Friday, September 14, 2012

College, I mean preschool decision

I am tied up in knots about preschool. You'd think I was worrying about what college my kids are going to. With Hazel, I felt totally comfortable doing coop preschools with other parents, it was fun and worked out great. With Felicity, well, she's a different girl. She needs some structured school at this point. She barely missed the kinder cut off and while I think she could use another year before starting, I think she's certainly ready for some in school education to prep her for full day school.

I had her enrolled in an inclusion program through the city--a class of high functioning autistic kids with 2-3 "typical" kids to help them mainstream. Felicity was trying for the spot for a typical kid and it was quite an enrollment process with tons of paper work and screening her with various tests from cutting to jumping to walking on a line, etc. When she was accepted I was so excited, but it's not turning out how I hoped. Apparently all the other kids dropped out before the program started and so it was just her and six autistic boys. We've given it a month and they still haven't found anyone else. They did an art craft once a day and then a 15 minute circle time at the end, but the rest was more social acclimation. They were going to introduce letters later in the year once the kids got used to it.

It's a really awesome idea, but I think would be way better if they had half and half autistic and "typical." The benefit to the "typical" kid is a mega cheap preschool (was free up until this year) and compassion for those that are different than them. I realized that my social little girl was playing beside kids in class rather than with them because that's what happens with autism. I expected that of course, but expected more typical kids to play with in there so it wasn't so quiet and lonely. I told them a week ago that it was her last day but they convinced me to stay one more week to go to back to school night, so we did. While there, one dad told us about how miraculous this program was for his older son (his second son is also autistic and in the program now) and thanked me profusely for being a part of this program. I felt SO AWKWARD!!! It was all very quiet and serious and there was a circle of about 8 of us and I didn't have the heart to tell him I was probably pulling her from it, esp since she's the only typical kid in it.

I've been feeling so torn. I knew it would be good for the autistic kids, but I just didn't feel like it was doing much for City and almost the opposite for her personality. I could probably give her more of what she needed with playdates, workbooks and museum trips. A year ago this would have been a great fit, learning basic colors and letters, but this year it just isn't.

I've been going all over to other preschools and found two that I fell in love with. One is a Catholic school that is AWESOME! SUPER nice staff, saintly even ;). Since the school goes all the way through 8th grade, they have bigger and better facilities than regular preschools. They have a new computer lab with Apple computers, a library they can check books out of, PE class twice a week, Spanish, etc. I mean SO COOl. I wasn't keen on the uniforms idea since I love seeing how City dresses (although what kid doesn't look cute in a uniform) and my friend pointed out that if you start your kid off in an awesome school, kindergarten is going to be a big let down.

The other school is a Christian Montessori school. It's in an old outdated house and doesn't look like much, but inside they have four classes that are unique to Montessori. The way of learning is fascinating, I could see City really grasping concepts through their methods of hands on learning. The whole way of teaching and learning is different than what I've seen anywhere else, I'd love to go myself to see what and how they do things! She is so into movement and handling things, this place looked great too.

I've been stewing over this for so long that it really sounds like a college decision. The reason why is because I think how she goes into kindergarten will really set the stage for how she feels about school generally. I knew Hazel would love it and would do well, but City doesn't speak up a lot of the time. I can see her silently falling behind and embarrassed to tell us if she didn't understand things. Josh felt strongly about getting her started in school with a good foundation that would give her confidence when she starts so she'll enjoy school and will do well.

The worst part so far was just now writing the emails to the school she's dropping out of and telling the lady at the Catholic school we're not going there (we told her we were going to start City there last week and then noticed additional fees that started really adding up and put the brakes on a little). I feel so bad leaving the program without them having any other typical kids in it, I really hope they find some so it's successful, but I realized we have to do what's best for City. The choice between the other two preschools felt like choosing between two awesome and very different guys to marry! I am SO glad I never had that problem.

Here's hoping that Montessori schools really are as awesome as they sound! I hope I don't have buyers remorse.


