Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Preschool Dilemma

We're thinking of sending Abe to preschool in the fall a couple of days a week, just for a few hours. I realize we're late to the game with wait-lists for enrollment and such, but I don't feel like it will be a huge tragedy if he's not in a program at age three (more on that subject later). We visited one potential class for him, and here are some of my first impressions of the teacher:

1. She told us that Abe doesn't look at all Ethiopian. She qualified her judgment by saying that she knows a lot of Ethiopians. I'm not sure what to think about this. I had no idea how to respond to her voicing this opinion.

2. Her first question when the subject of adoption came up was why we adopted "there and not here."

3. She told us about some of her acquaintances who have not told their Chinese child who was adopted the truth about her story. The adoptive parents are Chinese also, so it's been easy to hide the truth. She agrees this is not a good thing. But then when I mentioned that we have always told Abe his story, she said, "Well of course because it's obvious that he's not your child."

I bit my tongue. I wonder if I should have asked her, "If he's not our child, then whose is he?" I know what she meant. She meant to say that he doesn't look like us because he's not our biological child/child by birth. I don't nitpick with random strangers we meet who may not be familiar with positive adoption-speak. But a teacher? Yes, I hold an educator to a higher standard. I don't want Abe in a class where he might hear the words from his teacher that he's not our child. No, no thank you.

4. Outside play is only a reward for good behavior.

5. When I asked what snacks the kids eat, she simply said, "Healthy snacks." Well, more specific please? Your standard for what is healthy may not be my standard for what is healthy.

6. The kids (age three, mind you) are given homework. I have no problem with homework, just probably not at age three. The homework is this: photocopied pages from a coloring book so they can "practice coloring inside the lines." Something about this doesn't sit right with me. Isn't there a better way of getting kids to improve their fine-motor skills than to send them home with pages from a coloring book? If any of you early childhood education experts have thoughts about this, I'd love to hear them. I really would. I've already googled "coloring inside the lines" and have gotten some interesting perspectives.

For now, I just don't feel this class is the best fit for us.

What are the benefits to you of your child being in preschool? If kids are read to at home, go on 'field trips' to museums, get play-time with friends several times a week, have opportunities for art projects, get lots of outside play-time, is it so bad for them not to start preschool until age four or kindergarten at five?

One thing I did like about what this teacher said is that she's not even convinced that three-year-olds need to be in school. Age four is fine. But three is "borderline." Hm. Thoughts?


Evelyn said...

What?! Wow. Seriously insensitive teacher! Would not want my child there either. I look forward to hearing what others have to say about pre-school or no pre-school - I have wondered that myself. I wish you all the best!

Is Dr. Goodloe there as your superintendent now? She was here and we really liked her. Too bad our awful school district made her want out of here!

Stephanie said...

Why? That's my thought. Why send him anywhere to be ... um ... margarinized. That's not marginalized, spelled badly. I mean the kid's real butter now. He's got regular contact with all kinds of people with all kinds of ideas and perspectives and backgrounds and ways of being real. Why make him learn to be margarine?

I know preschool is a happy time for some people - at least, that's what I hear. But I don't think there's a preschool in the universe that can top what he has now for a "learning environment." Don't doubt yourself. If I had a kid that age, I might send him to YOUR house if YOU were running a preschool. ...

Anonymous said...

Wow! Where is this place so I can make sure not to take my child there!

I like preschool at 3 for the social aspect but this can be achieved without preschool as well. I really think I would only send him if it was an exceptional fit

Mary said...

I've been a nanny for many years, and I personally feel that age 3 is too young for preschool for structured learning. It sounds like Abe is really social, so the social interaction part would be awesome, but for that you could send him to a good Parents' Day Out program. Children at age 3 do most of their learning by playing. Also, aside from the fact that homework for a preschooler seems ridiculous, I think that a coloring page is just taking the easy way out. There are so many wonderful activities to hone fine motor skills--I have no idea why a page to color would be deemed appropriate "homework." My favorite fine motor skill activities are things like lacing and sorting small objects, both of which you can do with things you likely already have at home.

Emma said...

I am shocked that someone who works with children speaks that way. I have also been looking at pre-schools b/c I wonder if I should get my daughter in a social group early. She is only 2 but he older brother is autistic and she doesn't have much contact with other kids. I have seen some lovely places - one is set up in the woods near a nature center and they spend as much time as possible outside. At that age I think that is great. I have pretty much decided to wait until she is 3 since some of the really nice schools are also expensive!

I know that around here we have a lot of co-op nursery schools. THe costs are a bit lower and the parents help out in the classrooms a few times a year.

