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 Post subject: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:01 pm 
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Sorry this is long!I love my daughter's school. It took my whole pregnancy to find this place and when I did I was in love. All the teachers had college degrees, the school is play-based learning with hints of Montesorri and utilizes positive discipline. They are also cloth diapering friendly and have vegan menu. They are also a multilingual immersion school. My daughter has been going there since she was an infant. But in the last 6 months things have started to happen that have made us seriously consider switching schools. They made the mistake twice of giving her dairy. The first time a new teacher dumped out her water and gave her whole milk (why I do not know, that teacher was later let go), she took one sip and spit it out the second time another new teacher gave her goldfish crackers. No one told me about to incident with the goldfish crackers I learned about it because my daughter became horribly sick and broke out in hives once we got home - as it turns out she has a dairy allergy. Every child's dietary restrictions are clearly posted in bold in every classroom. This raised my antenna, and I began to wonder what was happening when I'm not around. Then, over the summer, I started noticing a large number of teenagers hanging around. As it turns out the school has decided to utilize teenagers to fill their assistant teaching spots. Since the summer the turnaround in teachers has also been ridiculous. My daughter has had over 5 new lead teachers in just the last 6 months with an ever revolving cast of assistant "teachers." As it stands right now aside from her main teacher, I could not tell you the names of all the people who interact with my child on a daily basis. It has also become apparent to me, that, aside from her being multi-lingual (she speaks english, spanish and mandarin fluently) they aren't teaching her much. 90% of what she learns she learns at home and they always give me push back when it comes to reinforcing what we learn at home in school. As an example, when my daughter started to count to 20 and I asked them to reinforce this at school they said that counting to 20 was a kindergarten skill and they would not go out of their way to teach it to her (she'll be 2 in a few weeks). Conversely, when I taught her to write, they wanted me to post examples of her writing to their website, basically they wanted to take the credit for a one year old learning how to write even though they had nothing to do with it and discouraged me from teaching her. They wanted a "look how amazing our school is, we teach one year olds to write!" picture for their website.

The school administration is quite cliquey. I've voiced concerns about the curriculum, or lack of it and the teacher turn-around as well as some other issues we've been having with the school (I don't want to make this any longer than is so I won't list the other half of the laundry list of issues we're having). After voicing my concerns the school director and owner now give me dirty looks in the halls or just ignore me when I say hi, completely and totally unprofessional. I've spoken to several former and current parents who have all had similar issues. There seems to be more and more students leaving every month. If you've made it through reading it this far you're probably thinking "Leave!" but here's the thing. My daughter is extremely attached to this school, her friends and the few teachers who have been around since she started. She loves going to school and even asks to go on the weekends. We've also discovered that she does not handle transitions well. When she was changed to a new classroom with new teachers and students she didn't speak in the classroom for nearly 6 weeks. She didn't dance, sing, or really participate for nearly 8 weeks. My child is a MAJOR extrovert so this was alarming. Not to mention during the transition she began to wake every 2 hours at night again for 8 weeks. So above all the other red flags going off I don't want to make a huge change that will cause my child misery. We're looking at other multi-lingual immersion programs in the area and have found a couple great ones but it literally hurts my heart to think of making this huge change that my daughter just can't comprehend at this age. What are your thoughts you guys?

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:35 pm 
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First, I am really sorry you and Guineapiglet are having such a hard time. I know how much research you put into finding a school and how awesome the fit was for you at the beginning, and it sounds really hard that they are no longer putting in the level of care that you would want for Guineapiglet.

I would be concerned by (1) teenagers being used as assistant teaching staff instead of trained teachers and (2) the teachers giving GP dairy and triggering her allergies. It sounds like the environment isn't very supportive towards children like GP who are very bright and can use more challenging, as well.

I haven't been through this, so I don't have experienced advice to share, but it sounds like you want to leave, but are just worried about easing the transition for her. I wonder if you could take GP to visit the other programs that you like and be really upbeat and excited about them and see if you can get her interested in trying them. There maybe a bit of transition anxiety, but we have found that making something L's idea as well makes it a bit easier for her, and then we remind her "Hey, remember, you really liked X or Y. Aren't you excited to see Z?" And it distracts her. And then maybe go along with her for the first few weeks (if you can) and let her acclimate to the new school slowly.

That said, given that so many other children are leaving, the teacher turnover, the fact that you don't feel like she is supported in learning and you are not supported as a participant in the school (the dirty looks etc), I would definitely try and switch. It sounds like the school isn't doing well. I don't know what ATL is like, but here in NJ, I would be concerned that the other good programs would fill up rapidly, esp as the people who are leaving your school would likely be looking for similar programs, and those are not easy to find.

