Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Preschool Panic: Live and Learn

Too cool for (pre)school
Basically preschool is the bane of my existence.  We're waiting to hear back from one of the schools we applied to on our post-rejection second round, but the good news is that we did, finally, get accepted somewhere.

It's practically a Passover miracle, if that's even a thing.

I'm going to be honest with you here, it totally sucks to be scrambling at the last minute trying to find a school for your kid that's good enough.  Forget first choice, or second choice, or even choice; at this point I'm just happy to have a spot at a school where the teachers aren't on a Megan's Law list and they don't serve SPAM for snack.  In all honesty, the school we're still waiting to hear from is totally adorable and had I known of its existence a year ago, I would've saved myself some migraines and applied there in the first place.

The thing about parenthood is that it is 100% a live and learn type situation.  You really can't prepare for being a parent.  You can take classes and talk to people who have kids but there is no way to truly know how to do it until you're muddling through.  Of course this means that your first child is pretty much a guinea pig for every parenting decision/mistake/success, but that sort of goes with the territory.

In terms of the whole preschool process, I am here to tell you that I made almost every mistake in the book.  It's not entirely my fault - I couldn't afford to take many Mommy and Me classes, and, as a result I didn't have any mommy friends who knew the ins and outs of the preschool game - but I want to save you the pain of what I went through and share what I wish I'd known about applying to nursery school from the beginning.

1. Watch Nursery University.  This is a documentary about getting into preschool in Manhattan, but it absolutely applies to what happens in Los Angeles as well.  You will laugh at the desperate parents and shake your head at how patently ridiculous the whole thing is, but if you want to get into a good preschool heed the warning in the documentary!  Don't be a naive idiot like yours truly and think only crazy New Yorkers would go to those ridiculous lengths to get their children into preschool.  Oh no.  Angelenos are exactly the same, just with more plastic surgery and fewer black clothes.  

2. Tour early, tour often.  This is the one aspect of the preschool process that I got (sort of) right.  I started touring preschools way back when the Muffin Man was only eight months old, but then I got knocked up and got side tracked by having a baby and I dropped the ball.  People will laugh at you for looking at nursery schools when you're pregnant or have a newborn, but you'll be having the last laugh when you see some lady like me at the tour who is willing to sell her second born for a spot in the upcoming fall class.

3. Like a school? Work it. Work it hard.  Once you tour all of the schools you're interested in, there's a strong possibility that you will fall in love with one particular institute of lower learning.  If that's the case, put all of your energy into getting a spot at that school.  Find friends, or friends of friends, or even friends of your cousin's sister-in-law who attend the school and get to know them.  The more friends you have at your first choice school, the better, especially if one (or more) is willing to write you a recommendation letter.

4. Apply ASAP.  If your first choice school has year-round or rolling admissions, apply right away.  Don't pull an Anna and miss the priority application deadline at your dream school because life got in the way.  You'll feel like a real dope if you could have applied a year earlier and had a very good chance of getting your kid a spot just by being the first in line, but you had a second baby instead and then forgot.  Don't be a dimwit.

5. Give a little, give a lot.  Find out when the fundraiser is for your first choice school, and make a donation.  Yes, I know that I thumbed my nose at the practice of donating to a school that your kid doesn't attend, but the reality I was wrong; very very wrong (my Husband can't believe I just said that out loud).  This is how it's done here in LA, apparently.  I wish I'd known that if you want a spot in the class of 2015, it helps to pony up for the fundraising auction.  Donate your family's time share in the Bahamas, or even a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant.  On a tight budget?  Your time alone is valuable, so volunteer to work the name tag table.  It definitely can't hurt to have your family listed in the auction catalog, and we all know that the Director of Development definitely puts in a good word about generous families with the Admissions person.

6. Attend the fundraiser(s).  Yes, they are expensive, and a real pain in the ass, but you know what's even more expensive and even more of a pain in the ass?  Having to shell out additional money and  additional time applying to a bunch of back-up schools.  Plus you'll get to know people at the school you like and you'll have a chance to meet the Director of Admissions in a fun and informal setting.  Just try not to hit the no host bar too hard and risk losing your a spot at dream school number one because mommy can't hold her vodka.

I'd like to gently suggest that you try to fall in love with a school that goes from Preschool to grade twelve.  Otherwise you'll have to do this all again for kindergarten...and middle school...and high school.

Break out the Xanax, cause Mommy's about to have an anxiety attack.  

3 comments:

  1. I guess I'm glad that we live far enough in the Washington DC suburbs that this is not an issue. Also, we're done with preschool. Try getting your kid into the bilingual charter school though... fuhgetaboutit. Good luck on your next one!

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  2. Thanks, Amanda! I've heard the charter schools are so hard to get into so I guess that stress is in my future, too. Thank God for wine and Xanax.

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  3. This makes me nervous, yet relieved that I now have these pieces of information. My daughter is turning 2 in August and I'm hoping I can get her in somewhere by the time she's 3. I think I'm already late on the search though! I'm also seriously considering moving, because wouldn't that be cheaper than forking out money for preschools inflated price in LA? Ahhh, here comes an anxiety attack...

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