- 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
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.
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.