Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's a Preschool time of year!

For those of us parents with kids older than 5, we know that January and February are cutthroat months! It's Preschool registration season or if not yet, it's coming! The intense battle for getting THE all important spot in THE all important preschool is an amazingly stressful experience.

Some of you may be reading this thinking, "It can't really be all that stressful." Oh.. you just don't know the half of it! Finding the right preschool become a near Hunger Games experience for some families. There is major wheeling and dealing to get kids registered into "elite" programs. My wife (Machc Photography) and I actually had a little celebration when we realized that we didn't have to worry about preschool for the next school year. Our twins will be moving on to Kindergarten!! No more private preschooling for a few years!! Then we'll have to get back into the preschool hunt for littlest. 

Having done this several times, I'd like to share some of the ways that we've made preschool hunting work for us!

1) Take the time to jot down your own expectations for your preschooler. What do you expect preschool to be like for your kiddo? What do you hope your kiddo will gain from their preschool experience? How big do you envision the class size? Do you want volunteer hours? What does pick-up and drop-off look like? Will there be field trips? Is daycare necessary? How about electives (e.g. Spanish, dance, music)? What does your monthly budget look like for tuition? Does your kiddo need special services, and if so, what specific support is needed? Is Religion a factor? How far away is it? This may seem like a lot, but in answering these questions my wife and I were set as to what we wanted for our kids. 

2) Research all of the local preschool options. Hit the internet, talk to neighbors, look for fliers and signs in the neighborhood or at church. Check with the local school district. Talk to anyone with kids to see what they did. Write it down, write it all down!

3) Go to any and all open houses or Preschool fairs.  This is a super MUST! You have to find a way to to see each school and really get a feel for the teachers. My wife is a part of the local Mom's Club, so when they hosted a Preschool Fair, we made sure to go! It was the deciding factor for us when we met the school staff of the school we decided to go to. You really need to meet the people you are going to be sending your 3 and 4 year old to! 

4) Apply to the top 3 schools. You are going to narrow your search down to the top 2 or 3. At this point, you have to stay on top of registration dates, and get materials in on time! To be safe, register for the 2 or 3 programs that will work for you and your kiddo. There is always a chance that you don't get into the school you want, so it's good to have a backup. Yes, you loose the deposit for the school you decide to not attend, but it's best to be safe! We applied to 2 programs this past year for our twins. We got into both, and picked our top school. 

This process has worked for us in two different states, and 4 different kiddos. The key to remember is that you really should go through a version of this each year just in case what you are looking for changes, or your kiddo's strengths or interests change. The school we had our twins in last year is not the school they're in this year. We re-evaluated what we were looking for, and found a better fit. Try not to get too wrapped up in the little things like location of the school. If the closest school is just convenient, but the best option is a 20 minute drive, consider which is actually best for the kiddo. We.. ok my wife.. drives 40 minutes round trip to take our kiddos to and from preschool 3 days a week. Is it a pain in the butt (is she a saint for doing it?)? Of course!! But man, they love the school, and WE love all that they are gaining! 

I hope this helps you first time preschool hunters! And re-enforces the work some of you parents have been putting in for a few years! Please share this with anyone you think might benefit from the advice from this father of 5! And use the comments section below to tell us about your favorite preschool and where it is! 

Our favorite in Alaska was Young Learners! Our oldest daughter had an amazing experience there! 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

It's over!! THANK the MAKER!

As a kid Christmas was an amazing part of every year. It had everything I looked forward to, from gifts, to food, to family, and entertainment. I remember doing my homework in the living room listening to Bing Crosby's Christmas CD paying from the stereo. I loved it! I couldn't imagine how anybody could dislike this time of year.

Spring forward to the 37 year old me, and I get how it can happen. Life is full of things that either happen unexpectedly, or are a direct result of a decision you make. Sometimes those two things are amazing, and your life takes an up swing. But if they're not, life can hit a real dark, tough place. And when these hard moments happen at the holidays, it almost makes the hurt burden you more.

For some of us, the holidays reflect a feeling of loss or sorrow. A time where we miss the family or friends that aren't with us, for whatever reason. Maybe it's an unexpected passing, or time and space that keep you away. This Christmas marks the 9th year in a row that I've not been with my side of our family for the holidays. It's hard knowing that my kids have not created a memory of spending time with them in their lifetime.

Often times, it's easier to power through the missing of loved ones, when you can truly embrace the celebration of the season with those around you. There is nothing better than seeing the joy of Christmas in your kids. Having their spirit of youth and excitement propel you forward to decorating your home, and buying gifts. But again, that requires resources to make that happen. Sometimes finances aren't exactly where they need to be, because of decisions made (or not made) throughout the year. When you throw in money strain on top of feelings of loss or sorrow, it's difficult to find that "power through" and you find yourself taking down the Christmas decorations the day after.

And kids.. kids know things. If there is stress in the house, or pain, they can feel it. And over a two week period, those feelings can build up, and create behaviors that lead to lines in songs like, "And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again." Sprinkle in the breaking of the routine set from the school schedule, and parents are celebrating the new year for different reasons (only 2 more days, just 2 more days)!

For this year, I can't say that it's been too low of a down swing for my family. There were definitely amazing moments over the last two weeks. Time spent with my in-laws, and the magic in the eyes of my kids to name a few. But it wasn't all that it should have been for reasons out of my control, but for many that are in my direct decision making powers. So, I'm ready for this new year to continue on, so that I can work to make the 2016 end of year holidays better. Because next year, I don't want to be so excited to see the holiday pass.

So, Cheers to the excitement and possibilities of this new year. I look forward to keeping up with my The Teacher Dad site. Please take the time to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.