op, which requires fund raising, school cleaning, mandatory meetings and regular interaction in the classroom. While I’m not a fan of fund raising or cleaning I do like the idea of attending school with my son. He tends to be very timid around other children and I think it might help to enter the world of school with me close by. The school does not require forced separations, which means I can stay every day if he is not ready for me to leave the classroom.
The second option is a traditional preschool located in a church near my home. This school is within walking distance which means we could walk to and from school on nice days. The overall class size is slightly smaller; 9 children and 2 adults, versus the co-op which contains 12 children supervised by 1 teacher and 2 parents.
The major downside of the traditional preschool is that they have a drop and cry policy, which means you give your kid a big kiss on the first day of school and say goodbye. I have a feeling that my son will cry during his first week or two as he is very attached to me and I’m not certain that I can stand the sight of those tears or the fear he might feel in leaving me. As I mentioned above the co-op never forces you to leave your child and you can stay as long as they need you in the classroom. I believe the experience overall will be better for my son in the traditional setting, (once he gets through the tears), but this policy is causing me to lean towards the co-op model.
The traditional preschool is also in session longer each day; 4 hours versus 2.5 for the co-op. The majority of that hour includes lunch. My son will only attend two days a week this year which amounts to an extra 3 hours of school. Three hours doesn’t seem like a ton of time this year, but next year the difference would be 7.5 hours at the co-op versus 12. Again I’m not certain that I want to spend more time away from him as I really do enjoy our time together.
Having said all of that I do believe the traditional preschool would offer more for my son. They have a weekly storyteller come to their classroom and a weekly music class taught by a local teacher/performer. I believe they travel on more field trips and have indoor and outdoor playground equipment so they can be physically active regardless of the weather.
Looking forward I also think my son will gain more from his experience in the traditional school. The teachers in the three and four year old classrooms are very engaging and excited to teach the students and explore with them. The classrooms are bright, colorful and inviting.
At two and a half my son is already learning to sound out words and read. He can spell his own name and ten or so other other words, so I’m not concerned about the educational aspects of preschool, though I would like to see him engage in new and challenging experiences as he ages. At two I think of preschool like a big playgroup at three he may be able to attain more from his experience there.
Everything in my heart is telling me to choose the traditional preschool, but the fact that he will probably cry is pulling me towards the co-op model because it won’t force him to separate from me until he’s ready.
My very first memory as a child is crying in preschool and I’m certain I’m pushing some of my fears and phobias onto his first few days and weeks there. I see in him the timid child who doesn’t want to leave his mommy and as a mom I’m not so certain I’m ready to leave him either.
I’d love to hear comments. Any advice or wisdom? I’m really struggling to decide.