Thursday, August 30, 2012

Preschool

LL started preschool last week. Being a September baby, he is right on the borderline for whether he should start kindergarten next year or the year after, so we first had to decide what preschool class to put him in: the "threes" class (where he would be the oldest kid in class) or the pre-k ("fours") class, where he would be the absolute youngest. Given how shy he is, we decided on the threes class, let him be the oldest a bit, hope it would build up his social confidence a little.

Seriously, he's shy. The week before preschool, we went to a birthday party for one of his friends. There were a dozen kids, many of whom he has known his entire life. Two tables were set up with a craft project to work on while the kids arrived. All the kids were sitting at one table; LL insisted on sitting at the other table, as far away from the other kids as possible. And then he just quietly sat at the table holding my hand and not wanting to do the craft. Other than whispering things in my ear, he didn't speak the entire time we were there. He only participated in activities for which he could stand at the periphery and hold my hand.

He does much much better in smaller groups, and even better if he's on familiar turf. But even under ideal circumstances, he takes about an hour to warm up and feel comfortable. Which is fine, he might just always be a shy kid, but it made me hesitant to throw him in with a bunch of older kids, especially since he's also short for his age.

Also... with a few temporary blips, he has been at the same small home daycare since he was 5 months old. He has never before needed to transition to a totally new environment before.

All of which adds up to this: I was really nervous about him starting preschool. Yep, me. LL, on the other hand, was full of pure excitement. For several weeks before school started, he told everyone who would listen that he was a big boy now and he was starting preschool very soon! Real school! Like a big boy! With teachers! And he was going to learn stuff!!! And have a lunch box!

And after this speech, he would turn to me and say, "And you're going to stay at school with me, Mommy, right?" And I'd say, "No, I'll be going to work, and then I'll pick you up again and bring you home for dinner, just like at Natasha's." And then he'd get a little more quiet.

We repeated that whole thing, every day, for several weeks. And I was convinced that the first day of school was going to involve lots of crying while holding onto my legs and begging for me to stay.

But you know what? He did awesome. No crying. No clinging. And when I came to pick him up, he showed me all around his classroom (and some of the other school grounds) like he was King of the Campus. He loves it, and after one week, he already seems to feel super comfortable and confident.

(Though he still doesn't know the names of any of his classmates. And when he picks what he wants to do when he first arrives, he always picks whatever activity is uninhabited by other kids. And when I ask him what he did during the day, he always just says, "I played with stuff" and refuses to elaborate, as if he's practicing to be a teenager someday.)

So. Preschool. Good.

The preschool, by the way, continues to impress me. Mostly play-based curriculum, based around lots of kid-lead exploration of basic materials. (Sand, water, clay, paint, blocks.) It's a Jewish preschool, so they wrap everything in Jewish values and celebrate holidays in the classroom. The preschool is part of a larger elementary school that teaches Orthodox Judaism, but the preschool is far more secular than the rest of the school (including a large number of completely non-practicing Israeli families). We picked a Jewish preschool for several reasons, some practical (the school holidays line up with when we actually have holidays) and some fairly stupid (he'll get exposure to Jewish holidays that we have never bothered to celebrate at home, being the super-laid-back Reform Jews that we are) but a big part of it was also the ability to put off the "Why don't we celebrate Christmas?" discussion for a few more years. Most important, though, was that they have a very low-key approach to preschool that allows lots of outdoor time, lots of lightly-guided exploration, no pressure to learn "academic" stuff at this age, and small classes.

Also the no Christmas thing.

6 comments:

  1. Haha. Totally haven't thought about the big Christmas issue with pre-K. Brings up fond memories of arriving for pick-up every day in December last year intrigued to see which stuffed animal the fusspot had hung by a noose on the Christmas tree ...

    So glad to hear it's going well (and probably even better than the daily report indicates). We unfortunately had to make the other decision age-wise (free pre-K has a December 31 cut-off, fusspot is a December baby) and I am getting increasingly nervous about how it will go. At the first meet and greet all the fusspot would say is "They are so big" about her classmates.

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  2. Too cute! Mijo asked to go to preschool everyday for a month before it began. It was only on the way there that he thought to ask if I would be there too. Luckily he was fine after reassurances that I'd go back. The preschool where he is doesn't have year cut offs. He's a September baby too, but the class is 2 years 9 months to 3 1/2. If kid is potty trained and socialized they can be moved up. I also prefer the preschool not focused on academics. Glad to hear there are a lot of them.

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  3. I am so glad that Elizabeth was born in December so that I have never had to make the school decision. Because that would make me all second guess-y.

    It is awesome that he did so well! Good job, LL!

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