Monday, February 1, 2010

So behind

I've been trying to figure out recently what I'm going to do about the voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) program here in Miami. Kindergarten here is a full day, and the government here will put money towards a pre-kindergarten program for you. For some schools it covers the whole cost, for others it covers part of the cost, and then there are some programs that don't participate. So it's been a real challenge trying to figure out a decent one that isn't so far from me, that we could afford, isn't in the ghetto, and come on, at least has like one other white kid.

So I had heard from multiple people about this United Way one that is about 15 minutes from me, and one day a friend of mine told me they were having their monthly tours the next afternoon. To my credit, I really did try to find someone to watch my kids, knowing how ridiculous it is to try to go anywhere with them by myself and how little they listen to anything I say. And the tour lady had told me not to bring strollers. But I couldn't find anyone, so whatever, they only have it once a month, the waiting list is usually at least a year, so I knew I needed to get going on it, and I'm getting used to just doing what you have to do.

So I show up. There's about 15 moms on the tour. I look around and say kind of jokingly, and somewhat apologetically, "Hmm, so nobody else had to bring kids with them I guess?" They all laugh a little, but are nice about it. Then as the tour starts, I notice - they're almost all pregnant. Oh, so this is when you sign your kids up for this school - while they're still in utero. So me showing up with three already birthed children...wow, I'm way behind.

My discouragement grows, but since they were talking so much about all the younger programs, at one point I try to ask, "So the VPK program goes from 9-12 right?" She say yes. Then after a moment, she turns back to me and adds in - "Yeah, but you can't just do 9-12, you have to do the whole day." Ugh. Discouragement growing even more. Why am I even here? I talked to the woman on the phone about the program and she didn't mention that before. Not to mention - my kids are a disaster. Multiple people have been trying to help me herd my kids along. They're not following. They're running up and down stairs. Disgruntled employees from far corners of the building come carrying in my kids wondering whose wayward children these are. We keep going on the tour. I'm halfway listening, halfway trying to control my wild children, who have taken their shoes off somewhere on the tour and everyone keeps pointing out that my kids are barefoot. I pull out some M&Ms (gasp - are those organic?!) to try to occupy them for a while. We go outside to the play area. Oh man, things really go downhill out here. Tour is still going, concerned parents and finicky mothers are asking ridiculous questions. I look over and my children have found the child-sized sink. The water goes on. I step over and turn it off. It goes back on. I turn it off. I can hear we're nearing the end so I venture back to the group to ask my final discouraged question: "So if all these people are getting their kids on the waiting list before they're even born, is there any chance my 4 year-old will even get in? I mean, they all just keep moving up to the next age level, right?" She gives me a yeah, you're kind of right look, but says, "Well, there's always a chance they could get in." Sigh. Why am I knocking myself out to be here? Especially when - oh my. I look over and the twins are dunking their heads under the running water, howling in delight as they fling their heads up out of the sink and send water spraying over the crowd. Repeatedly. They look wild. Seriously wild. Like two crazy guys at a wild keg party or something. They are sopping wet. I hurry over and yank them out of there (screaming in protest of course) and try to head back in to the building with the group - with my soppy, dirty, shoe-less, screaming little hooligans. With all the composed, signing-their-unborn-children-up, career women looking on. I am so not the picture of graceful motherhood. I am pretty much their worst fear - and the reason they all asked how soon after having their babies they could put them in the school (6 weeks).

I stopped and talked to the woman again when we were finished. "I'm a little discouraged," I told her. "I feel like you just cater to working mothers here. I feel like I'm trying to do something good and stay home with my children - I don't want to stick him in here all day. I just want to do 9-12 and get him a little exposure to school." She was sort of like, huh, that's an interesting idea. We haven't come up against that before. She said she guessed I could pull him out at noon if that's what I wanted - as long as I paid for the full day.

Sigh. I did end up getting him on the list. It caused even more shenanigans as I had to fill out the 4 page application form with the soggy spaz-cases running all over the building, but I figured I better try for something since I've been coming up with all dead ends. It really was a great facility. I think because they're United Way they get a ton of funding, and even though the VPK voucher doesn't cover all the cost we might even qualify for additional financing. So whatever, if he gets in at some point, maybe we'll do it. Maybe I'll find something else. Maybe I'll just keep him home one more year and be fine with it. Maybe I'll be more on top of it next time and get in there while I'm still pregnant.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can't do the whole thing on line, I guess. It was good you got to see it and know it is a good place, and it sounds like you might get extra funding. But did they require an interview of the child? Remember when Kathryn needed to get Jesse in a full-day program? When she called later to see how he did in the "interview," they had determined he was "arrogant, but trainable!" And Kathryn promptly said, "Sounds good to me. Thank you!" I'll be there in March; you could pay them another visit. What an experience! xoxoGrammy

Tennille said...

That's so weird that a preschool program would be all day--is it every day? That's a lot of school for a four year old. But I guess if you're a working mom, what you really want is childcare.

