Parallelogram: Picking a Preschool

\One ex-pat experience explored from two points-of-view\

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Lisa\Montreal

What was your children’s experience of school before moving to Montreal?

Arlo, who turns five in December, started Madison Wisconsin’s Preschool of the Arts when he was almost three years old.  He attended five half-days the first year and then full days the second.  PSA practices the Reggio Emilia pedagogy and Arlo was exposed to everything from opera to guinea pigs to how chairs are made.  He was an engaged and happy student.

Happy Prescool Student, Summer 2014

Arlo at Preschool, Summer 2014

Farrah Star, 19 months, is home with me.

What kind of school and schedule did you hope to find in Montreal?

The exact same thing.

What kind of school and schedule did you find?

Arlo now attends Pre-Kindergarten at Bancroft School, a neighborhood bi-lingual (English/French) public elementary school.

Preschool

How did you find it and why did you choose it?

Our search began on a house-hunting trip at the end of July (we moved August 15) when we toured Montreal’s Reggio Emilia school.  We passed on it  and then discovered a tiny private school in our neighborhood called The Green School during a google search.  We toured and met with the director on our second (and final) house-hunting trip and enrolled Arlo immediately thereafter.  In both cases we consulted no review boards, no parent discussion threads on Facebook – we just toured and went with our guts.  It being mid-August we felt the pressure to act quickly.

When Arlo started at the Green School, things were fine the first couple of days but then deteriorated both for him socially and emotionally, and for what we received vis-a-vis what we were sold.  It was not a good fit for our child so I began a new search in earnest.

We knew about Bancroft because it is in our neighborhood and is part of the English School Board of Montreal.  If your child is Quebecois, he must attend a French school (remember Loi 101?), he cannot attend Bancroft (an English/French school).  I had to report to the ESBM with our passports, birth certificates and Kris’ work permit to prove Arlo’s non-Quebecois status.

IMG_1144

I don’t think we’ll be seeking Permanent Residency, especially if it means switching schools again.

Once I started with Bancroft, everything fell into place.  They had one slot left in the pre-k class.  Dealing with the ESBM was both efficient and pleasant.  I went to a cafe the day I saw the school and met a mother who just dropped her son off at Bancroft, her pre-k 4-1/2 year old son.  She spent the next two hours telling me everything I wanted to know while our daughters fought over a plastic train.  I relayed everything to Kris as it came to me and we decided to pull Arlo from the Green School on a Friday and start Bancroft on Monday.

Preschool

Your child has been in preschool for 8 days.  How is he doing?

Much better.  Much, much better.  Me on other hand … ooof.  As a public school I’m not even allowed inside and this is fairly devastating to me socially and emotionally (see what I did there?).   I understand they had an integration week at the beginning of school but since we came three weeks late, we have had no integration – not even a tour has been made available to me.  I HAVEN’T EVEN MET HIS TEACHER.  So as we wait outside the door every morning for the bell to ring I paste on my happiest face and kiss him until it appears inappropriate.

Because 250 kids pouring through the doors all at once can be intense for a 4-1/2 year old, Arlo feels overwhelmed (“shy”) walking in alone so we have befriended Clara, a sixth-grader who kindly takes his hand and walks him in everyday with a smile and warmth that makes this mother want to buy her that new iPhone.  I will – mark my words – and I won’t think twice about it because of all the money we are now saving by going to a public school.

I can’t believe how much I’ve had to write on this topic.  My god, preschool ain’t for pussies.

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Laura \Mayaguez

What was your children’s experience of school before moving to Mayaguez?

None.  The boy clung to me at every playdate, library storytime and crowded playground, until he found his own nook and owned it. My daughter stays home with me still.

What kind of school and schedule did you hope to find in Mayaguez?

A Montessori school. We’d done research and tours of Montessori schools back in Madison before leaving.

What kind of school and schedule did you find?

Monessori school. He attends 5 days a week from 8:30 to 1:30.  Eventually he will stay until 3:30.

first day he was only there one hour

first day he was only there one hour

How did you find it and why did you choose it?

 During our initial Puerto Rico trip last April, we toured the Casita Montessori de Mayaguez. I knew we didn’t want to live in San Juan. Truthfully, when I Googled Montessori schools in western Puerto Rico, it had the best website. Honestly. Seriously. I picked the school because it had a website. Ok, ok, not entirely. I got a great vibe from it when we toured it. Mr. D even seemed ok in the environment. They would literally hold his hand (or him) as much as needed until he felt comfortable there.IMG_0098

big ol' mango tree on the school property

big ol’ mango tree on the school property

Your child has been in preschool for 8 days.  How is he doing?

Very well. I’m so proud of him. The first four days he was teary upon leaving me and sat in his little chair of choice by himself and watched. The maestra Lourdes kept offering to show him things to do but he refused. So Trevor and I encouraged him to say “yes to Lourdes!” Finally he did. 🙂 He is slowly more comfortable around the other kids.  Though he thinks they are too loud and says he can’t remember their names.

I’m not allowed into the classroom for dropoff. I have to stay by my car.  But this probably helps him depart easier anyway. I have no contact with Lourdes herself, but the awesome main lady who runs the school gives me updates, even sends me photos of him in class. She has no idea how wonderful this makes me feel. I wish I were a fly on the wall to see how he’s doing.casita 3 casita 2

I have a tentative playdate in the works with a girl from his class. I met her mom at the first parent/admin meeting last Wednesday night.  Thankfully she offered to translate for Trevor and I. Her added commentary was a hoot too.

Lady P balled her eyes out the first day of school.  She thought she was going too. Next year my love…

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