Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The History of Keeping Up With the Joneses In The Suburbs: Chapter Three

I was looking forward to taking things easy after the holidays. While Christmas was nowhere near as stessful as it could have been, it was nice to think that the household would go back to normal. And while normal in my house consists an 11 month old screaming at me EVERY TWO MINUTES and a three year old running naked (but accessorized) around the house singing Laurie Berkner songs, there is some comfort in that.

Instead, I have been faced with a pretty daunting challenge that is taking up WAY too much of my blogging time. And that just won't do. I had no idea that trying to register my daughter for preschool would be such a herculean task.

It all started so innocently this fall when I was meeting some of our neighbors.

"Nice to meet you Hausfrau. How old are your daughters?"

"Nice to meet you Bootsy. Baby Girl will be three in December and Peaches is 9 months old."

"That's SUPER! (yes, she said it JUST LIKE THAT) Have you decided where you are going to send Baby Girl to preschool?"

"Uh, no. It doesn't start until next fall, right?"

"Yes, but you have to start applying for schools in January so it really helps if you have narrowed down the schools you would like for her to attend."

"What do you mean, 'narrow down?' Is it that hard for kids to get into preschool?"

"Oh my, YES. Especially if you want her to go to a GOOD school. It is so important for our children to have a solid foundation before they start kindergarten. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blahbity blah."

I thought my neighbor was being a little overdramatic, so I tuned out, said my good-byes and went back to my yard where my husband was waiting for me with a steak and a beer.

The week before Christmas I was with my daughter at her Monday morning art class which is at a church near where we live. On the way out I was given a flier about registering for preschool on January 9. Because my daughter was already in a program at this church she would have a better chance of getting into the preschool. If I registered soon I would find out January 21 if we got in. The only problem was this: the three year old class is only two days a week, 2 1/2 hours a day.

That will not do.

Lemme tell you something about Baby Girl. Baby Girl is highly sociable and has a tremendous amount of energy. She needs to be in preschool longer than that. A lot longer. For all of our sakes.

I figured I would just call a few churches since I thought all of them have preschools and find out who offers the program that best suits our needs. Turns out, there aren't many in my area. I started to get a little worried, so I called my neighbor Bootsy, who had graciously offered to give me her opinions on the options in our town. After 45 minutes on the phone she gave me her three choices. She also was not thrilled with the preschool program at the church that Baby Girl is currently attending. It turns out we had the same concerns about the safety of the facility.

Since my conversation with Bootsy, I have been attending open houses for preschools within a 20 mile radius of our home. I have two more to attend in the next week. I went to an open house on Saturday for a church that offers a 3 day/week preschool. FABULOUS! Well, when I got there, there were 100 parents glaring at each other, sizing up the competition. Competition you ask? Why yes. That's because it is a LOTTERY to get into God Damned preschool. The Director of the program suggested that we should all apply to at least four different schools since they are all on the lottery system. Keep in mind, there is a registration fee for these preschools, and some do not refund the fee if you don't get in. I got really excited to hear about a program that is offered by the school district that is four days a week. It is a unique program that combines six kids who have special needs with six who don't. More importantly, it's FOUR DAYS A WEEK! The only problem with that program is that thousands of families apply for the 48 spots. Thousands. And the registration fee is non-refundable. I would love to know what they are doing with that money since the school is funding by us taxpayers, but I digress.

So here I sit, stressed and irritated. I feel like I am applying to colleges all over again, minus the essay. This insanity should all be over on February 1, when all of the schools complete the general registration and do their lotteries. I just wanted to put my kid in a preschool with a safe environment and a nurturing staff that has classes for more than 5 hours a week. I have no expectations that the preschool my daughter attends will help her to get into Princeton. I just want her to have fun, make some friends and develop socially on her own. I don't care if she learns to read or write while in preschool. If she does, that will just be icing on the cake.


theyellowwallpaper said...

Oh, God...You just scared the crap out of me. My daughter will be turning three in February and I've considered having her in preschool next fall. I had no idea I need to start looking now. Whoa...

