I like to plan 5 steps in advance and have a hard time taking one step at a time. We're making decisions these days about where Peter will attend preschool in the fall and I have to remind myself often that we are not locked in for the next 14 years by choosing one program over another. A year ago, a lot of playgroup moms were discussing the preferred nature center preschool and how signing up involved a lottery of who had registered on one day in January. At the time, we didn't know where we'd be living in the fall or whether we wanted Peter to attend preschool at all. It seemed over the top to be making those decisions 8 months in advance for the not-quite-three-year-olds. This week I found myself being interviewed (while Peter was having block and drawing tests next door) for 45 minutes about Peter's strengths and weaknesses and why we wanted him to attend that school, potentially from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. I also had a much simpler process (filling out a short form and a check) to reserve a spot at another program which also suggests signing up in January to make sure you receive a spot. It's a little crazy. Even our local public school system involves lotteries for the preferred schools. We won't know until March 1st whether Peter is even accepted to the first school (although he did well, despite our fears that he would refuse to enter the room with someone he didn’t know) until March 1st and then we'll hear about financial aid by May 1st, which is a huge factor in the decision.
A few months ago, I wasn't sure whether we'd send Peter to any preschool. These days, it feels like he's outgrowing playgroups and we see how well he responds to being challenged -- whether it's learning new games or counting and trying to write. I feel like I could provide a lot of that through age 5.5 if I really tried, but planning new activities in an organized way never makes it high on my priority list. I think he'd thrive in more of a school environment by fall.
The two places we've registered are both Catholic--one is an independent college prep school and one is our parish school. The prep school (Dan’s school, which is a huge influence on our applying there) has a doctorate in education teaching the pre-k class. It's 5 half days a week. They have play time, but they are doing heavy duty academics while there (the school follows the Core Knowledge Sequence pre-k through 8th grade) and kids are reading phrases before starting kindergarten. They have snacks like Winter Wonderland Waffles during W week. And every other non-faculty-kid is going to be rich, the vast majority white. Dan would drive him in the morning and I'd have a 17 minute drive one way to pick up at 11:30, which is exactly when I'm usually at playgroups 45 minutes the other direction. The second school is a 3 minute drive/10 minute walk from our house. Bussing would be an option in the morning, but I'm not sure I'd send my 4 year old on the bus. The school goes through 8th grade and is tiny -- 200 students in 9 grades. Academics seem okay, but nothing stood out much. We'd be supporting our parish school. They meet three days a week, 8:30-11. I suspect the cost would be about the same after financial aid at school 1 (none offered in pre-k for school 2).
When I thought there wasn't financial aid at either school for next year, I was leaning towards the parish school for pre-k, and then switching to the independent. The idea of driving out to Dan's school every midday (we don't have car space to carpool) really annoyed me. I'm starting to realize that I'm going to have to rethink how I spend my days no matter where Peter goes next year. It might make sense to attend API playgroup (that could be anywhere in the metro area) once a week. I could arrive by noon with both boys (chances Leo's still napping in the afternoon by fall isn't good) for any playgroup on our half of the metro area. With luck, Peter's best buddy will have morning pre-k too (they won't know until summer and he'll go 5 days/week) and we could see him sometimes. But it'll make the most sense for both our time and gas money for us to do more in our chunk of town than we do now. I figured out when story time is at the best library in a 10 minute radius and we went on Tuesday. I gave my email to someone from church who has mentioned a playgroup for families in our suburb that meets twice a month at people’s homes. I might try harder to attend the once-a-month playgroup through our church. I joined my local MOMS club and try to get to activities at least a couple times a month. Then today, I ran into someone from church at an indoor playground. Her two sons are both within a couple months of each of mine. After standing near each other for an hour, I finally got the nerve to ask if she’d be interested in getting together sometime. Turns out she lives four blocks away. Maybe I should warn her that she might have to be my new best friend. I feel like I spent the last four years getting connected to a network of moms I enjoyed spending time with and now I need to start over. One of the families that came to try to catch the pox has a son 3 weeks younger than Peter and also lives 5 blocks away. I should call her too. At the very least, I know we must be on the same page about vaccinations. If Peter's in school all morning, finding ways he can run around and play loudly in the afternoons would be useful, but that's really tricky when it's below zero. It all just feels overwhelming right now.