But I think a lot of people like Santa Monica. A lot of families, in fact. The real estate prices, even now, are a bit shocking. Some sellers are deluded. Did they not get the memo about the recession?
But I digress. My real point is: there are a lot of kids in Santa Monica. I found this out when I started looking for a preschool for MetaBoy. Knowing that I would be staying home to care for the kids, I didn't give it much thought early on. I'd get around to finding him a school when the time came. But when MetaGirl was on the way, we decided to find a place that would care for and stimulate MB earlier than I had anticipated. He was 1.5 at the time, and apparently, I was too late to find a school for him at the 2 year mark.
But there are few schools that allow kids to start at 2, which gave me solace. The number of schools from which to "choose" would vastly increase once he reached 3 years. So I didn't stress, and moved it to the back of my mind for a few months. After all, MetaGirl was my more pressing concern. Newborn! Eek!!
When I got back into the preschool groove, I refused to drive him very far, so I was really only interested in local options. I bought a guide with all of the local preschools listed; they weren't all there. I went to the library, but most of their resources were for K-12. I went online and found several websites promising me a comprehensive list of schools, but they didn't. Occasionally, I would drive by a place that had a sign: preschool. And of course, there's word of mouth. Essentially, I had to take all of these sources to find out which schools existed in our area. Then, the phone calls started.
I called dozens of schools, and I opted to tour the ones that seemed appropriate. I toured 13 schools. We submitted many applications, most requiring a fee. Ugh. One had an "admissions day," which required for the parents and child to show up for about an hour, play, and have a story read. Essentially, it was time to show pony. The only thing is...I think the parents were being judged, not the kids. "Are these the kind of people we want to deal with?" It was creepy, and we hated it.
When all was said and done, we were wait listed at 7 schools. I found a couple of schools that were acceptable and had space for MB, but at similar price points as others schools that had more bells and whistles (e.g., garden, music classes, fun art projects), we decided to wait and see if our position changed on any lists. I called the schools monthly for updates. Some appreciated my letting them know that we were still interested. Some were obviously annoyed by my persistence.
Finally, we were offered a spot in a sweet little school, and we're finally happy.
After this whole thing, I'm definitely annoyed at the mention of preschool admissions. Thoughts:
- There are very, very few schools that care for kids beyond a few hours (e.g., 9-noon or 1-4). That is, they're not intended to function as a day care. So if you work, you're going to have a really hard time finding a school that will be able to care for your child for the full work day. That's tough, and I'm grateful to not be in that position.
- Some of our local schools have a celebrity problem, in my opinion. There are a lot of parents who want to send their kids to the best schools, and if everyone's talking about a particular school, it must be the best. On that note, celebrities who live in Santa Monica send their kids to...preschools in Santa Monica! Everyone wants to send their little ones to the same school Ben & Jen sent their little Violet to. But really?!? I went on a couple of tours where you really got the impression that the director had some sort of superiority complex because of the power she wields.
- Besides requiring fees just to apply to a school (I found they ranged from $50 to $125, but I heard one charged $200), the more popular ones have long, complicated wait lists. By long, I mean they pretty much tell you it's unlikely you'll ever be offered a spot. By complicated, I mean that some don't use the application date as the only deciding factor, but also take into consideration information the exact age, sex, and diversity of the child to make sure that s/he will fit into that spot just right (e.g., I need a boy who is 2 years, 7 months). Since there are a lot more boys than girls applying to start in 2009 in the area, this practice meant that it was harder to find a spot for MB than it would have been for a girl.
- I went on several tours where the child to attend was in utero. That's right! The child had not been born!! The most impressive one, though, was the guy taking the tour who said that he and his wife were trying to conceive. The director told him to apply now, if possible. Application fee? Ya, $75.
- The school that made us show pony was just wrong. We didn't know what to expect when we went, but in hindsight, it sounds like it's not far off from the experiences in this movie, which looks hilarious and I will have to see it...eventually.
- As I understand it, preschools didn't used to be this expensive or elitist. When parents started hearing that attending preschool increases kids long term success, all bets were off. That movie mentions a preschool in New York City charging $20,000 per semester (does that mean twice a year for a $40,000 total?!?) for what I'm assuming is 3 hours in the morning. Whoa!?! At that rate, college is a bargain!
- I had to remind myself to not get frustrated and keep the goal in perspective. I wanted MB to socialize, have fun, and learn some fun new things. Preferably, the school would provide him with projects and opportunities that we can't replicate at home due to a lack of space, materials, or experience. But at the end of the day, it's just preschool. If he learns to socialize and gets a head start on elementary school, then he'll be fine. All of the extra bells and whistles are more for the parents than for the kids; things to impress us and make us feel that our child needs these experiences. Some parents need to say "my kid goes to XYZ preschool." Some parents think that their kid will be missing out on too much if s/he doesn't get into the "best" school. It's important to sift out the child's needs...while trying to avoid putting yourself into debt for a 3 year old ;-)