We’re switching from our current Reggio Emilia (constructivist) preschool to a freedom-play-based-learning (democratic) preschool. Although there is a lot to love about the preschool we are at, there are some things that we are concerned about for next year:
- The schedule. For Ali’s age, they will only do a 5 day full-time schedule next year of 25 hours per week. This year she is doing about 16 hours and it seems like slightly too much for her. The elementary school that we are most interested in (for when she is 6 and older) is also part-time (about 15 hours per week). So it doesn’t make sense for her to be at school 25 hours per week at age 5, then 15 hours per week at age 6. Lastly, we like to be out and doing fun and interesting things together as a family, but that will be less possible if she is in school 5 days per week.
- The price. I don’t like feeling ripped off.
- Limited Access to Materials. We thought the children would have free access to the plethora of wonderful art supplies at the school, but that has not been the case. Ali is surrounded by these beautiful high quality materials all wonderfully organized, artfully displayed and looking oh-so-inspirational, but it turns out that she can’t actually use them at her leisure. When I was dropping her off one recent morning, she was asking one of the teachers what the work options were going to be that morning. The teacher indicated 4 choices (sewing, wire sculpture, building blocks, and I can’t recall the 4th option). Ali indicated that she was interested in painting, but the answer was “nyet”.
- Too Many Restrictions. ”No, don’t pretend that piece of driftwood is a hammer”, “No, don’t stand in the wagon”, “Don’t run down the hill (on a nature walk at a state park)”. “Don’t use too much of the glittery oil pastels on your picture”. “Don’t bang your feet against the rung of the chair”. These are just a small sampling of the No’s and Don’ts that we hear on a daily basis. I understand that they can’t say “yes” all the time, it doesn’t work at our home either, but they are way too overly cautious for my comfort zone (probably for liability reasons in most cases). We can see all the learning that happens in the “Yes!” moments. Sure, sometimes it involves a fall or making a mistake, but those experiences are invaluable, too.
So Ali is going to attend a different preschool (School K on our original preschool tours.) This one is 10-15 minutes from our home and the schedule 2 mornings per week (total of 7 hours per week with the option to go up to 10 hours per week). We are much more comfortable with the price and it’s on a month to month basis (we like flexibility and freedom) whereas the current preschool was a one year commitment. Zen is going to enroll on the same schedule. She hasn’t been all that interested in the current preschool (7 hours per week), but we are going to try this one for her and if she doesn’t like it, we can cancel her enrollment any time. Ali embraces new places and new experiences readily, so we are not worried about her transition. Zen transitions much more slowly to new people/places/experiences unless Ali is right there with her (have I mentioned what an awesome big sister she is?!) The new school does not separate children by age which is great as we prefer a multi-age environment. This also means that Ali and Zen could spend all morning together if they want to, or they could each work in individual areas if that’s what they choose. We hope this arrangement works out really well for both of them. This also means that I get a small “break” without paying the babysitter. Up until now, our girls have been on opposite schedules at the current preschool, so if I need to get anything done, we have to pay a babysitter in addition to what we pay the current preschool.
So there you have it…our slight change of plan on the alternative education path involves a little less school and more life-learning. We can only hope we are making the right choices – time will tell.