Pre-school: Our new routine
Can I just say that I think the topic of "schooling" is the most stressful part of parenting I've faced to date? (And I was so torn up over breastfeeding—oy!) I knew I was going to feel this way about schooling, too. The idea always seemed like a daunting process and involved decision. For quite a while, Tim and I went back and forth on whether we were even going to send Ella to pre-school at all. We just couldn't conclude if it was necessary or not. I had inquired into the pre-school program in our neighborhood but wasn't sure the schedule would fit into our growing families' routine. But lately Ella had been bringing up the topic of "school", wanting to go, play with friends, and have a backpack. I wasn't surprised. Even when she was an infant, Ella was independent. Never do I want to stifle her independence or her wishes, for that matter. And school had become a wish.
So we began wishing ourselves—to find a setup that worked for the entire family and one that wasn't financially crippling.
During our search, we landed in what seemed like a bit of a "God moment", we found the perfect set-up. Ella's in a small setting with 2 other girls who are close in age to her. I liked the idea of it being a small setup, and I liked the idea of her going out of the home to learn and play but that she wasn't diving head-first into the structured school setting at such a young age. For 2 days a week, Ella is at school for a full day, and she loves it. Like, actually loves it. On her off days, she wants to go to school. She runs around home yelling, "I have the best teacher in the world!" and makes "Ms. Mary" cards on her off days so Ella can give them to her when she's at school next.
The decision to send Ella to pre-school has proven to be good for the whole family as well. With a new baby coming in December, I've appreciated the opportunity to have one-on-one time with Archie. At first, Archie had a (very) difficult time without Ella around, but he's begun to look forward to his "mama and Archie days". Our routine as a family has improved also. I'm now better able to run errands since errand-running is far easier with one toddler instead of two. And since Ella has some (simple) homework to focus on her off days, we now have a better structure to the days when I have them both home. Though I spend much more time in the car (not a downside, but an accomplishment for me), I am thrilled with how the first few weeks have unfolded.
I'm happy we waited until Ella was 4 to consider sending her off to school. By having her home, she and Archie were able to form a strong bond, we were able to work with her on our own, and, frankly, one year seems plenty for pre-school.
I'm not yet ready to commit to any one path for schooling—public, private or homeschooling. Choosing public makes the housing hunt more stressful, private seems far too expensive (we're still paying off our own education!) and with a new baby entering our family, I won't be naive in saying I can handle homeschooling. I simply don't know yet. Each option has pros and cons, so we're appreciating what we have and facing each new step of the process as it comes.
For now, we're in awe over the fact that Ella is 4! And growing in ways we're proud to see. This process and decision is unique to and different for every family, but I'm grateful to have found a path that both Tim and I are happy with. As we stand here and now Ella is as happy as can be, too. And that's all we can really ask for.