Thursday, June 4, 2009

Holy journey

Don't panic, I have not gone all spiritual lovey dovey self aware on you. I am talking about my journey to find what at times has felt like the Holy Grail.

I wanted so much and I travelled so far, ok fine I didn't cross The Bridge but I did sit in a lot of traffic. Nobody seemed to offer what I wanted. Nobody seemed to offer enough.

What am I drivelling about now? Preschool. I am talking about finding THE preschool. Of course for an exceptional child of Tinker's calibre, I knew I would never find perfection, but I had a list of must-haves and dammit I wasn't going to compromise. Yep that's me, that really annoying demanding fussy mummy with the clipboard and checklist on the preschool tour. Alright I didn't have a clipboard but I totally had a list, in my head.

Being the thorough researchy-type that I am (you can take a mummy out of the courtroom but you can never take the years of law school research lessons out of the mummy) I wanted to make sure I covered my bases and saw all sorts of centres.

I started out viewing a preschool attached to a primary school. Not just any primary school, but an "alternative" style school. One without school uniforms, rules (they have democratic agreements instead) and one where all the children play together. 3 year olds to 12 year olds. I liked the philosophy in parts, I liked how homely the environment was, how passionate and interested the teachers were but there was no way in hell my Tinker was going there. I actually burst into tears when I got back to my car, I was so disturbed by the grubbiness, the idea of 12 year olds playing with my baby... and lets face it. I was a legal aid lawyer but I did it in Ferragamo heels, I'm no hippie and nor is the Tink.

Next I saw some not for profit community ones, meh. Then one that is part of a huge conglomerate of child care centres. Meh. Then I saw a nice private preschool that offered french lessons, specialist music classes and a really yummy menu but still, I wasn't blown away. Every day my girl amazes me with her intelligence, her gentle nature (except when she wallops our dogs) and for her I need to be blown away.

After more mediocrity I found somewhere that sounded exceptional. On paper it ticked all my boxes. For those about to start the hunt, I suggest you come up with your own list but in case anyone cares, here is my list (in no particular order)

* All meals provided, must be made on site by qualified cooks, no processed foods, fresh, wholesome and proper hot lunches. No lame sandwiches thanks.

*Stellar reputation and high quality results in the NCAC accreditation

*Extra curricular activities taught by qualified external staff (baby ballet, yoga, French etc)

*small class sizes with above standard child-teacher ratios

*Exceptionally clean and tidy

*Quality equipment and facilities

*Flexibility when it comes to tailoring activities to suit each individual child (some places have hard & fast rules)

*A transition class for 2-3 year olds to ease them into proper preschool classes at 3

*Parking and safe access for cars (I shudder when I see parents double parking on busy streets, it seems so dangerous)

*Kind staff who are passionate about teaching

*A curriculum that is constantly evolving not some tired old bag of lesson plans

*Gardens and vege patches

*access to animals/ class pets

*Regular activities involving parents at preschool

*Photographic observations of the children

*Proper toddler toilets. I saw so many places with grubby adult sized toilets.

Gosh I had quite a lot more but I'm starting to think you are all reading this and thinking I'm a complete nutcase. Anyway you get my drift. I wanted it all.

I am very very pleased to say that I found a centre that offers it all. 3 teachers per class, 3 small classes. Each day they offer a different extra curricular activity with specialist teachers (yoga, ballet, French etc) and they have a lovely art studio where the children can go in small groups 3-4 at a time to focus on special projects different to the ones they do in class.

All the children and staff eat together and the cooks were lovely, they happily chatted to me about the menu and once a week the children participate in the cooking. They have a vegetable garden and they have farm animals and while I was there I even saw a little wallaby. It isn't too far from home and only minutes from the school we chose for her so I hope she makes preschool friends who will also end up at the same school with her.

