Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Off Duty Mom, On Duty Complainer

Let’s talk (and by “talk,” I mean “complain”) about education.

So, I’d like to outline my list of complaints about preschool, specifically.  And, no, I do not plan to wait for Superman here and get all judgmental about our country’s teachers and the state of educational efficiency nationwide.  I do not plan to spew hatred for the millions of men and women who’ve devoted their lives to helping to raise our nation’s youth.  I do not plan to pretend to know ANYTHING, really, about the inner workings of early childhood education and therefore I do not plan to pretend as though I know EVERYTHING about it by suggesting that things like merit pay, standardized tests, de-unionization or de-tenurization might “fix” the “broken” educational system in the United States.  I do not plan to turn this into a bitchfest about how cruddy our schools are and about how we “deserve” better for our kids.

Instead, I just want to crab about my experiences with choosing a decent preschool option for my kid.  I shall offer no advice, solutions or thoughtful ideas here.  Only whines.  You can decide to stop reading now if whining ain’t yo thing.

First, I’d like to moan about how many public school systems have opted not to offer preschool at all.  I live in a nice neighborhood with a nice school system.  It’s one of the reasons why my husband and I selected the place.  But, they start with Kindergarten, not Pre-K.  So, I had to set out to find another option for my little guy.

Second, I’d like to complain about how I didn’t realize that I’d have to start the process of finding this preschool program so damn early.  I began my search when my older son was 2 1/2 years old.  It was January and I was searching for a viable option for him for the following September.  He is now nearly 4 and I’ve STILL not heard from one location where we had been waitlisted well over a year ago.  We were also waitlisted from our #1 choice, a Montessori school very near to our house (which, by a stroke of luck, our son got into only because someone moved away).  The little guy did, however, get into a private school that required a $500 non-refundable deposit (which we paid and which, incidentally, was INDEED not refundable…).

That private school was a fabulous place and our son would have done well there.  And, it would have cost about as much as my freshman year of college cost my parents.

This is not, interestingly enough, the reason why we opted not to send our child there.  The convenient location of the Montessori program was the deciding factor, but nevertheless, what preschool can cost is pretty crazy.

The school system for which I work offers a tuition-based preschool option for those of us who work for the district but live outside of it.  The program costs $700 per month.  And, it runs only 6 hours per day.  Of course, I work more than 6 hours each day, so that $700 cost is just the beginning as I would have to find childcare and transportation for my child, too.

So, the nanny costs me $15 each hour regardless of whether one or both of my children is home.  She will gladly take my older son to and from school, but by the time all of this is said and done, at $15/hr. for 10 hours per day (8.5 hour work day plus commute — assuming I NEVER have to go in early or stay late…) that is $750 each week for childcare, or $3000 each month or $36000 each year just for someone to look after my children (not that that is an easy job; but that just only begins to cover all of my family’s needs).  Then, with the cost of tuition-based school at my public institution, that takes me to almost $43000 for one year of my child’s education and care together.  That, too, is more than my private college education cost for one year when I attended back in the dark ages in the 1990’s.

Now, tell me, is this a standards-based curricular component or is it competency- or task-based?

I did not ever consider sending my son to a daycare center that offers “preschool,” because (and I imagine I will get angry comments about this — bring it) I do not consider this to be real school.  I have visited many of these locations and have asked to see a curriculum.  I have yet to visit a daycare center that was able to produce a curriculum of any type, or even really explain to me exactly what benchmarks they intend to help kids reach.  The closest I got was at one place where they told me that kids will sing and learn numbers and letters.  Great.  At 2 1/2 my kid could already count to 20 and sing his A-B-Cs, so that wasn’t really fucking helpful.

Homeschooling is absolutely not an option, either.  First of all, my husband and I both work, so it might be a little hard to fit that in to either of our schedules.  Second (and I may get angry comments about this one, too…), I personally think that homeschooling is bullshit.  I spent about 12 years teaching high school literature.  I was really good at it.  This does not in any way make me an expert on Science, Technology, Mathematics, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Physical Education, or any of the other subjects I would want my child to have the chance to learn such as Digital Photography, Music, Painting, Industrial Arts, Sewing, Graphic Design or Health.  Yes, yes, yes – there are lots of resources out there to assist people with homeschooling and kids can even attend field trips, participate in local schools’ sports and communicate with other homeschool students through technology.  Whatev.  I believe in traditional education.  There is a reason why I spent 8 years earning multiple degrees and certifications to work effectively with young people.  It all made me QUALIFIED to teach.

Squeezing a human out of your vagina doesn’t a teacher make.

I know NOTHING about how to teach someone to read or play nicely or understand the water cycle.  So, I will leave that up to the experts.  When my kids are ready to talk about William Shakespeare, Richard Wright, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Orwell and Sylvia Plath, I’m all over that.  Until then, I want to be a homeschool teacher about as much as I want to be (or think it’s a good idea to be) a home-doctor or home-dentist for my kids.

And, now I am back to the beginning.  Preschool is expensive and hard to find.  There are more kids on this planet than schools to fit them.  We do not value early childhood education nearly enough in our society.  And, most frustratingly, at THREE YEARS OLD, my child’s schedule is already causing stress.