I think the benefits of pre-school are socialization and getting a head start on academics - but there are other ways to get those benefits if you can't find a place you like.

Good luck! I hope you find a more enlightened teacher out there!

Tim said...

My thought is that you have just written the makings of a great villain for a children's book.

graceling said...

For Anna, pre-school is a must. But that is because of who Anna is. She is not very social, and in fact, didn't actually speak at day care for weeks to months (weeks to speak to the teacher, months to begin to speak to the other kids.) We are in a great place with her now, and need to keep that structured social interaction ongoing for her so that she continues to grow.

I think that is the major benefit of pre-school- structured social interaction. Even social kids benefit from learning that when in a group, there are times to talk and times to listen, we follow the rules, and sometimes we don't get to do what we want because the group is doing an activity together, listening to the teacher, waiting our turn, etc... I think this is important preparation for kindergarten, because I think there is now (at least in our neck of the woods) an expectation that you start kindergarten with these social skills in place (plus some basic academic skills.)

I don't think 3 is too young for the right kind of pre-school, but don't feel that it is necessary, either. I would personally do something before kindergarten, because as I said, I think there are expectations... But, I also think finding the right pre-school is the most important part of the equation.

I love our pre-school (Anna "visits" the pre-school room a few times a week to prepare her to move up to the new class.) They spend tons of time outdoors, even in cooler weather. They take walks to the library and go on field trips to the local petting zoo and children's museums. They use lots of manipulatives to teach fine motor skills, not to mention encourage independence in tying shoes/buttoning pants, etc which also develops those skills. I love the teachers and the kids obviously love the teachers, too, which goes a long way with me:) They require good manners (please/thank you, etc) but don't care if you color in the lines all the time (so long as you show that you can when they do assessments.)

Keep looking and don't feel rushed. When you find the right one, you will know:)

msl said...

Unbelievable. You're right to have second and third thoughts about the school and teacher. Our oldest was in preschool at 3 and it was a wonderful experience. The program was completely child centered with an emphasis on the individual. The socialization aspects of it helped since at that point he was our only one and because of the amazing teachers, we had a child who not only loved to go to school but loved to learn. We just knew it was the right fit for us from the moment we walked into a classroom to observe and saw how loving, fun and happy it was. So my advice is keep looking until you know it's right for Abe and you. Oh and 'homework' for a three year old is ridiculous.

Amy said...

School questions are always a sure fire way to get opinions. :-) I have 3 bright, well-socialized successful in school children, and they all went to pre-school at 4. A couple of them might have enjoyed it at 3, but if you're asking what they NEED, they need time with you in stimulating environments. My oldest is a sophomore and the time has flown by. You won't regret another year home with him.

Corinne said...

Lori, there's no dilemma...avoid this teacher. Wow, what an insensitive and ignorant person. As to your question about the benefits of preschool given all you do with Abe yourself, perhaps it would only be learning to be away from you in a social setting of his own. I know Maya's learned to really enjoy her friends and teachers while I'm not there and I believe its made her stronger and more independent. But then its a wonderful place with nurturing, sensitive teachers. Keep looking... elsewhere. Good luck.

Eastiopians said...

Eeek, that teacher makes me cringe. My mindset is that a child is best at home with a loving parent as a pre-schooler. The next best, to me, is a montessori school where exploration and being-a-kid is most important. Here is a site that I love...

And this statement in particular stands out to me...

"They want to learn and will learn about their world, because it's a built in human drive - we need only to give them some freedom, provide rich opportunities, and model the joy to be found in learning.

Childhood is short and fleeting - and important - don't let them miss the opportunity to fully experience it and be a child during those very important golden years."

Guard Wife said...

I just linked to you via another blog b/c I have school on the brain. We brought our 5-year-old Ethiopian daughter home in early April and I'm beginning to wonder if she will be ready for the 'early 5's' class at her sister's school or if we should look into Montessori or otherwise. She is whip smart and loves learning, but her social skills and ability to even sit quietly for more than a few seconds are pretty non-existent. I'm starting to freak out a little.

The teacher you describe would have sent me running from the room--perhaps only after making a similarly rude comment (couched in a feigned oblivious tone to mirror the true state she was in) because I, sometimes, cannot help myself.

Fun stuff for a little person of 3 may be in order, but this kind of set-up wouldn't be my choice. And, even if the structure of the program were everything I wanted for my child, I wouldn't put her with a teacher like that. Just couldn't do it.

Good luck with your decision. I think the fact that you were able to pinpoint exactly what you didn't care for will be helpful in finding somewhere you can both enjoy.

Anonymous said...

