I believe I've already spent more time poring over enrollment applications and school information in my quest to find the perfect part-time preschool for Calla than I ever spent researching colleges for myself. Seriously!
At last, I think I've narrowed it down to two choices for the fall, and quite possibly one choice for when she is three or four and ready for full-time preschool.
The two choices for the fall are Natural Learning School, a Reggio Emilia style school, or Maria Montessori school on Mud Island. I decided against Evergreen Montessori, which Calla and I really liked, mainly because it doesn't go beyond the Primary level. If I want to keep Calla in Montessori as long as possible, she'd have to transfer to Maria Montessori after Primary. Why not keep her at the same school with the same kids from as early as possible? This logic is also one of the main reasons I'm considering Maria Montessori for the fall. Maria Montessori's facilities are undeniably nicer, newer and fancier than Evergreen's (they have an ampitheatre, for example!), but Evergreen makes up for a lot of that with charm, which cannot be discounted.
I was quite impressed with various aspects of all three of the schools I was considering, but one of the main reasons I'm considering NLS for the fall (and probably only for one year) is the fact that they have tuition pricing that allows for as little as one day a week. I cannot imagine Calla suddenly spending five days a week (even half days, as are available at the Montessori schools) away from me, and vice versa! My plan is to start her on two days a week, preferably half days, then gradually work her up to a full week and full days by the time she's near school-age.
Both schools will allow Calla to attend as few days or as few hours per day as I wish, of course, but at Maria Montessori, I'm paying for five half days a week at least. At NLS, I'm paying for full days, but as few as I want. So, all things being equal, NLS is a better price/value.
It would be a no-brainer if not for a few considerations. One is the idea I mentioned earlier about having Calla start at the same school I envision her most likely attending for the bulk of her education (pre-college). I do think, it wouldn't be as big of issue changing schools at age three after one year than at age eight, however.
Another consideration is just the scale and quality of the campus and equipment at Maria Montessori (did I mention the ampitheatre?), but I am a simple woman at heart and realize that to a great degree those things are superficial and not always exceedingly significant.
One more potential drawback for choosing NLS is that they will be beginning their toddler program in the fall. So, in a sense, Calla would be a guinea pig. ;)
Now some have told me, you should definitely go with the Reggio Emilia or you gotta choose the Montessori school, as though the school philosophy should be the deciding factor. Truthfully, I'm drawn to both styles because they both correspond with my parenting style. So, whichever benefits she receives at the selected school, she'll still be getting those other influences at home. I'm just looking for a school that will stimulate her and won't contradict my parenting style when she's there, and I feel both of these schools fit the bill.
So, as I write this, I'm beginning to realize that NLS will most likely be the choice. It's exciting to have an almost-decision. Before deciding for sure, I'd like to take Calla to visit Maria Montessori's toddler community next week and see how she reacts. I may take Bill to see NLS, too, and see what he thinks.
Either way, a decision must be made soon. Then I won't have to revisit the topic again until Calla is school-aged and I weigh the benefits of continuing Montessori vs prep school vs MCS optional program. That's a long way off, thankfully!
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