Opting to step way off the beaten path

standard September 10, 2010 2 responses

Last Thursday we all attended a new parent orientation at C’s new school. The girls went to childcare in the Kindergarten room and M and I went off to meet the rest of the new parents.

I knew when I picked this school that I was opting for something different. This isn’t your average school, not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s way above average really. Instead of aiming to teach children their 3Rs and everything else you’re supposed to pick up in school, they also aim to nurture and develop the kids’ sense of self-awareness and kindness.

To put it bluntly it’s a school that follows and teaches Buddhist principles.

To put it another way, the school’s curriculum is built around teaching kindness and recognizing the good in each other and in the world around us.

I picked this school because I knew the staff would nurture my sensitive child. I picked this school because the early childhood development teacher is an artist and has built art into every aspect of the curriculum. I picked this school because I was blown away by the emotional maturity of the kids I met. I picked this school because everything I saw in the classrooms showed that the level of education the students were receiving was well above average. But most importantly I picked this school because it felt like a new home for C and for the rest of us.

I’m glad to say that the meeting we attended on Thursday has confirmed my first impressions. The staff and the parents were everything I’d hoped and expected them to be – welcoming, smart, funny, truly committed to the school, the students, and the school’s mission.

At the same time, the meeting we attended on Thursday confirmed that by opting for this school we are definitely opting to step off the beaten path. This school is different. The teaching methods are different. The way the kids are separated into grades is different. The way the classrooms are managed is different. The way the entire school community is organized is different. Different in a great way in my opinion, but different nonetheless, and it does take some courage to say “we’re opting out of test based teaching and everything else the traditional system upholds.”

It’s a good thing the school is filled with other great people who also had that courage and will help us in case we ever doubt our choice. But for now, we’re stepping off that path with our head held high and a grin on our faces. It feels like the right choice.

Not so little anymore

standard September 7, 2010 1 response

On Thursday I took Little L for her 3 year check-up. This is the first of the “big girl” check-ups. The one without the baby scale and tape measure. She stepped on the scale and stood up straight and tall to let the nurse measure her. The results astounded me. She however was completely unfazed and went on to ace her eye exam. She skipped off to the exam room where she charmed the socks off the doctor. One no-shot-today happy dance later and we were out of there, medical record sheet for the school in hand.

As I buckled Little L into her car seat I marveled at how big she’s gotten. She was talking a mile a minute and for a moment I couldn’t see even a glimmer of the baby she used to be.

Her big girl status isn’t just being tested by the doctor’s office; she starts preschool tomorrow. In the morning I’ll pack a change of clothes and some diapers into her brand new Dora backpack and I’ll walk her into her classroom. Tomorrow I get to spend the morning with her, but Thursday I’ll have to leave her at the door. I’ll be leaving her with teachers I don’t yet know, but who come highly recommended by people I do know and trust. She already has a friend in the class, and knowing her she’ll have ten more by the end of the week.

You’d think I’d weep as I walk away. But I really don’t think I will. 

This is going to be an amazing thing for my baby, the one who is already rhyming and learning her letters. She’s going to be on her own there, not in her sister’s shadow, and she is going to shine. I see glimpses of the preschooler in her when I watch her do crafts – cutting things out with intense concentration. Or when I hear her starting to stand up to her rather bossy older sister, insisting that the game go the way she wants it to for once. And I know that preschool is going to be great for her because it’s going to allow her to hone all those skills and develop new ones.

On Thursday she measured a whopping 38 3/4 inches tall -that’s a full 2 inches and a quarter taller than her sister was at that age – physical proof that I’m not kidding when I tell my friends that my baby is a monster. Or rather, as the doctor put it, that she looks like a 4-year-old and it’s a good thing she speaks and acts like one too.

So, yes, my baby hasn’t really been a baby for a while. She’s not even a toddler anymore. Tomorrow morning she’ll officially become a preschooler and while I’m sad to say goodbye to our infant years, I’m not worried about her in the least. On Thursday when the doors close, I’m going to walk away knowing that she’s good and ready for this transition.

Whether I’ll ever be ready to stop calling her Little L is a whole other question.

From one home to the next

standard March 26, 2010 2 responses

Four years ago I stood in front of the door to the daycare we had carefully selected, infant in arms, unable to go in. It killed me to go in and drop off my baby. Not that I really had the choice then. I had to work. I had to send her. But I hated having to let her go.

I had absolute faith in the people I was leaving her with. I knew in my gut they were good people, the right people. What I didn’t trust was that she would still know I was her mom.

If she spent over eight hours a day with other people who loved her and kissed her and fed her and changed her, how would she know I was her mommy? And if I didn’t care for her all day, all the time, how would I be a mommy?

That thought tortured me.

Here was this tiny baby I hadn’t been able to breastfeed and here I was handing her off to someone else to care for her all day long. I wept at the thought that I’d miss all her major milestones.

I was right. The first week she was at daycare she rolled over for the first time.

I was wrong about the rest. She never once stopped thinking I was her mommy. Her face never stopped lighting up when she saw me. And she never stopped reaching for me when she was sick, tired, sad, or even just looking for a hug. As for me, clearly I was no less her mommy because I wasn’t with her all day.

When Little L was born it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t go to daycare. Even when I decided to work for myself we never considered pulling her out. Daycare was their second home. It was where their friends gathered every day for eight hours of fun and games. Both of my daughters have thrived in this other home. They’ve learned things I could never teach them. They’ve become resilient, caring, funny little people thanks to the care and love they have received there.

In the fall C will go to Kindergarten. She won’t be going to daycare any more. I won’t be taking her to this warm cozy other home every day. And I’m sad about that. Sad that this part of her life is over. I’m hopeful that the school we have so carefully selected for her will serve as yet another home, but it will be different and once again it’s killing me.

A new home away from home

standard March 11, 2010 3 responses

When I was four months pregnant with C I realized I’d have to do a little research to find a daycare. I started right away, combing the online listings for local home day cares, checking their credentials and licenses. Then I met someone who mentioned that their next door neighbor ran an in home day care that I should check out.

It was the first day care I visited. It was also the last.

As soon as I walked in I felt, well, at home. I watched the children play, listened to the caregivers tell me about their day, and I wanted to stay. I wanted to spend my days there. And I knew that this was the place my baby would go when I went back to work.

When I was researching preschools I looked for a place that gave me that same feeling. The school we started at was convenient and good, but I just didn’t have that “we’re home” feel to it. When I toured the school C is at now I instantly felt it. I followed the director through the classrooms, listened to her rave about her teachers and students, and I wanted to spend the whole day there. Again, I knew that this would be the place C would go.

When I started out looking for a Kindergarten, that’s what I looked for. I’d been spoiled and I wanted a place that C could call her second home. I wanted her to feel nurtured and loved as well as get a good education.

I didn’t realize that that might be too much to ask for, so after weeks and weeks of searching for that perfect Kindergarten and finding nothing that came even close I had almost given up. I was starting to think that you just don’t get to feel at home in elementary school. It’s school. I assumed I’d just have to focus on good academics, good class size, decent arts programs and hope that she’d be happy enough.

But today I found it.

The perfect school. The “I feel at home here” school.

It’s a tiny school. Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s just perfect. I adored the director, loved the teachers I met, and wanted to come spend my days in the classrooms. It’s exactly the place I’d want to go to school.

And if all goes well it’s where C will go starting in the fall.

There are no words to express the relief of not having to settle for “good enough,” of being able to stop looking. We’ve found C’s next home away from home.