Amy said...

Such a hard decision! You are entitled to extra inspiration on behalf of your children, though, so I know you'll pick the thing that's best for City and for your family.

Kim said...

When Macie was in the inclusion program for kids with orthopedic disabilities, the kids' disabilities were much more severe than when Ryan did it. I was a little concerned about that since Macie is such a monkey--how fun could it be to hang out with all these kids who can hardly walk? AND the other typical kid left so Macie was left alone. I gave it a few weeks and then asked the teacher how things were going. She said 'great' and said that Macie and a little girl from Russia who is completely wheelchair bound have become best friends. And one of the first words the girl said in English was "Macie". I figured Macie was happy and thriving so I was happy. BUT, if I were you, I'd be pretty concerned that my little girl was in a class with all little boys and didn't really have anyone at all to have normal social experiences with. I'd probably pull her out, too.Good luck with your decision:)

Angie Henderson said...

What Montessori school? Is it TLC by my house? If so, that's a GREAT school, and a lot of our friends from the neighborhood have gone there and love it! If not, I've heard great things about Montessori in general.

My girls went to Laurelwood and loved it. There's a lot about it loved too.

Afton said...

Yes Angie it is! I'm so glad to hear that!! Josh just saw it on his jog and grabbed a flier. It didn't look like much outside, but when I toured the method of teaching made So much sense to me and for City in particular. Yay!

Sarah M said...

I hope everything is wonderful with Montessori! I've been amazed at how stressed I've been about my kids recently just in terms of their academic and social needs. And then trying to figure that into what is best for our family as a whole - it does feel like deciding about college! We love you guys! It was so great to run into you last week.

mj said...

It honestly makes my heart hurt that the application process is so horrendous to get into your previous preschool. The fact that someone has to fill out an arduous application just to play with my little Leah makes me want to cry. As if these little ones don't already have a hard enough time finding and keeping friends? Ugh. I'm sorry. Must just be one of those days.

I totally understand your decision and would have done the same thing as you. Best of luck with Montessori. I hope City absolutely loves it. And I hope the other school gets a clue.

Alicia said...

I totally understand why you feel like it's such a big deal!! I felt like that when I was trying to figure out where to put Sheldon this year for Kindergarten - he can just shut down in the wrong environment and it sets the stage for everything else.

My friend has her daughter in a private k-6 Montessori school and L.O.V.E.S. it!! She actually told me that she feels like if she could go back and go through elementary school with that method she feels like she would be a different person today. She was telling me about their "report cards" and how they don't do checks or pluses or minuses, it's more like, "For her age and temperament, we've noticed she really excels in these areas, but we would like to work on her feeling more comfortable speaking up to her peers..." etc. I was actually *this close* to sending Sheldon there and did a lot of research on the Montessori method, but think I'll wait another year or two while we work through some other things with him.

My friend (the one I mentioned above, her daughter is in 3rd grade, I think) mentioned that she does do activity books etc. during the summer to just kind of ensure that her daughter grasps some of the more concrete skills that are hard to judge if they've acquired them by the way they report things. Although I'm sure you won't be worrying about that at City's age...I mean...come's not college or anything! ;)
Anyway, it sounds like it has potential to be really great!!

Afton said...

Alicia I'm so glad to hear how much your friend likes it! That is so reassuring! I actually have an awesome book of worksheets that if she does 10 (or reads 10 books or a combo) she earns a new book.

Maren, I totally feel the same way and I still feel so guilty for pulling her out because that dad was so grateful I put her in it! I thought the screening process was so excessive and they didn't advertise at all for the program, it was all word of mouth. I thought it could be done so differently and better and give all the kids a good experience so they could all thrive. It's a good program, she's just a little old for it I think and needed more socializing. Josh mentioned that I could always try to find one of the parents of this boy she said she was friends in it to see if they wanted to do a play date, but I'm too embarrassed to find them since she left!