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:37 pm 
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Is there any chance you can look for an appropriate nanny (or two to tag-team, for the languages)? I say this because we visited a LOT of preschools before Malka was born and besides the fact that even the existence of multilingual immersion just blows my mind, there were definitely no places that would've been trying to support learning writing at 1 or anything like that. That seems like a very out-of-the-box expectation to me and something that might be very difficult to do in the context of a classroom of more typical toddlers. The idea of a "curriculum" with learning goals for 1-year-olds is sort of mind-boggling to me (as an educator!). Exposing them to lots of language (I am blown away by the idea of considering a 2-year-old fluent in three languages; I don't know any 2-year-olds who are fluent in their home language yet), opportunities for different kinds of movement, music, shapes and colors (but not expecting them to have any grasp of them, potentially for a couple more years), messy art, tactile experiences, sure. But writing? Not a chance. Even at 2 I wouldn't expect much more than that - if we were using a preschool I'd be thrilled with getting the above on a regular basis from loving caregivers. It sounds like you need something much more personalized. Nannies are also nice because kids really bond with them and it's just one of them.

On the teenagers issue, are they using high school students or college students doing internships? It is pretty normal around here where there is a teaching college to use early childhood majors as assistant teachers to fulfill their internship requirements. I would personally be okay with that if they were there in a consistent way (for a whole semester, for example). One of the places we visited around here had that as a selling point! High school students are a different ball of wax.


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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 12:15 am 
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Yeah, I don't think you're happy with this school and I think you're unlikely to find a school that does what you want. (Really, counting to 20 is something 4-year-olds learn. It's great that your kid can do it at 2, but most of her classmates won't have any idea what's going on. Same with writing, or more-so.)

If you're worried about the effect a school change will have on your daughter, do it now and get it over with. It'll be that much harder six months from now when she's had even longer to get used to it and as she enters the developmental phases where she starts playing _with_ other children rather than playing _near_ other children. Move her now while she's still very young-- either to another school, assuming you can find one that does what you want, which I have to say is unlikely, or to some kind of one-on-one teaching situation.

If nothing else, lots of teacher turnover seems very weird to me, and if they're using lots of teenagers, maybe they're having cash flow problems or something. Either way, I bet the school is in trouble of some sort, so staying there might not be an option before too long anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:20 am 
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Thanks for your input Ariann. We're not the kind of parents who push our kid beyond what she's ready for. But we are the type of parents who watch our child for signs of interest and cultivate that. She LOVES art, painting and drawing are her favorite things to do. She'll sit and paint or draw for 30-40 minutes uninterrupted. She has an incredibly steady hand and was drawing lines, circles and simple animals starting at around 17 months. Since she had such a steady hand we thought "hey, let's see if she can write." When I started teaching her to write I didn't really have any expectations but she picked it up quickly. Same with numbers, letters, spelling, etc. Both her father and I come from families of mostly educators so this didn't seem out of the ordinary to us. A nanny just isn't an option for us. Putting her in a one on one situation would seem more like punishment to her. She is an incredibly social child who loves going to school everyday and loves being with her friends. I wouldn't dream of taking that away from her. The other programs we're looking at don't see it as an issue that she writes, counts to 20, etc. One of the programs even offered to start teaching her to write in Mandarin as well so that really hasn't been an issue for us when looking at other schools.

They were using primarily college interns when we started at the school,which I had no problem with. But now they are literally using just teenagers, not college students. They decided the interns were too much work.

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:39 am 
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Thank you Tofulish! You're right, I do want to leave but I also want to avoid another painful transition. As I was reading your response one thing struck me and made me feel empowered in this situation. It made me feel empowered because now that we've been through one horrible transition we know what to expect next time and can do things differently. Staying with her in the new school was actually an option I thought about. I just emailed the director of one of the schools we are looking at to get an idea of what that would like. One school also offered to let her start during their summer camp to really just come and play and get to know the teachers and students before jumping in. So thank you for making me feel like an empowered mommy instead of a mommy backed into a corner by this situation.

It's disappointing, I think her current school would have remained a good one had they not tried to take on too much too fast. In the last 6 months they've opened a new location and expanded their current location into an elementary school. Coincidentally, in the last 6 months is when I've seen all the major negative things show up. They’ve transitioned some of the best teachers to administrative roles without finding replacements for them and it’s all just snowballed from there.

If we do decide to switch (which is likely inevitable). The school switch, without question, will not happen until the new school year (August). She just got over this last transition 4 weeks ago and there’s no way I’m going to put her through that again now. My preference is to make slow, steady decisions rather than just uproot her.

