We actually didn't expect him to start school this week. He was on a waiting list and I didn't think there would be an opening till about mid-year or so. But on Sunday I got the call. They had an opening for Silas in the Woodpeckers class (his age group), effective immediately (this is the first full week of school). On Monday afternoon, we filled out a bunch of forms, signed a check, and most importantly, met his teacher. I can't say enough about her. I knew right away that she would be patient and caring with Silas. Separation anxiety is a big deal for us. Silas is used to being with us ALL of the time. If not us, then with Patrick or his grandparents. We've never had him in daycare, never left him with people he didn't know well. Although his class is only two hours long, we knew he would freak out when we didn't stay with him.
On Tuesday, we dropped him off, stayed a bit, just like the other parents were, and then attempted to leave. He clung to us and cried. His teacher picked him up and held him and told him he could wave to us from the window. Seeing his sad little face through that window was so very hard for me. I went back to the car and balled. But we did it. We left him in the care of competent adults and then walked to a nearby cafe and and actully had a lovely child-free time. When we returned, we could see from the road that the class was outside on the playground and we searched for Silas. At first, we couldn't see him (we were a good 50 feet away) and I had this fear that he was inside, too traumatized to play. Finally Drew spotted him: "he's there, by the slide. He's having fun." Relief!
At the end of the day, the kids have music time and the parents gather outside in the hallway. The teacher says goodbye to each child individually and they come out one by one. When he saw us, his reaction was, well, nonchalant. Oh, you're back. Okay then.
The teacher said he did very well. He was upset for less than 10 minutes and then was fine. We'll see how he does tomorrow.
Just a few things about the preschool we chose. It's a cooperative school, meaning it's a non-profit and the parents are expected to participate periodically in the classroom as well as be on committees and attend parent classes. Drew will be doing a lot of that as he is the stay-at-home parent, but I will be involved however I can be. I was pleased to see just as many dads as moms dropping off and picking up their children. Times have changed in that regard.
This year, he'll be attending two mornings a week. If we keep him in this school, he'll attend four afternoons a week next year. For now, the two mornings a week is the perfect amount. The curriculum is play-based rather than academic, and that was perhaps one of the most important factors for us when choosing a school. They explore the senses a great deal. For instance, they used paints with various scents, like rosemary and lavender, added to them. The children could then go out and find the plants in the garden with those smells.
To give you an idea of their philosophy, I will end with an excerpt from the Coop's webpage (for security reasons, I won't be publishing the name of his preschool or linking to their webpage, I will simply call his school the Coop):
Research in the area of early childhood education indicates that young children learn best through play. In the process of exploring and manipulating materials in their environment, they gain an understanding of their world. Programs that provide a wide variety of experiences appealing to all of their senses, appropriate to their age and developmental level, are the most valuable. Young children are natural learners. Their curiosity and desire to make sense of their world lead to spontaneous, self-directed learning.
It is for these reasons that a large part of our school day is devoted to free play. We plan experiences to involve the child's senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. The more fully a child explores, senses and interacts with real objects, the more meaningful and long-lasting this learning will be. Our school is committed to developing the whole child - physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually - by allowing space in which each child can explore the environment, interact with peers and adults, and have the opportunity to experiment with materials not readily available at home.
We believe that each parent and child is unique and deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. We realize that the Coop is each one of us individually and all of us collectively. May we learn together, support each other, and may our family lives be enriched from the experience.