Thursday, September 8, 2011

nursery school nuttiness

Yesterday I was talking to a fellow mama who's daughter is a few months older than the turtle. She said she and her partner had been out of town but returned on Monday because "You know what Tuesday was?" And I thought, "Ohhh yyeess...Tuesday."

For those of you who don't know; the day after labor day is the day that parents call nursery schools to request applications. That's right, to request applications.

Chris and I did not make calls. 

Now to be honest, there are limited "two-year" (as in "for two-year olds") programs. And many families wait until three. So, it's not so odd that we weren't playing the call and call again game earlier this week. But we won't do it next year either. Or the year after that. That's right, we're avoiding the nursery school nuttiness.

Now before you leave hate-comments, know that I'm not saying that the families who opt to go this route are nutty. I'm certain that, like Chris and I, they are trying to make the best decisions for their children. And, I agree, NYC options are few and far between. So, no the families aren't nutty (at least not all of them) but the process is. Just check out Nursery University  to see what these poor families and their children have to go through to get into the "right" school. The emotional and financial drain that result is mind-boggling.

"But Angie, you're an educator. Don't you want the best for your child?" Is that the question you're asking? It should be. The good news, I have an answer.

I do want the best for my child. But this isn't it. Chris and I have a lot of concerns about the educational environment found in many of NYC's kindergarten-prep schools. The focus on testing is of particular concern. That's right, many of the nursery schools put a great deal of focus on preparing students for Early Childhood Admissions Assessments (ECAA) also known as the E.R.B.  In fact, lawsuits have been filed against schools who don't seem to adequately prepare students for a competitive elementary school admission process. New York Magazine's article Failing at Four provides a nice snapshot of this toddler testing phenomenon.  The fact is, I'm concerned what kind of impact this early testing will have on my happy, energetic and confident son.

Chris' and my life choices are testaments to our belief in education. And it would break my heart to have a son who doesn't love to learn. Quite frankly, I worry that a results-based structure at such an early age will take the wind out his sails. I worry that he may fall out of love with school before he even has a chance to see all it has to offer.

So what will we do? Are we concerned that not entering the pipeline early will impact our future choices? Sure we are. But will we let that drive our decision-making now? No. We can't. We will have to cross that bridge when we get there. For now, the turtle will swim; visit museums; play at the park; hang out the library. We'll let his curiosity drive our unschooled/pre-k experience. And for now, that just has to be enough.

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