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baby bunching nightmare: preschool scheduling

Posted Feb 10 2009 11:04am

Preschool mania has started in our town. Has it hit yours yet? The open houses are hopping and applications are flying everywhere. Many of you may be applying for preschool for the first time with kids who are two or three. But I would bet some of you are applying to get both kids in this year. Ok, this can be tricky.

My kids are one year apart  in school. For me, picking a school was all about the overlap of the two schedules. For many cities, part time preschool means the kids go the number of times a week with correlates to their age (three years old = three times a week). Many schools are nice enough to account for this and will have consciously adjusted their 2-year old program to match the 4-year old program. Since the MAJORITY of people space their kids in this two-year gap. (Ahem, that was not us.) So finding a preschool program that catered to moms with kids a YEAR apart in school was a bit tougher to find. Two year olds go two days a week (Tuesday and Thursday). Three year olds attend three days (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Yeah, my idea of preschool doesn't mean shuffling everyone everyday with no time to myself.

(Note: My hat is off to Cara for goingthis route this year with her Bunch.)

No, I purposely looked for a school that allowed for this overlap both last year and this year when I had kids in three and four days a week. Unfortunately, I still couldn't get the perfect schedule. I ended up still driving to school five mornings a week, but at least I had a day (or two) alone with each kid, and still had some time to write or run errands.

The dilemma when you're working almost solely by schedule is you may not be in the "perfect preschool." Something has to give, right? They way I rationalized it in my head is that preschool is about them having fun and socializing. It's all learning. And eventually, come kindergarten, when they're chained to their desks/tables they'll be forced to endure the American school system.

So here are a few things to consider:

1) Figure out what preschool means for you and your kids. If it's time to run errands, perhaps having one kid around is still easier than two. If it's time to yourself then that's another story.

2) Get the schedules from the directors BEFORE you start attending open houses. If the schedules won't work with your lifestyle, don't waste time driving all over town visiting schools if the times are inconvenient. I wasted almost an hour visiting the school when the director finally handed me the schedules (3-year olds go two days and 4-year olds go four--and never the two shall meet).

3) Realize it is what it is....it's just preschool. It's a time for your kids to socialize with others beyond their siblings. This is a good thing. My kids love each other, but they get tired of one another. A break from the other makes afternoon playtime much more fun for everyone.

4) Similar pick up/drop off times/locations are important. For a brief time, I pondered sending them to different schools to get the "perfect" schedule. Let me just say that three hours of time is not a lot time, and even less if you are spending that time shuffling kids to different schools with different start/end times.

So what I ended up doing for my kids, the past two years, was find a school that seemed loving and safe enough for them hang out and play for three hours to learn the basic social things and a few extras like the Pledge of Allegiance. All of this AND overlapping days. Bonus!  This gave me time to run some errands, go to a doctor appointment, workout, do some writing, or clean the house.

Let us know how you dealt with the preschool scheduling issue, especially if your kids are one year apart in school.

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