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To catch up on our previous two preschool visits, you can click here to read about our visit to the Friend's preschool and click here to read about our visit to the Montessori preschool.
As some history... We are Catholic (no secret) and attend 3 different churches regularly. We visit the Shrine monthly, where Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander (as well as P's brother, Robert) have candles and we usually have lunch after Mass (Sophia's favorites!). Of the other Masses each month, we attend 2-3 at "our" parish, the Catholic church that we've attended for years, where Bobby and Maya were baptized and the other children have memorials, and where we've been extremely active. The remaining 1-2, we attend at our local parish. It's not that we don't like the local church; it's nice. But SMG is home... We've been there for years, know people, and have a relationship with our priests. It's a warm place... It's home. We've cut down on our ministries since our time is needed with Bobby and Maya at home, but I still cantor there, Peter and I are involved in PreCana, and I may be getting involved in the RCIA program for a bit. But, at the same time, we support being active in our local parish. They have a playgroup that we used to attend until the kids started visiting their grandparents on that day (but I'm thinking about getting more involved with, even if we only stay for the first hour and then head out to the grandparents), their adoration chapel is 24/7, and the priests we've met have all been friendly. They still have a convent, and there is a sister in the kindergarten class! So, it's a good parish, too, and we know that it's possible we may be transferring our membership there at some point in the (near) future, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
We toured the preschool today (Thursday). Of all the ones we've visited, the security was best here. (I know I harp on security, but it's a big deal to me... I'm not altogether comfy with having my kids without me in another, unfamiliar environment... even if it is only 2 mornings a week!). I'm sure that part of that fact is that it is a "real" school; instead of being a preschool in a church, it is a K-8 parochial school that expanded to include a preschool. So, the security is that of a real elementary school. And, even though someone went into the school just prior to us, she made sure the door was shut so that we would have to buzz. I liked that. It gave me a sense of this staff person taking the security of the hundreds of children inside seriously.
As we got there, they were doing a monthly fire drill. Again, I like this. I like that they are prepared and that they timed the kids! (Once a year, the fire marshall comes and does a timed drill, in accordance with state standards). We saw the kids walk nicely out, including the 3 year olds! I was impressed. After the kids came back inside, our tour began.
The preschool area has their own secure/locked entrance. If kids are late, they come to the main entrance, but for normal drop off and pick up, teachers are there to greet kids and help get them squared away when it is time to go home. It's 2 mornings a week, like the Quaker program, so it's a good comparison.
There is one classroom with two teachers. Once a week, the kids experience a half hour of gym with the PE teacher. Once a week, the librarian comes to the classroom for a storytime and library visit. Once a week, the music teacher comes to the classroom for a music "class" (15 minutes or so). And each day, one of the teachers does art with them. Their morning starts off with playing, followed by prayer and religious instruction. (The school has a prayer room, where Mass takes place and where a weekly Rosary is said. While I'm sure preschoolers normally dont attend these, when the kids are older, it is an option for them as part of their school day). They have a snack and their "educational" instruction focuses on numbers, letters, days of the week, months of the year, etc. They have circle time and "station" time, where the room has different tables of play/instruction that the kids select to participate in (very Montessori like). The teachers are all state certified teachers, and many have their Masters. The school also has 2 learning support classrooms, where the student-teacher ratio is small and children who need assistance can have extra help. The teachers are both Masters degreed, and they divide the children by lower level and upper level grades.
The school is divided by grades as well. The preschool kids (and their bathroom) is in one section, the 1st-3rd graders have their own area (and bathrooms), as do the 4th-6th graders and the 7th-8th graders. I liked that as well. The preschool area is closest to the youngest grades. The student-teacher ratio changes based on grade level, but for the 3 year olds, there were 13 registered kids (there were 10 there today) and 2 teachers. The teacher we primarily spoke with teaches the 3 yo class as well as the 3-day 4yo program, so she gave us some information about the 4yo class as well.
While we were there, the kids were snacking, but Bobby and Maya were invited to play on the alphabet rug, which they LOVED. And the teacher was impressed that Bobby knew (and was reciting) all of his ABCs (too bad she missed Maya singing the ABC song this morning!).
There was definitely a good feeling while we were there, and added to it was the feeling that I get whenever I'm in a Catholic or Orthodox church... I cant explain it, but it's just this feeling of peace and holiness.
Because of the recent changes in the Archdiocese with schools, our local parish school will be joined by kids from a neighboring parish that is losing their school. Because of that, they are only going to be able to accept families from the local parish and this neighboring parish, which means that we will need to technically transfer our membership from our parish in a nearby town to the local parish, and become more active in our local church. I plan to remain as a cantor at SMG because I love it so much (and I love our music director, who is also my Confirmation sponsor), but I think the other ministries we've been involved with will slowly become ministries at the local parish (as the kids get older and we get more involved). This is something we'll be discussing this weekend as well as we make the decision about which preschool to submit an application to.
A lot of things to think about! But, we've visited the 3 schools on our list, have ruled 1 out already, and have 2 really good schools to choose from. So now, it's time to pray, reflect, think, talk, and choose!