So, there you go.  Ranty rant rant.

Got something to add?  Feel free to comment here.  I love hearing what you have to say (unless you disagree or want to call me names, in which case I don’t give a shit about you).

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14 thoughts on “Off Duty Mom, On Duty Complainer

  1. I never even went to preschool. Where I came from (Wisconsin), kids just didn’t really go. I don’t even know if I’ll send mine when I have them. I totally agree with the homeschooling thing. I don’t get why so many parents are doing it! I may be smart (and plan to have a master’s by the time my kids are in school since I have years to go), but I could never prepare a kid for college! I probably couldn’t even effectively teach a kid how to know what time two trains will meet if they leave this station at this time going 34mph if the other one is going 67mph.

  2. We’re probably skipping preschool. I like the idea, but the reality is the price to benefit doesn’t do it for me. Add in food allergies, and we’ll pass. I have the option to stay home with my girl or to go back to work to pay to send her to preschool, seems not worth the expense to me.

    • You know, it never occurred to me not to send my little guy at all, but hearing from people who choose to go that route, I am starting to think that that would have been an interesting option. I do think that those early years are so critical, though, so it leaves me kind of torn…

  3. kateluthner79 on said:

    Not that I’m the squeaky one, but, our daycare center has a great school program that puts the ‘real’ preschools to shame. They have(and do show) a curriculum starting at infants but that bit is on the silly side but they are truly learning daily by 16 months. I’m dreading staying home and trying to keep up the educational standards – my 4 year old has a basic knowledge of the heart now! I have a completely separate rant on preschool from my area (MN) with the excessive number of options that I’m stuck being undecided. My sister has a nanny and she was expected (by the company and my sister) to have a basic curriculum for the kids and I think she did a good job with the nephews – she was way more than just a woman who keep them from being feral. I would talk to the Nanny about what she could do and what you could do to help her have the supplies she needs.

    • You’re fortunate to have such a lovely preschool/daycare hybrid. I can’t find it anywhere near me at all. Nevertheless, let me just say that I am ultimately pleased with the decisions we’ve made and I am thrilled with our son’s educational experience, the care he’s received with the nanny and the overall schedule our family has adopted. I just was lamenting the fact that my area doesn’t seem to put more emphasis on early childhood education and doesn’t seem to offer too many truly viable options for families, yet it seems generally unheard of around here for a child not to have had some type of Pre-K. So, it is an unwritten/unspoken rule of sorts that our kids ought to have it, but very few qualified people seem prepared and interested in providing it…

  4. Hi, I found your blog shocking. It really costs that much to send your little one to pre-school? If that were the case I could never afford it.
    I live in Scotland and every child age 3 and older is entitled to a free place at playgroup. (I only have to pay for the snack, 60p per day) My little one is there from 9.30am until 12pm. There are 14 children in the group and the two play leaders are required to attended regular training courses as well as follow a local council/goverment curriculam.
    Parents are invited to stay and join a session at anytime and my daughter’s acheivement records are available to be checked on whenever I want.
    Also when she starts Primary 1, it is in the room next door so she already knows the building and her new teacher knows her name.

    After reading your blog, I count myself fortunate.

    • Well, you’re fortunate to live in Scotland, too, as I hear it is so beautiful! I’d love to see the country some day.

      As for the preschool thing, I do want to be clear that the choice we ultimately made worked for our budget and has been an absolutely fabulous option for our son. He’s learning Portugese, after all. He’s also learning some Chinese…and some introductory ecology…and anatomy. Really, it is wonderful and by ranting I didn’t mean to imply that I am complaining about his preschool, specifically.

      But, yes, in regions of this country it seems as though Pre-K is encouraged but generally unavailable or unaffordable for many people. It just further separates kids (at such an early age, too) allowing the wealthiest young people to have an educational edge and pushing others aside.

      Thanks for your comments!

  5. I hate that your public school system is not offering a preschool option. That is what we did with both of our boys. There are some local places (churches) in our area that offer accredited preschool programs (and many are taught by licensed teachers). Are there any available around your area without the hefty price tag?

    • Well, yes, we do have faith-based options, but I didn’t choose those as I wasn’t really personally comfortable with the religious angle on the learning. And, my own church’s preschool curriculum was just awful. I didn’t feel as though my son would be even slighly prepared for Kindergarten as a result. Having attended religious school until 5th grade myself, I am biased, though, as I was so far behind when I transferred to public school.

      To this day, I still don’t know my state capitals or multiplication tables. Catholic school did me an enormous disservice and I didn’t want that done to my child. That is just my personal experience and my personal choice, though.

      • I totally understand what you mean. I teach at a public school and many times our students who transfer in from private schools are behind pace. My sister-in-law sent her son to a church preschool but just for one year. We were lucky that our public system had a preschool program available. I hope you find a good place that isn’t outrageously expensive.

      • Thanks. I already did. We decided last fall to send our son to a Montessori program just up the street from us. I am fabulously pleased. My complaints weren’t driven by being unhappy with our situation. I was just disappointed to find out that the process was so complicated and, I guess, I wanted to let others know that they ought to start considering and weighing their options very early (and saving money from the get-go, in some cases!)

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