I am so impressed that you braved the situation. If I were there, I would have helped you with your kids (after I laughed when they dunked their heads in the sink). :)

Gavin and Shawna said...

you can look at it two ways...
either you are their worst nightmare with crazy kids....
or you are a mom with 3 busy kids that without a doubt needs a break with the oldest who needs more stimulation...and they can see you need more two on one with the twinners=)

Angela said...

That is so discouraging. Who seriously thinks about preschool when their child is in utero? Who plans THAT far ahead? What name are they signing up for their child's name? I don't even know my child's name until they're a day or two old. And it does seem silly to put a 3/4-year old in six hours of school a day.

I bet all those pregnant Miami Moms were staring wide-eyed, thinking, "I'm having my tubes tied after this baby is born." :)

Jenilee said...

Jen, I really believe you will know the right situation for Cash.
I was faced with a similar situation with Savannah. Next year she will be in all day Kindergarten. I tried to find a preschool we could afford and came across one the school district had. It turned out that she got in last minute, but when I went to fill out all the paperwork I found out it was an everyday, afternoon, preschool. I felt so unsure about what to do. I felt I needed to get her into a preschool to get ready for kindergarten, so why did I feel so confused and uncertain. It wasn't until I admitted that it would be better for her at home that I finally felt peace about it.
I am not saying that is what you should do for Cash, I am just sharing my experience. You know what Cash needs and you will know when you find it. I am sorry it has been such a struggle. You are an amazing mother. You will figure it out.

AnnaMarie Ferrell said...

That is a hilarious story. I was laughing out loud at the image of your twins kegger-like at the fountain. Oh my. You're super sophisticated compared to me, so I'm really glad I'm not there. Anyhow, do what you're comfortable with for Cash. I think he'll adapt to any situation in his way, and it won't scar him for life if he does end up having to be in daycare, I mean preschool, all day. But I hope I don't have your decision to make in a year! Good luck!

Lima Bean said...

Miami is just like a different world. seriously. I don't even know what to say about that story. Crazy.

Safire said...

Hehe...one of the reasons why I kept my daughter home was because I didn't want to deal with the tours. It's much like your experience here too. I'm not sorry for the decision to keep her home but I do wish she had some more stimulation. Good luck with your decision!

Melanie said...

Sounds like NY! All day school sounded like alot to me too when H first started K3. He only goes from 8-11am. But now that he has been going a while I feel he would handle all day just fine. Every kid is different of course but ya never know how your kid will do until he's in it. You could start by taking Cash out early and then see if he acts relieved or acts like he wants to stay. You are such a good mom with good priorities. Im sure you will figure this out too.

Angie said...

Is there anything out there that is a true preschool and not a hyped up daycare/preschool? What do moms in your ward do? Good luck! Have you looked into childfind/head start programs through your local elementary school? Our local one was a life saver for my oldest son. good luck. Your mother intuition will serve you well, even though it all seems daunting now.

SuburbiaMom said...

This kind of thing is one of the reasons our friend moved AWAY from Miami.

Are there enough moms with kids Cash's age who are interested in doing a little joy school/pre-school co-op? I did this with my oldest and 7 other sets of kids and moms. We met just twice a week for 3 hours. We had a rotating schedule for teaching and assisting. It ended up that you only had to teach 1 week and assist 1 week (out of an 8 week time period).

I still have an outline of what we did during the 3-hour blocks. I really liked it. The only reason I haven't done it again is because I can't ever find enough interested people--everyone wants to spend money on preschool when you can do it yourself. (It's really about socialization, anyway!!)

The Siren's Blog said...

Hey, I say you might HAVE to see the North Miami Montessori school (which would be 8:30 till 11:30-VPK) and they have scholarships for the rest of the time-IF YOU WANT TO... They are super nice, and kids have gotten in even after the school year had started!!

Julie M. said...

YIKES! I hate that feeling. We tried to get ours in preschool here and it seemed all of them were all day, and if not...same thing; signed up in the womb. I am seriously in awe of you as a Mom. You're awesome and I'm also impressed you braved that with 3 kids! I hate doing that. We did a little co-op in MI and loved it! We only did 2 hours, 3 days a week and it was a great break. And when it was at my house, I would have an extra Mom, and involve my other kiddos. Good luck, I'm sure it will come together!!

PS: No Ball for me...RSV for Howard instead! :( Bummer.

Corinne said...

I ended up having Sheely in a full day program and I pulled her out at half day, too. Dang it, I'd like to be with my child before she spends the next rest of her life in school. Sometimes, though, it bothered her because all the other kids ate lunch there, and she didn't :)

Melissa Bigelow said...

Funny story. I'd have like to be part of that tour just to watch you!

We put Noah in a Methodist church Preschool Program and loved it! it was covered by VPK. And as long as you clear up a few main religious ideas, the other parts are nice to have as well. They prayed for snack, etc. Good luck!