Crazy as it is, preschool registration is going on right now. Last year we went to the preschool fair to get an idea of what schools were out there and what they offered. At the time I had no idea what kind of school Logan would do best in. It was an overwhelming experience, but I'm glad we went when we didn't have to make a decision.
Over the last year many of our friends have enrolled their kids in preschool. In our Club, there seems to be an even split between two schools, one is a co-op the other is not. Both are run by churches and are Christan based curriculum. This was a problem for me, so I continued my search for a non-faith based school that was affordable. Because, let's face it. It's preschool, not college. It soon became apparent that "non-faith based" and "affordable" were not an option. The schools that I liked that I thought Logan would do well in were EXPENSIVE. Anywhere from $400-$600 a month and some were more. The university has an amazing early childhood development program, but it's $40 a day, $28 for half day. Yeah, that's not in our budget. None of the schools that I liked fit into our budget. This really rubbed me the wrong way.
I'm a believer that religion and school shouldn't mix. If a family practices a certain faith, wonderful. Keep the teachings at home or at church as it is the responsibility of the parents and the family to develop those values and practices. It has no place in school, even private school. Preschool is a place to learn the foundation of education - reading, science, math - not a place to learn about how Jesus loves them or that they are a child of God. That is what church is for. At this age they have no idea what religion really is, they are just accepting what they are being taught. In my eyes, teaching children religious practices without them truly understanding isn't right. If they still believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and monsters under the bed, they are unable to discern them from deity.
Never in a million years did I think I would begin having discussions about religion with my three year old. It's my philosophy that religious beliefs are such a personal choice, nobody should try to influence or convert anyone one way or another. This includes me teaching my kids about different religions. Just as I have issues with others indoctrinating my children, I can't in good conscious tell them that any religion is wrong. Even with my experiences with the LDS church and organized religion. Spirituality is a journey they must go on on their own to discover for themselves. It's my job to help them with that discovery by letting them experience everything possible so they can make the best choice for themselves.
So, even though Logan only knows Jesus from when I stub my toe, find that he's thrown cat food all over the playroom or I'm about to staple his pants to his butt ("Jesus Christ! Put your pants on NOW!"), I talked to all of my friends in great detail about their experiences at one of the two schools. Everyone raved about the non co-op school, about the education, the teachers and the experience. I asked about how much Christianity was taught, and was assured that it wasn't much. There was a Christmas pageant and they learned about how Christmas was Jesus' birthday (ehhh, hmmm, ok) and that they said a simple blessing before snack time. Whoa. Blessings before snack? Not for us! When that was mentioned, I stopped considering the school and even began to think that if we couldn't afford a non-faith based school, then maybe we wouldn't send Logan to preschool at all.
Over the course of a few weeks, most everyone in our playgroup had chosen this school to go to. I was still stuck in my decision. I started to feel anxious about it all, not knowing what we were going to do. I continued to talk to everyone about their choice and what influenced them. At the 3 Boys Turning 3 birthday party, one of my Jewish friends told me that she switched her daughter to this school. I talked to her about the religious differences and she said that this school was actually pretty relaxed compared to other preschools that she had toured. I really appreciated her opinion and decided to go ahead and tour the preschool myself.
When I called yesterday morning to schedule a time for the tour, I briefly talked to one of the teachers about my agnosticism and Logan's current lack of religious teachings. She told me that there were students of varying faiths - Jewish, Atheist and Hindu to name a few - and that while the teachers may be Christian's themselves, they all attend different churches. I felt a lot better after speaking with her. It seemed that they had a well-rounded environment where the kids were taught about all different faiths rather than being force-fed The One And Only.
This morning we all went to check it out. We got there just in time. They were just getting ready for snack time. All of the kids were lined up to go wash their hands and one of the three teachers invited Logan to join the class so he could have snacks with them. He readily ran off, fitting right in. While the kids were preparing for snacks, Bill and I spoke with one of the teachers about the class activities they had done that morning and I noticed that they were eating glazed donuts for snack today (because it was someones birthday) and talked to them at length about food allergies. When the kids came back, they all sat at their tables (Logan ate crackers and milk) and Bill, sleeping Carter and I stood back and observed. They said a quick blessing, which was very informal and pretty innocent.
Logan LOVED being in school. He had a few friends in the class already, but that didn't even matter. He knew exactly what to do, what was expected of him and he was SO FREAKIN' CUTE! After snacks, the kids sat down to read books for a little bit, with Logan wiggling his way to the front and quietly sitting on the floor. Then they all lined up to go into the next room for circle time with Logan at the front of the line. I was impressed to see how his preschool prep classes had truly prepared him for this experience. I am so glad we did those for him. It was amazing to see how comfortable he was in the environment and he seemed not only to fit right in, but ahead of the game in some aspects.
While the kids went with one teacher for circle time, Bill and I stayed back and spoke with the other two teachers for a while. We talked about the curriculum and discipline and then I talked to them some more about the religious aspects. It turns out that some of the teachers had been either atheist or agnostic at some point in their lives and knew how I felt about it all. All of my concerns were easily put to rest as I felt comfortable with him learning about these practices in class since it was so relaxed and not a central focus of their school day. It was very well-rounded and as long as he had the opportunity to learn about ALL different faiths, I was fine with it.
Bill filled out the application and wrote the check for tuition. It was a done deal. We found the preschool for Logan and lucky for him (not that it really matters), he will have at least five friends from playgroup and The Club, if not more, in the same class with him. We gathered our things and were getting ready to leave just as the class was about to start a craft project. Logan was very upset that we were leaving. "I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE SCHOOL!" he protested. I had to bribe him with chocolate milk at home to get him to leave without a massive melt down. Really, this is a good sign.