It’s funny, I didn’t think that anything she was doing or learning was beyond the capacity of a 2 year old. Every new school we’ve looked at has not batted an eye at her writing, counting, etc. We actually have the choice of a school narrowed down to 2 places with one being the obvious front runner for us. You’re right, we will need to make a decision and put a deposit down somewhere soon as programs fill up quickly. Because she’s considered a native Spanish speaker we also get a discount off tuition so I definitely don’t want to lose out on that! We have a meeting with the administration at the front-runner school in two weeks so we’ll see how it goes!

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:12 am 
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Ditto to what the others are saying wrt going with your gut. You're clearly uncomfortable with guineapiglet being there. The staff turnover is a really really bad sign, and is hard on young children. Even if your munchkin is handling the changes well, they are likely to have an effect on the classroom overall.

Are there any Reggio-inspired schools in your area? They would likely be more open to working with guineapiglet on her own level/need.


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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 2:21 pm 
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We have a nanny, but Malka spends huge portions of every single day with other kids, it's not either/or, it's just a matter of arranging playdates or working out with other like-minded parents a co-op situation. My approach to Malka's education is quite different from your approach with GuineaPiglet, though, so your mileage may vary. At this point our focus is on play and experience and not skills. I believe that developmentally appropriate skills come naturally at this age when kids have joyful interaction with loving, attached caregivers, and exposure to lots of interesting stuff in the world around them and lots of opportunities to play alone or with others. The nanny is good at achieving those kinds of goals for us.

I also like the feel of Reggio schools, they seem to incorporate the best of a lot of different streams of thought on early childhood and are really joyful in outlook. Montessori is also a good option in terms of moving at each kid's own pace, but I know there are kids who get overwhelmed by the sensory overload of Montessori classrooms. I think you have to decide what you might be comfortable giving up, though. No place is going to be perfect and maybe there's a priority list of what's most important and what's further down on the list. That might be helpful in your search for a new place.


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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:32 pm 
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Thanks again for your input Ariann. That sounds like a very enriching day. I'm so glad it works well for your family, for us, that just wouldn't work. However, it actually sounds like we have very similar opinions on early childhood education. Just slightly definitions around it. We are, without a doubt, focused on play and experienced based learning. I never really considered counting, colors, letters, writing, etc. skills more so as a part of learning and discovering our environment. For example, when we go out to the garden and pick vegetables we count each vegetable we started counting one, then three then five then ten then eleven then twenty over time. We reinforced this by asking questions like "guineapiglet can you pick 7 green beans for me?" and then when she was developmentally ready for more than one direction "can you pick 7 green beans and put them in the basket?" And so on. As I explained with the writing she showed developmental readiness so we tried it and she liked it so now she writes. We're BIG on developmental readiness and letting the child guide their own learning. That's why we love language immersion programs so much. She never really has to "learn" Spanish or Mandarin it's just part of the way she communicates. To her, everything has at least 3 names and that's normal for her. They don't "teach" Spanish and Mandarin instead it's the only two languages spoken at the school so she learns it just as she would learn English here at home. Her current school actually uses the Reggio approach (or at least they used to, now it seems they do whatever is most convenient for them), another reason we loved it so much in the beginning. Everything used to be so different before they added this new school and started the elementary school. A classic example of doing too much too soon. They also have a new "education consultant" who I believe is behind many of the changes.

Thanks so much for your perspective! It's always nice to hear what's working for other people. Guineapiglet is our first child so what works for her might not work for our next child so it's great to have different perspectives to pull from in the future if needed.

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:48 pm 
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refinnej wrote:
Ditto to what the others are saying wrt going with your gut. You're clearly uncomfortable with guineapiglet being there. The staff turnover is a really really bad sign, and is hard on young children. Even if your munchkin is handling the changes well, they are likely to have an effect on the classroom overall.

Are there any Reggio-inspired schools in your area? They would likely be more open to working with guineapiglet on her own level/need.


I totally agree! The school she is at used to be Reggio which is a big part of what attracted us to the school. It's still an adjustment to look at other schools and see a more "classroom" environment with no dramatic play area, no house area, etc. I hadn't even thought about it but I'll ask our "front runner" school more about the model that inspires their learning. On our first meeting with this new potential school their theory of teaching sounded more Reggio in approach and very individualized and their 1 and 2 year old classrooms looked more set up this way as well (definitely more inspired than true to the method) but they start what I believe the director called directed learning or something along those lines around 3. She said that it was completely child paced but I definitely am going to ask further about it. The kids who were doing the directed learning were definitely able to sit longer than guineapiglet does at this stage! :) The only thing she'll sit and do for long periods of time is draw and write other than that she's on the move! The more true to Reggio programs are either too far away from us, way too expensive or both.