"What are the benefits to you of your child being in preschool? If kids are read to at home, go on 'field trips' to museums, get play-time with friends several times a week, have opportunities for art projects, get lots of outside play-time, is it so bad for them not to start preschool until age four or kindergarten at five?"

No. That's GOOD. That's about the best situation you could have. Those kids will be way ahead of the other kindergarteners, if that's the concern.

Melissa said...

Uh, yeah. Uncool. I'd keep him home. Why not? And homework? Ridiculous. He can learn the fine motor skills by driving micromachines on electrical tape curvy roads. And that's much more fun for a munchkin than coloring in the lines. As a teacher, I can say that so much of school (as it's traditionally done) is not done in ways that are appealing to typical boyish boys. He's socialized enough, which is really the big goal of preschool. If I could stay home, I would have started my boy in kindergarten, not preschool. As for the question of what he might miss out on academically? Nada. You read to him? Teach him his colors? Shapes? How to count? The difference between infront and behind? It's not rocket science. There are several kids in my boy's preschool who are developmentally behind which is why their parents sen them to preschool. Truth be told, I don't think my guy learned anything. But he can color in the lines (true, but I hope you can hear the sacasm)!

Bonnie Nieuwstraten said...

Oh Lori, I don't know you or your son personally but I would run from that teacher! My 4 year old daughter has only been home from Ethiopia for 4 months, but I am shocked almost daily at the insensitive comments made by strangers. I am not planning on putting her in pre-school, but if I was, it would be VERY important to me that the teacher be sensitive and compassionate. Quality time with you and lots of outings to museums etc. are perfect for 3 year olds.

By the way, are you planning any more Ethiopian fellowships soon?

Lisa D. said...

Lori and Ted,

For what it's worth:

We chose to swim against the tide and not send our only child to preschool...officially, that is.

Instead, we read stacks of books with her at home daily (she couln't get enough), visited story times at local bookstores and the library weekly, played outside lots, had play dates often and watched great kids' shows like "Between the Lions."

For a few months prior to her starting kindergarten, we had a very unofficial "homeschool preschool co-op" with two other families one morning a week, where,in addition to lots of unstructured play time for the girls,one mom "taught" science by taking the kids on nature walks and doing fun experiments, one mom "taught" reading and writing by setting up a backyard tent and reading stories and helping them learn their ABCs and the other mom "taught" math through cooking, art and games.

Though lacking an "official" preschool experience, our daughter soared in kindergarten--socially, academically and behaviorally, and has continued that trend into high school.

Prior to kindergarten, as a stay at home mom, I had the privilege of being the one to teach my daughter how to sound out her first words on paper and still thrill at remembering the moment when she realized that words were all around her, all the time.


No regrets.

Claudia said...

wow - LOTS of comments.

I'm just going to agree with everyone else - abe absolutely doesn't NEED to be in preschool, or anywhere other than with you. If you want him to go, that's one thing, but there is just nothing, nothing, nothing that he could possibly be missing out on by having the life that you're giving him. There's just no way.

And as for that woman - I totally second mama dog's comment.

Engendo said...

Agree mama dog LOL

and WHOA - i know nothing about the whole preschool question. but whoa what a specimen this woman is. I would run run run away.

But regardless of avoiding this woman like the plague, you might want to consider talking to her superior. Maybe she could have some training on adoptionspeak, or even sensitivity training. I only suggest this to help the people who run the place know there are people saying things like this - and perhaps remedy the situation for the next person who comes along in your situation.

Leanne said...


I am an early childhood professional. I run a preschool, and I have a M.Ed. I also am a mom of an Ethiopian child.

Having said that! RUN!!!! RUN!!! Nobody should be rewarding for "good behavior" at age 3 - especially for outside time!!! And the remarks of the teacher sound like ignorance.

I do believe in preschool for younger children. I think it gives them a chance to learn to problem solve, work with others and become confident without a parent around. But I have seen MANY children do just fine starting at age 4.

This doesn't sound like the place for you!

Christine said...

Eek, does this teacher not understand that less is more? Perhaps she could have been just letting you ask questions and maybe she could have been a little more quiet with her opinions. Her mouth runneth over.

As for coloring pages, we have none in our house and the preschool never sends home any colored pages. Only free-hand drawing. Coloring inside the lines, highly over-rated.

The only reason I felt my son needed preschool was because of separation issues, to help him slowly get used to being away from me and looking to other adults that he can reliably depend upon. I hope you find what you are looking for, or not, it sounds like Abe's life is very satisfying and stimulating right now.

kn said...

She's awful. So agree with Mama Dog who said it better than me.

Pre-k is not necessary for everyone, might be good for some, but can also be worse.

Quinn went because he had to, we both worked. He was at a good one but I would have kept him home until he was five and started school at kindergarten. Seriously.

