At times, life for a family in Manhattan feels like it moves at a faster pace than the rest of the universe. We enroll our kids in music classes at four months, movement and art classes at six months and vie to get accepted into play groups and toddler classes that are deemed to be “feeders” to the best nursery schools in the neighborhood — the so-called “Baby Ivies”.
In Manhattan, preschool madness begins at 7am on the Tuesday after Labor Day every year. Anxious parents flood the phone lines of these bastions of the ABC’s and some schools run out of applications by lunchtime.
To get admitted to a nursery program, you need to apply the September before you’d like to attend, and the admissions process takes nearly a full calendar year. So, if it’s a 2’s program you want, you need to start the application process right after your baby blows out that first birthday candle!
Application fees range from about $30.00 to $200.00 and oh, did I mention that the average price of tuition at these programs is $14,000.00 per year for two or three mornings per week?! Seems a little extreme, I know. In fact, there have even been several documentaries made about this process!
We thought about it and decided to opt out for the two-year old program—since I’m staying home full-time with Chase, there really is no reason to send him to school before he turns three. We take lots of classes, explore the city’s parks and museums and visit family each week. No need to squeeze in 3 mornings per week of school at age two. I am completely comfortable with this decision, and I’m happy with the way our year is going so far without a nursery school program.
So, here we are a year later and in the midst of the madness to gain entry into a “threes” program. I requested applications from four local programs, which is an extremely low number—it is not uncommon for parents to apply to 10 or 11 programs (note: that is about $500 or $600 just to submit all of those applications!). After the essays are prepared and the wallet sized photo of your child is affixed to the upper right-hand corner, the application is submitted. The process involves interviews for both the parents and the children. The parents’ interview is dubbed a “small group tour”. What do they call the kids’ interview? Codeword: “Playgroup”.
Some programs require an individual interview with the parents in addition to the tour. We’ve learned through the process that since we opted out of the two’s program, we are less likely to get our first choice of program and time slot. This is because the current students in the two-year old program get preference for the three’s programs. I’m pretty flexible, though and don’t really think it matters if he goes in the morning or afternoon.
The most sought after programs boast individualized “exmissions” guidance. Now, “exmissions” may not sound like a real word to you, but it’s a real word inside the NYC preschool scene. It is the process, whereby the nursery school director can lobby to get your child a spot in an ongoing private school. Most schools begin private, one-on-one meetings with families starting when the child turns three to discuss placement for kindergarten! Since we are planning to use the neighborhood public school for kindergarten, this isn’t a selling point for us.
We have started our interview process, and so far there have been no tantrums at play groups. Chase has managed to actually have fun at most of the schools, and I never tell him more than that we’re going to a school to play for a little while. He seems fine with that. I tried to select schools that accepted children from a diverse range of backgrounds. I am trying to keep a level head in the process and not get caught up in it all.
Taking the long view, I have to believe that it just doesn’t matter where he goes to nursery school as long as he is having fun. When I was growing up, it seemed that there just was not as much pressure on our parents to schedule our lives and plan our education before we were even potty trained. But, I guess things have changed.
At the end of the day, I’m hoping that he gets accepted someplace that feels right for our family and where there is no pressure on him or us to be perfect. Because, let’s face it, its preschool!
This has been an original World Moms Blog post by Allison Charleston of New York, USA. Allison is a former attorney-gone-stay-at-home-mom.
Photo credit to http://i687.photobucket.com/albums/vv236/dgarci/PRESCHOOL.jpg. This photo has been used within the terms of photobucket.