I could go on and on but I am certain you are all as bored as anything by now so I'll finish up. My little Tink will hopefully (we are on the waitlist) start there when she is 2 and a half. She will do 2 mornings a week building up to 2 days 9am til 3pm. The plan is for her to stay there til she 5 and ready to attend 'big school'. I am so relieved. My husband, not so much. He isn't as happy as I am that I managed to find the highest preschool fees in the country but I'm sure he will change his mind next year when the little Tinker brings home an "I Love Papa" painting or something.

So there it is, my journey to find the perfect preschool. I skipped the bits where I had to bit my tongue so hard it bled while visiting one of the mediocre centres. The teacher had made a big poster and stuck her little charges photos around a banner saying "Your So Special". I'm sorry but I could never send my bunny to a preschool where the teacher couldn't differentiate between you're and your. I also left out the centre where the director munched on a banana while she gave me the tour. Hello, it's not the zoo!

Opening this up for comments, is anyone else going through the preschool hunt? What have you seen? What have you hated/loved?

image credit lillington


  1. Wow what a hunt you have been on!!! Great that you are researching it well though, many don't!

    I am on the hunt for pre-schools for J next year. I have short-listed 3. I am fortunate that one of my good friends is the director at one of them, and a friend works at another, so I know they are great places in all respects. It's also good to know that my director friend is fussy about early childhood also so I just ride off her research!!

  2. God you are one step ahead of me and Oliver is one year older almost. I don't even know where I will be living then. Hints, tips would be appreciated!

  3. It's ridiculously stressful isn't it? I'm glad you found the perfect place for The Tinker in the end, albeit expensive. I blacklisted the places I visited in my search where the teachers had poor spelling & grammar!

  4. Wow you really do have some crazy upper-end requirements. Your little one is most definitely deserving of the best, but it was a little over the top to the point that I did think you were a nutcase at times! I thought your specifications were a bit extreme.

    That being said, your and you're would have made me cringe as well. As would have the full-mouthed tour guide. So, good job on passing up those schools!

    Shawna's Study Abroad

  5. You crack me up. I'm glad you found something you love - I hope the tinker gets a place!

  6. We are in the process of going through school enrollement interviews for M to start Prep next year. It is a mine field out there ! Lukcy we only have one good school to choose from and a whole heap of horrible ones ! Made the choice super easy !

  7. You are right, it was tough but I finally found somewhere that had the lot and more so I am as happy as a piglet in mud now. Kat they tell me she will get in by July 2010 give or take a month so it has all worked out.

  8. Wow! Those are tight specifications- honestly they all sound like spectacular things I would love for my own child but I have a hard time being too picky because I don't think I'd find something like that around where I live...and, even if I could, I probably wouldn't be able to afford son just turned two and I haven't even thought about this stuff yet...

  9. My daughter is in a "preschool" classroom now. I live in the states. Anywho, she started in their transitional classroom for 2-3 year olds. Then she moved in to this class where she'll be till she turns four. One of the most important things for me is to see caring workers who don't mind you calling for random things; you must feel comfortable voicing your opinions.

    Another thing that I liked was her school provides cots, not just mats on the floor. My daughter doesn't nap anymore at school, but the idea of her laying on a mat on the floor...not so much.

    The meal thing is quite important. My daughter doesn't eat much beyond beans, chicken and pizza when at home, but for some reason, she eats most everything they make at school!

    Good luck!

  10. I have a wonderful little pre-school that I put her name down once she was born. That's a bonus of my work... I have been able to experience the pre-schools and schools first hand. I know the directors and how everything works.

    I love Lacey's little preschool. It's cute. The staff are passionate. They've all been there over 10 years, and aren't stale. They love their jobs.

    We're pretty sure on here BIG school too. It depends on whether we win the lotto before now and then, or whether we have more children.

    Good on you for sorting it all out. x

  11. I haven't looked at any 'cause I can't find one round here. munchkin is just about to turn 2 and i cannot find a 3yr old kindy anywhere!