Homework at 3????
I'm happy that Quinn has appropriate homework at six years old, it takes him less than 10 minutes and it really helps with his writing. But 3???

I remember those years, all the choices and decisions. Good luck!

The Soucys said...

Run, don't walk, from that crazy lady. That is totally out of line. I don't think preschool at 3 is necessary, but I think it can be a very positive experience for a 3 year old. I was thinking about Montessori for Abe. I'd preschool shop around!

Anonymous said...

Kudos to all of the mom's that responded. I am not a professional, but a mom of 3 grown children.
That wouldn't have been a good situation for any mom.
If you want Abe to be in a preschool a few days a week that is one thing. But huge RED flags with that one.
Follow your heart, Lori.
Love, Linda C.

Kerry said...

Commenting before reading other comments because I like to talk out of turn (while coloring outside of the lines).... so forgive what I am sure is redundancy.
"I don't feel this class is the best fit for us" may be the understatement of the year (although there may be some BP press releases about the oil spill that challenge it for top billing.)
You offer your son every single opportunity he needs... however, if your next adoption timeline is still in motion you may want to continue to do your research. That way you can find a great place that may come in handy for the whole family when child #2 comes home.
We should ALL hold teachers to a higher standard and I am afraid we don't. While it is NOT your job to do it, I do hope you will write a letter to the teacher/school with some tips on positive adoption speak... sometimes we just don't know, what we don't know.
I need to go practice coloring,

Julie said...

I missed this post entirely. That teacher is an idiot! I will be carefully reading your comments because I am wondering about the same thing for Melese.

Bethany said...

I know I don't comment a lot. But I try to keep up. I've been thinking about posting on this one. Leul just finished his first year of preschool at age 3. Next year he will be in Preschool as a 4yr old. I'M PULLING HIM. I'm enrolling him in "activties" and creating a "homeschool" so to speak agenda for his weeks. I think preschool (well his was) a glorified non-educational day care. I think it was great he learned to "be away from mom and dad and that we will ALWAYS come back" But other than that I give it a big thumbs down. I have SOOOOO many comments on this.....but I think you should do whats best for Abe. For Leul..it's one on one time for teaching, lots of exposure to the real world, and enrollment in fun classes ie gymnastics, swim, soccer, dance, music....

My cents :-) Good luck!

Autumn and Dan's family said...

Yowsa. Let's talk about this soon. I know this isn't teacher Sam you are talking about, because she would NEVER say those things.

AliciaD said...


Absolute stranger here... got here from another blog then another blog...

Don't put him in that preschool. The teacher's attitude and non existent tact is horrible. I'm a teacher and reading the parts about homework and learning to color inside the lines made me shudder and gag a little bit.

At 3 - it's about the process and not the product. Skill development through play. Messy sensory art projects and sensory tables/water play, etc. Not coloring inside the lines. And her attitude towards adopted children is just frightening.

Preschool can be a wonderful thing - if it's appropriate for a the child and it's a good preschool with a good environment. However, like so many other things, preschools can also go horribly wrong.

jen said...

Amen to Mama Dog! I totally agree.

Amanda said...

I've been glad for MB to be in "preschool" two mornings a week this year, because, although it certainly wasn't necessary, it was fun for her. There are things she learned in that class that I didn't know to teach her -- a particular song that helps her hear the first sound in a word, for instance -- but overall, the academic learning has taken place with us. MB was at a Montessori school, so she was in a mixed-age class, and it was good for her to have the opportunity to play with friends of different age levels. Since our neighborhood isn't conducive to that and arranging it is not my natural gift, it was probably good for her. We'll be doing another half-days two-day-a-week program next year, but I don't think that more than that is really good for her, much less necessary right now.

Xander and Alana (but mostly Alana) said...

What is it with the looks or doesn't look Ethiopian thing? We've been assured my numerous people that our children "look Ethiopian," and I always wanna say, "Listen. I've been to Ethiopia, and there's no one way for an Ethiopian to look." It's like the biggest mish-mash of folks in Africa, but there's supposed to be an "Ethiopian look." I never know what to say to that bizarre attempt at a compliment.

karen said...

As an educator and as a human being, I am horrified. This reminds me of the kindergarten I went to (which was at our church) where I was told several times that my older sister and I were not "real sisters". Technically, Kathy is my half-sister, but who cares about that first part? Also, children need imaginative play time as well as time to digest and reflect on whatever structured activities they had that day. I haven't read through all of the comments but have you looked into Montessori programs in the area? I'm hoping that preschool wasn't one.


Good luck on your search. Hope it's gotten better.

Karen Young