Friday, December 17, 2010

New Preschool

Today was K's last day at her current preschool. She'll start at the new one January 2, I think.

One point I forgot to mention in my first post on this topic is that despite the rigid attitude and possibly exaggerated expectations as described, they actually seemed really pleased with K whenever I talked to the teacher or principal. Even at the parent-teacher conference where we discussed the evaluation of K as a "beginner" in skills I know she masters well, we finished that topic and then the teacher talked about how great K is and how lovely she is during ellipse time and how well she's acclimating into preschool. So maybe they did think she's on track for her age, after all. No telling.

I don't think it was a total mistake to put K there, and I think the experience was probably helpful for her. Even if the teachers rarely spoke Czech to her, she had the opportunity to spend time with Czech-speaking children, so I think she's fully on board with the idea that some people speak one language and some speak the other - an improvement on her previous belief that actually, everybody understands both languages if they would just stop being STUBBORN. I think this school has served its purpose, which was as an interim measure, a halfway house between fully English school (and society) and fully Czech school.

But! All of that is behind us now. On to new things: Czech preschool.

It's still private, because our neighborhood preschool still doesn't have any spots available, but it's less expensive than the current one and much closer - three bus stops from home. Actually, it's 30% cheaper for five half-days a week than the other one is for three half-days a week. Taking into consideration the more reasonable cost, my steadily increasing workload (yay! and...whoa) and the fact that I don't have any supplementary activities for non-school days* like I did in England (no playgroups or other places to go to be around other kids), we decided to go ahead and increase her school days from three to five mornings per week.

It will be good for me to have more time alone to dedicate to work while K is out, and it'll be good for K to have more time with teachers and children who speak Czech. The mommy in me feels like K is still such a baby to be in school so much, but I also recognize that it's not good for us to spend all day home alone. The good things is the teachers at the new school seem really flexible and open to adjusting the number of days, so if we go for a few weeks and I feel like it's too much then I can just ask to cut back.

We've visited the new school twice now. First for a short visit so I could look around and ask some questions. My main impression was that it was nice but seemed disorganized, which I thought might be due to the time of day (half-day pickup, some kids downstairs waiting for parents, other kids upstairs napping). Then we visited again last week for about 2 1/2 hours so that K could experience part of a regular school day. I stayed in the room at first, but as she got more comfortable she told me that I could go and wait in the other room, oh and could I please not sing along with the songs the class was singing? Thanks Mom for not humiliating me in front of my new friends. I figured that was a good sign.

My second impression was that the school does seem nice and a little disorganized. But for me, "nice" outweighs "disorganized", provided they don't actually lose my daughter while I'm gone. And if it comes down to it, I prefer disorganized (but warm and relaxed) to strict and rigid (but organized). It's their first year in business, so things are still fluctuating somewhat, as the reality slowly comes into line with the vision. Some things mentioned on their website, for example, aren't fully implemented yet. Most of the children are K's age, both older and younger (i.e., 2.5 to 3.5) with just a couple of older children (4-5).

K REALLY enjoyed the visit and kept herself busy in the home corner and playing with the kids. She announced before we left that she will go to THIS school now, thank you, and doesn't intend to go to the other one again. She didn't comment on or seem phased by the fact that it was all in Czech. She definitely understands Czech better now than she used to.

I did ask if the teachers all understand English, and they do, which is reassuring in the sense that if K tells her teacher something important in English, she'll get more than a blank stare. They said they'll just speak to her in Czech, though, especially since they know she understands Czech. That's what I'd prefer, anyway. We'll see how it ends up working in practice, I guess. There are two other foreign children in the school (Russian and Ukrainian, I think), who started in September not understanding a word of Czech. Apparently it was rough at first but now they are much more comfortable and understand what is said to them, even though they don't speak much.

All in all I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm not expecting it to be perfect, but I think this school will be a better fit than the last. Anyone who's met us knows us we are definitely on the "warm, relaxed and disorganized" side of the fence!

* Especially now in the Arctic Winter of 2010-2011. When it was warm we could go to the zoo or park or castle, etc., but these days, if we don't absolutely have to go outside, we don't. It is COLD out there! And hard to walk on non-cleaned sidewalks.

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