I took Addison to visit a preschool this morning. Since she has an early birthday, she'll be nearly six when she starts kindergarten. And since she'll be nearly 4 this fall, I've been wanting to put her in a part-time program this coming year, because I'll definitely want her something the next year too. Well, my friend Tricia told me that the high schools around here have preschool lab programs. They have high school students apply for the class, requiring ten teacher references and personal references. The students actually are trained to write curriculums, come up with art and science projects, circle time stuff, etc. and then they get to implement their ideas with actual preschoolers. The school doesn't start till the end of October, so the students have two months of classes before they get the kids. Of course they are supervised by adults too. The best part is that it only costs $180 for the whole school year! The main reason I've been hemming and hawing about preschool is because most of the ones I've checked out are around$250 a MONTH for three days a week.
I went today to check it out. It's Mon, Tues and Wed. from 7:45 to 10:45 (we'll have to wake up early). You never know what the actual environment is like till you go, so I put Ryan in the stroller and went a few blocks down to the high school (did I mention it's right in my neighborhood?). They have 24 kids from 3-4 (split off sometimes into younger/older 3's and younger/older 4's) and I think 14-16 students, plus the director in the classroom, so it's slightly more than 1 teacher per 2 kids. They have art, science, math, reading, circle time, snack time, music, and outdoor play (apparently there is a big playground with climbing ropes, tricycles, etc). I was there about an hour and was very impressed. The high schoolers were attentive and on the ball, and the kids were all very much under control. By breaking up into small groups and changing activities so much, the kids don't have time to get bored or distracted, and the students take turns trading off teaching, herding, etc. I was there during a fire drill too, and I loved how there were so many "adults" to keep track of the kids, hold hands, etc. I was wondering if I would find the girls gossiping, lounging around, or looking bored but they all seemed very busy and focused.
Addison had a ball. She played with toys for a little bit and then sat in on story time. During the drill, one teacher came up to take Addie's hand and from then on, she was just part of the group. They played London Bridges outside, and as we went back in, she didn't even look to see where I was. Then, after hearing another story, I told her it was time to go, and she said, "No, Mama, now it's MUSIC time," and followed the kids to their music mats.
My feeling is that it would be perfect for Addison this next year. It is close, the hours are good, it's 3 days a week, and it looks like it's safe and fun. Also I don't have to pack lunch or worry about nap interference either. Whether she learns a lot or not - that's mostly secondary right now, although they were doing letter stuff, sequence of events with pictures, etc. It may end up being fabulous and she learn tons of things, or it might just be a fun place for her to do, well Pre School stuff, like sitting on circle, lining up, sharing, etc. Since she will have another entire year of preschool the next year, I'm fine with taking things slow. Thanks so much for calling this to my attention Tricia!!! I am so excited! When I told Addie that she couldn't go till next fall, when she was a little bit bigger, she said, "But Mama, I don't know HOW to wait till I'm grown up!"