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:17 pm 
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It sounds like you haven't met with a lot of success expressing your concerns, but what if you gathered some of the other parents who are concerned about it and asked to meet with the principal/director as a group? If more and more people are leaving because of the changes it seems stupid for them to ignore that. I understand wanting to stick it out until the end of the year, but if they're driving people away you might want to start looking around and getting on wait lists for other options..


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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:24 pm 
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annak wrote:
It sounds like you haven't met with a lot of success expressing your concerns, but what if you gathered some of the other parents who are concerned about it and asked to meet with the principal/director as a group? If more and more people are leaving because of the changes it seems stupid for them to ignore that. I understand wanting to stick it out until the end of the year, but if they're driving people away you might want to start looking around and getting on wait lists for other options..


I tried this method when we had an issue with a biter at the school biting all the children in my daughters class. We went to the administration individually then as a group. Finally they had a big parent meeting about it. Having the meeting was great and all but they didn't bend on their policies at all. Thankfully that situation ended up resolving itself. The school is living off it's past reputation at this point and has a very long waiting list for every class so I don't think the administration really cares at this point who comes and goes as long as they have enough students in place at all times to bring in the money. And quite honestly, they are done hearing anything I have to say. I think I've been dubbed the trouble maker since I'm not shy about expressing my displeasure.

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:46 pm 
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UPDATE! We descending upon the potential new school like an army. My fiance, my parents and I all went to the appointment. Overall, everyone loves the school and thinks it would be a good fit. It was great having my mom there since she has been in special education for over 40 years both in the classroom and now in administration so she had a million fantastic questions I would have never thought of and saw things in a completely different way than I would have. Since this would be the school she would be at until 5th grade we got a chance to really dig into the curriculum for Pre-K3 through 5th grade and observe each classroom for an extensive period of time. For me, the biggest con of the school is it's school hours 8am to 4pm. Right now guineapiglet is only at school from 9 to 3. I can't imagine losing those 2 hours just yet. We'd be looking to start the Pre-K3 program this fall and the school administration felt good about that based on where she's at right now. They gave us a list of things she would need to be proficient at by the fall (August) and their standards are definitely higher than our current school, which I'm happy to see. It looks like the only thing we'll need to work on is her numbers and potty training. She needs to be able to count to 31 (and conceptualize what that means) and be potty trained. She just turned two so I think getting her potty trained by August is a good goal. They do break out groups throughout the day for reading and writing so she would just go with the Pre-K4 year olds when it came to writing. Other than the school hours (which are mandatory) our only other concern is the location. They will be moving to a new location in the fall to accommodate the three new grades they will be introducing so before we can make any concrete decisions we need to know where they are going to be located.

As far as the school guineapiglet is currently at. Some positive changes have happened. It seems the administration responds better when they get a lot of separate complaints rather than a collective parent voice. I've had discussions with several parents who have gone to the administration about the same concerns I have and I have seen a change in the last week which is great, but we'll see how long these changes actually stay in place. Either way it goes, my mind is basically made up. Even with the small changes I'm seeing now they would have a very long way to go before they were the school that we signed up for originally. So that's where we are now.

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2013 5:07 pm 
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At her age she should be able to count that high and be potty trained by August. Grey is 28 months and counts to 20 and has been potty trained since he was 22 months and I don't think Grey is an advanced kid or anything. He also only goes to school 12 hours a week and that started at 23 months. I'm glad you found something that meets your standards!


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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:18 pm 
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Thanks Littlebear! I thought it was so strange that the school we're leaving was making such a big deal out of her counting to 20, she's been doing it for months and it hardly seems like a 5 year old skill. So I was really glad when this new school had counting to 31 as a requirement before you can enter pre-K3. I'm not an education expert at all, just a parent, but from where I'm sitting it seems like this is an age where it is so easy to learn just about anything. I get the fact that she can write is a out of the norm but other than that she's just your average 2 year old.

Like I said, I'm not in love with the 8 hour days (when I was growing up kindergarten was only a 1/2 day). Because of the multi-lingual immersion aspect I get that in order to cover all the material in all 3 languages it takes more time but I'm still not happy about it. I've already warned them that they might as well designate me as the room mom because I'm not ready to give up that time yet!

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 Post subject: Re: Switching Schools & Weighing our Options
PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:28 pm 
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Sending you lots of good thought GP! It sounds like you've found a great place for Guineapiglet!

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