Preschool, oh preschool, how I love thee.
Clara just started going to school last week and let me tell you, signing her up is the best decision I’ve made in quite some time!
Let me preface this post by saying that before I had a toddler, I said I wasn’t going to send Clara (or Isabelle) to school until she was four years old. At least. I thought preschool was expensive and too structured for young children and I also thought that I could easily handle a toddler all day long, every day, and that it was my duty as a SAHM to do so.
My current self is laughing at my former self. Per usual.
Clara turns 2.5 years old this month (tomorrow, actually!) and so last month we found a school with openings for young toddlers and signed her up! (I think 2.5 years old is the youngest age that schools accept around here.) I prayed that we would find a perfect fit for her and we did!
Let me back track. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you have read that I find staying at home with two children to be completely exhausting. Once Tim went back to work after his 10 week paternity leave, I felt like I was losing my patience, energy, and tolerance for both kids. I was losing myself, basically. So, Tim and I discussed solutions to this problem and decided to look for preschools.
Now Clara is going to school in a huge house with 2 levels and a large outdoor play area. It’s a Waldorf-inspired school so there is two hours of free time each day for the kids to explore and play with whatever they choose. There are no plastic toys. There are no structured activities except for ‘circle time’ in which they dance and sing and read stories each day. The kids all play together, so 2.5-5 year olds interact and the little kids (ideally) can learn some social behavior from the older kids. The kids can also play outside whenever they choose. There are old comfy couches and reading nooks everywhere in the house. There are small tables on which the children eat organic, vegetarian lunches and snacks and drink water from their mugs (no sippy cups allowed, we had to go out and buy Clara a special ‘real’ mug for school!). Outside there are tree stumps for balancing and a mud kitchen with utensils for making mud muffins and all sorts of goodies. There are lots of real, old tools and toys and today when I dropped Clara off some children were playing bongo drums. The whole thing is set-up like a kids’ wonderland and is so simple and not state-of-the-art and I love it. No technology, minimal structure, free play, an emphasis on creativity and exploring and being outside. Even in the winter, Clara has been choosing to play outdoors for about an hour each time she’s there.
I could not be more thrilled.
I could go on and on but you get the idea.
What’s most important, though, is that Clara absolutely loves going. She loves her main teacher and talks about her constantly. There were no tears the first day (I was shocked!) and when I picked her up she grabbed my hand and showed me all of the things she loves in her new school. Then the next time I picked her up she wouldn’t put her coat on because she didn’t want to leave. We’re always the last ones out of the building.
While Clara is at school, Isabelle and I enjoy about an hour of bonding time and then I enjoy some free-time while Isabelle naps. And this extra time has saved me. Honestly, it’s amazing. Right now I’m typing this blog post in peace, drinking a latte, instead of chasing around Clara at a toddler activity. It’s heaven.
Not that we don’t do toddler activities – our Tuesday/Thursday/Fridays are filled with fun things we all do together. But Mondays and Wednesdays are the most peaceful mornings in our house. Isabelle can sleep in her crib (instead of being forced to skip a nap) and I can do whatever I want to do in the house while Clara is having a great time with her friends. Then I get so excited to pick her up and hear all about her adventures!
PLUS, Clara has already become much better at playing by herself while at home. And by that I mean she’ll do it for about 5-10 minutes. Hey, improvement is improvement and I’ll take it!
Even though I’m still not sleeping (which is another post for another time) I’m feeling quite refreshed these days! It’s amazing what 8 toddler-less hours a week can do for a person.