L. said...

I went through this when we lived in Los Angeles -- I thought we were going to transfer back to Tokyo before our oldest son was 3, so I didn`t put him on any lists, and it was too late.
I ended up finding a really great home daycare center, a woman and her daughter who did all kinds of craft projects and music lessons and ABC stuff with the kids. It was "daycare," not "preschool" per se, but since it had been a default option, I think we lucked out.

Suburban Turmoil said...

Ha ha! I was just talking about this today with the moms in my play group. Our babies all are under 2, and the moms are already worried about preschool.

I figure preschool is really, really important if you're a working mom- because you're relying on someone else to teach some important foundational things. But for us stay at home moms, I don't think it's such an issue. Because I'm teaching my baby colors and numbers and her alphabet and reading and writing-- and hopefully, I'll find a preschool that we like and can afford when the time comes, but if not, I'll keep scheduling play groups and not stress about it. And I will make damn sure that she's well-prepared and socialized for kindergarten.

Just my two cents!

Andie D. said...

I agree with Lucinda. I stressed the f&&k out when I was trying to find a preschool for my son (was working full time then). We ended up finding a place close to my job, but about 20 minutes from home. Ben is still there because I either don't like any preschools near home or don't want to pay the "non-refundable waiting list" fees.

One of my neighbors did a smart thing. She enrolled her son at the preschool that's part of her gym. Hell, she'll be there anyway!

Candace said...

Oh my. I was going to tell you about the state-run program, but looks like you know.

I had the same initial problem with Christopher; it was March of the year he was going to preschool and I hadn't applied ANYWHERE. The state-run program was the only one that had openings, and since it was four 1/2 days, I jumped at it.

And thank GOD I did, because those teachers were the first people in Christopher's life (other than us) who saw that something was different.

He was there for two years, and Sophie went to the program, same teacher, for two years as well. The year she started, our district opened a second program at another of the elementary schools. I guess it's become that popular.

But thousands?? Really? I know we always have openings in one or the other school.

adria said...

I hear your pain. Right now, I am waiting for the word to sign Daria up for kindergarten, so I can get her in the school I want. Luckily, we live in a district that is open enrollment, so she can attend any school I choose as long as there are openings.

Good luck!

Misfit Hausfrau said...

Misfit--according to neighbors and two preschool directors, thousands supposedly apply for the spots at LECC (Lakota Early Childhood Center). We'll see what happens.

Misfit Hausfrau said...

And Misfit- I have a friend who lives in Sharonville, which is 20 minutes from where I live. I started telling her about all of this and she thought I was nuts. She didn't have any problems getting her daughter into a program either.

Kristen said...

Ugh, what a pain! And for PRE-SCHOOL, people! Sheesh!! What the hell happens when it's time for college? Oh man. I can't even think about it. I'm hyperventilating.

Stefanie said...

I'm going through the same thing with my 14 month old. I didn't take people seriously who told me I "better get on it" and now I'm paying the price. Of course, that doesn't seem to motivate me to look at schools everyday....

Jenette said...

I think I should open my own preschool. Just for my friend's kids. Just so they don't have to go through all this ridiculousness. :)

Misfit Hausfrau said...

Let me know when you have registration Jenette.

Rita said...

Ugh . . . I feel your pain.

I was frantic last year, wondering where I would put my little boy for Pre-K. We found a nice 2 day per week preschool when he was 3, but when he turned 4, the game was on.

Lotteries here in ATL, too. We just happened to luck out and won a spot at the local elementary school for a small preK class. He loves it.

It still nearly gave me a stroke.

The June Cleaver Diaries said...

I can't believe they don't refund the money. That's nuts.

We went through a bit of trouble with selecting a school, but we happened upon one that's 2 minutes from the house. Sweet. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

kimmyk said...

man and i thought having my kids in jr high was brutal.

baha! i can't even imagine.

M&Co. said...

I wish I thought you were kidding, but I know you aren't. Competition here isn't that tough, but it's hard.

wordgirl said...

No refunds? WTF???

the weirdgirl said...

I am SO not looking forward to this process. I've heard the horror stories from several people. Luckily one of my best friends has gotten a job at a very good private school (with preschool) and I am SO SO SO going to guilt her into getting me on a list. (Yeah, I know it's bitchy but I also know she'll do it for me. Probably with not even that much guilt.)