Originally posted here
Going back to preschool after winter break was tough for Bobby. Both he and Maya missed it (and begged for it) for the two weeks that we were off, but when they went back, Bobby had a very difficult readjustment period. His teacher told us recently, after several weeks of class, that he's finally back to his pre-Christmas self.
In chatting with her about the transition from Preschool to PreK, one of the biggest concerns is summer break. School ends in mid-June, and doesn't begin until mid-September. So, what to do... We hadn't initially planned (or budgeted) for a summer school or camp, but realized very quickly that if we want Bobby's PreK year to begin better than his Preschool year did, and if we want both kids to have both a fun and educationl summer experience, we will have to figure something out. We wont know if Bobby will qualify for an aide over the summer (that will come to pass by the spring) so it was important for us to find a school that would be able to give him the support he needs with or without a one-to-one while also meeting Maya's educational and social needs.
I filled out the application and scholarship applications for one of the Play and Learn locations. This locally based childcare organization has 11 locations, and some of the schools are actually Montessori in nature. After speaking with a friend whose son goes there, I called and made an appointment. We weren't disappointed.
The director and assistant director were very welcoming, and I was impressed by their video security, both outside and inside the school. It seemed like a location that would both protect the kids from unwanted outside visitors but also keep the kids safely inside. We visited the preschool class which, based on their age, Bobby and Maya would remain in through the summer (if they turned 4 prior to June, they would be in the PreK class). The teacher is degreed in early childhood and special ed, as well as being a trainer on autism awareness. So, a very good fit in that regard. Bobby was in the thick of things right away (they have a large calendar on the wall) and Maya sat down on the carpet for circle time and the story that followed.
During the summer, each week has a theme and they bring in all sorts of things to the facility (like horses, water play, etc) so that the kids get to experience field trips in their own backyard, basically. Looking over the schedule, I think I want to go to summer camp!
They were very willing to answer all of our questions, and their informational talk covered much of what we were interested in. It seems like a good fit. While we 100% think Bobby will have the best experience if he qualifies for an aide, it seems like they would be able to accomodate his needs if he doesnt have someone with him, which is nice to know. The kids would go three mornings a week (to help prepare them for 5 morning a week preschool) and both really seemed to like it. (Maya informed us that yes, she wants to go there for the summer).
We plan to have the kids home for 2 weeks, then summer school/camp for 2 months, then home for 2 weeks, then back to school. Since the new baby is due in July, this would give us some mornings to try and square away the whole 'new baby' experience (for its good and bad) while still giving the kids fun activities and giving us full family time in the afternoon and evenings.
Financially, it's a stretch. The kids go to preschool for 8 hours a week right now; the cost, for both, is $340; for 9 hours a week, that cost will double. (And this school isnt outrageous from what I've looked out). The biggest difference is that the summer program will supply snack, but still. It's a huge increase (and one we didnt plan on). Of course, PreK in the fall will be a price increase (we should know tuition when we register on Sunday) but that is something we knew was coming down the pike. So, we'll see. Play and Learn does offer scholarships, so I filled out the form for the kids, and we'll see if our family qualifies. If so, great; if not, then it will be something we'll have to consider really hard and see if we can swing. But the fact that they offer that is great, and I was pleasantly suprised that, because we are applying for the scholarship, they didnt require us to pay the registration fee, as it would be prorated based on any scholarship funds they give the kids. So, that's another load off my (financial) mind.
But, all in all, it was a good experience, and I was pleased with what we saw. It's hard to trust your kids to strangers; last summer was a rough time for me as I came to terms with the kids going to preschool. Even though it's our parish school and it had a great reputation, these are my itty bitty babies... My sweet little ones... How could I just release them to strangers? But Miss M and the rest of the teachers and administrators we've come into contact with have been great; Bobby's BSC and therapists are wonderful. This really was the right choice for us and for both kids. Both of them have grown so much, and I'm grateful that we opted to try.
Hopefully, this will be another of those great experiences!