how we're surviving: applying to preschool
I know what you're thinking: wait, isn't Aveline only a year and a half? Are you one of those crazy tiger moms who is going to freak out if her daughter can't play the piano and speak three languages by the time she's two?
I, too, had (have!) many questions about the madness that is applying to preschool in New York City. If you're reading this and don't live here, thank your lucky stars. And if you do, godspeed, my friend. I figured the easiest way to tackle this thorny subject was with a Q&A .... with myself. So, enjoy:
OK, why are you applying so early, seriously?
I certainly didn't go to preschool at 2, but here in New York (and it seems across the country), people are starting to put their kids in school much earlier. Hell, I have a lot of friends who started their kids in a toddler school program this year, so by that metric, I am already behind the curve. In New York, though, the application process starts a full year before your kids matriculate. Some preschools that use lotteries to decide who gets to apply (yep) make their decisions as early as the first week of October. So, unfortunately, if you're thinking about it for September 2018, start getting your applications in now. [One caveat: check the age requirement. Some schools will require kids to be 2.3 or 2.6 or whatever by Sept. 1. If you have a summer 2016 baby, you may be closed out of some programs.]
Well, that sucks, what if I don't want to apply?
Then you don't have to! You have many options available to you: no school right now, for one. Or, you can choose to take some classes at places like Kidville or NY Kids Club [Peep my list of baby classes here]. Also, if your kid is already in daycare, a lot of them basically transition them to a preschool-like setting, so you're kind of set.
So, why are you applying for a 2s program?
Well, a few reasons. One, it can (again, CAN) be easier to land a spot in a good preschool applying for 2s, rather than 3s. Avvie is also very shy in class settings and I think it would be good for her to have the routine of the same teacher and same kids multiple times a week. Also, and this really should never be your first reason, but I'm being totally transparent here: a state-licensed preschool often has an "exmissions" office, which can help when you're applying to kindergartens.
I know, I know. I am totally aware of how insane that is. We also may not even go to private kindergarten since our local elementary school is very good. But if you're weighing all your pros and cons, there it is.
What about schools that continue on past preschool?
We are going to apply to at least one of those, but the wisdom is that you should really only apply there if you see yourself wanting to stay there until the school ends. Those schools would prefer kids who want to stay in the community instead of leaving after 4s or 5s or whatever.
Where are you now in the process?
We're going to apply to between six to eight schools, all within walking distance of our apartment. When I went to a preschool fair in the spring, most of the admissions officers basically said the most important factor in where you send your child should be location. This is preschool, not a master's program. You want your kid to be able to have play dates with other kids nearby. And while the weather right now is beautiful, that ain't gonna be the case in February. How far do you want to walk in dirty, gray snow?
Anyway, we've turned in almost all of our applications and now we're waiting to see which lotteries we made it through. We might not know where she's going until March, depending on if we apply early anywhere or not. Yes, it's just like college.
What happens if you make it through the lotteries/how does the process work post-applications?
Well, it's different for every school, but generally you'll have a school tour, a parent interview, and a child interview. A lot of schools also have open houses, so you can check the website for details on those.
Wait, you haven't actually visited any of these schools yet?
Err, no. My understanding is that the amount of applicants is so high, they have to do applications first before the tours (there are some exceptions). It's not ideal, but luckily there are organizations like Parents League to help you out.
What is Parents League?
I know if you don't live in New York, you're going to smack your forehead in three, two, one... Parents League exists to help you navigate the rocky waters of applying to school in New York. It's not just for preschool, but I joined a few weeks ago and it's seriously been invaluable. They hold preschool admissions workshops, you have unlimited sessions with an advisor to go over your school list and get more information on each school, and they send you this great book of all the preschools in the city (pictured above).
I did smack my forehead.
I know, I'm sorry.
Is it expensive to send your kid to preschool in New York?
LOL. What do you think?
How many hours is it a day?
Again, depends on the school. I ruled out schools that were full-day, five-days-a-week for 2s because I think that's too much for Avvie right now. Most are between three to five days a week either in the morning or afternoon. Afternoon sessions are often discounted because they're right in the middle of nap time.
You know if you moved to the suburbs...
Oh, thank you for that suggestion which I have definitely not heard before.
New Yorkers really are rude, aren't you?
Maybe, but it's worth it for the pizza.