Friday, May 15, 2009

Glutton for Punishment?

I have written before about our local cooperative nursery school, which JJ attended for a year when he was four and The Peanut is attending now. Mostly when I mention “The Co-op,” it’s to complain about how much work it entails for me. My responsibilities are as follows:
  • Working at the school one afternoon (three hours) per week
  • Being on call as “emergency parent” for one afternoon every six weeks
  • Performing a family “job” for the school (this year I've been putting together a monthly newsletter)
  • Performing a family job for the two fundraisers: a huge auction fundraiser in the spring and a smaller “trike-a-thon” in the fall (I fulfill this obligation by writing articles for our local paper)
  • Raising a minimum amount of money for each of these fundraisers
  • Completing eight “enhancement” hours, doing various needed projects
  • Completing and discussing parenting-related reading assignments
  • Attending regular parent education/information meetings
This is indeed a shitload of work, but the tradeoffs are that tuition is insanely cheap, the program is play based and wonderful, and there’s a built-in community of parents and children that makes all the work totally worthwhile.

Except recently I’ve been questioning whether it really is worthwhile. After two years at The Co-op, I am more than a little burned out. I remember feeling so lucky to be part of the school when JJ was there, enjoying my workday even more than I enjoyed having a few hours to myself. But this year has been different. Maybe it’s because JJ's school day begins at 8:30 and ends at 2:30, while The Peanut’s in the afternoon session (12:45 to 3:45), so I end up doing a ton of driving back and forth. Or maybe I’m just tired of all the volunteering and fundraising I’ve been doing for both kids’ schools and our school district. Or maybe I just want more time to myself. Whatever the case, a good deal of the shine has worn off.

And Jack’s burned out, too. Even though he isn’t nearly as involved as I am—not because he doesn't want to be, but because he has to work—he still does a lot. He fulfilled the bulk of our enhancement hours by building a shed, and he worked a shift for me when I was on jury duty. But probably what's most exhausting for him is listening to me bitch and moan and complain about The Co-op, especially after my workday. There is always drama of some sort, whether in the form of other parents who don’t do their jobs, children who don’t follow the rules, or just general craziness. Last week there were several deliberate tricycle crashes and a biting incident, and this week there was the little boy who crapped his pants—not that it was his fault or anything, but still: guess who ended up on cleanup duty?

So after much soul searching and discussion, Jack and I decided to look into another preschool option for the fall. The Peanut has one more year before kindergarten, and having her attend a program that doesn't require parent participation would allow me to do more of my own work instead of schlepping kids around all day. It was with this thought in mind that we visited our local Montessori preschool, assuming that it was basically a done deal.

Turns out it wasn’t. The school’s director is a pompous, pretentious ass whose main job seems to be pandering to parents who want their little darlings to read at a sixth-grade level before kindergarten. After parading several children out and having them read for us like performing dogs, he told us that The Peanut was “already behind” academically, but that he was certain that she was bright enough to catch up with the others.

As. If.

I don’t have a problem with parents who want their kids to be able to read, write, and do long division by the time they’re five years old, I just don’t happen to be one of those parents. In my opinion, a four-year-old has much more important work to do: playing with play dough, building with Legos, painting pictures, counting beans, putting together puzzles, stringing beads, riding tricycles around the play yard, making friends, gluing together collages, learning to negotiate with other children, chasing butterflies, creating and inhabiting elaborate imaginary worlds. If she happens to learn to read along the way, great…but if not, who the hell cares? She’s got plenty of other stuff she needs to be doing.

So it looks like we’re in for another year at The Co-op. Next time you catch me bitching about it, please remind me what the alternative is. Because when you’ve found the absolute best place for your child, it really is worth setting aside a little personal freedom for just one more year.

Besides, The Peanut will be in the morning session, so I’ll have much more time to complain about it here.


Green said...

Maybe all you need is to change things up a bit? Is the routine of it all getting to you? Or the stench of the little shitter, whichever.

I hope you told him "Next time, you clean up yourself, and then you will wash your hands VERY thoroughly."

Oh. Good thing I don't have kids, huh?

Stephanie said...

Aw, it really wasn't the little guy's fault. Shit happens, you know? And he was very embarrassed about it.

I've been up to my elbows in shit since JJ was born, so I'm not even sure what I'm complaining about.

followthatdog said...

You're complaining because even if he isn't at fault, and maybe especially because he feels guilty and embarrassed, it is one more unpleasant task that you get to do as part of co-op. Poor kid, if he was an asshole, it might be easier to just be pissed off about it.

Ansel is in a co-op this year, two days a week. I don't do the classroom time, but I have fund raising, snack, parent meetings, snack for that, special project and all of that crap to do. It is exhausting. Is the Montessori the only other program in town? Maybe there is a reggio emilia program you could find. Django's in a RE program and has really blossomed. I hope you have some luck because good childcare, good preschool is something too wonderful to describe.

Stephanie said...

There are indeed other preschools in town, and I have friends with children at every single one of them. We sussed every single one of them out when JJ was little and decided for various reasons that none of them was right for us.

I didn't realize you did a co-op AND worked full time! I now officially have no business complaining...but I'm sure I will, anyway.