Saturday, September 8, 2012

School for two-year-olds?

I remember one of my first conversations with a NYC mom. We were living in New Jersey at the time and church-hopping. (Well, we are still church hopping, but that's another post.) Hoboken had zero thriving churches, so we started going to Trinity Wall Street Church in downtown Manhattan. Some of the first people we met there was a mom and her three-year-old daughter, and one of the first questions the mom asked was, "Have you thought about preschools? Trinity has a great preschool! You should go ahead and put your daughter (Cora then only one year old) on the waiting list, just in case." I tried to discreetly get the message across that I was a stay-at-home mom with no job prospects and that $20,000 just wasn't in the budget for a two-or-three-year-old's preschool tuition. Apparently I wasn't straightforward enough with that message because every single time after that, this mom would always ask us if we had put our daughter on the waiting list yet.

Truly, this was very sweet of her because Trinity does have an amazing preschool, and it's incredibly tough to get in. And, as with all networking, if your kid went to the prestigious Trinity preschool, they have a leg up on their kindergarten applications to other elite private schools.

But this hyper-pressure to put kids into school as early as possible seems to be pervasive here. Some parents want, like the above scenario, their kids to get their foot in the door of a top-notch private school. Some want to socialize their children into spending more time with friends, away from home, in a structured learning environment. Some parents want their kids to be in a foreign language preschool, so they begin learning a second language. Some parents just want a daycare option that is more "learning-oriented" (although I doubt preschool and daycare are really that different).

We did decide to put Cora into a Spanish immersion preschool. She is two-and-a-half. This still blows my mind a bit. The simple Texas girl from the 1980s in me says this is ridiculous. Back in my day, kids started kindergarten at age five. Now we're starting kids in pre-pre-k at two?! But, you know, my kid loves it, and from 9am to 12pm, I only have to deal with the baby and getting a little class prep done. I do justify the expense because toddlers are capable of picking up a foreign language. Also, we don't really have many friends here yet, so maybe we'll make friends.

But is this a NYC thing, or is it happening in other parts of the country? Are there other cities and states where two-and-three-year-old "preschools" are becoming more and more normal? Is it because of working moms or wealthier families? If I have any readers out there who can provide me some insight, I'd appreciate a comment. For the moment, I'd better go order my two-year-old's school supplies from (because that's how we roll in Brooklyn, order everything online).

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