It’s funny that I have read just about everything there is to read about early childhood education these past few years, yet I couldn’t have been more unprepared when the time came for me to look for a preschool. Straight off, my choices were narrowed when I missed deadlines I didn’t know existed. I had no idea that in D.C., January is nearly too late to start thinking about where a 1-year-old might go in the fall. Narrowed, again, by the 2.5-year-old cutoff at a few schools, and by the mandatory five-day (and $13,000) commitments at others. We took a few tours, ranging from the earthy church basement free-for-all where yoga and Brazilian martial arts are taught weekly and playground toys are banned because they might stifle the imagination, to the elite, solemn Montessori where the tour guide said, “We don’t believe in make-believe here.” Play kitchens are not for playing kitchen but for squeezing real oranges and washing hands from a real water pitcher.
Actually, I could see Milo at any of these places. At the first school his creativity would surely blossom; at the second he would learn to complete tasks and explain the functions of rivers. Do you pick a preschool that will highlight your child’s strengths, or work on his weaknesses? At age 1, do you even know what his strengths and weaknesses are?
In the end, we chose a preschool not so much because it felt warm and familiar but because of its schedule and location and because our friends were sending their son there—the almost-haphazard, logistically centered way many of us make important life choices. In my privileged case that works fine because my choices are typically among perfectly good options. And hooray, we just got our acceptance letter. (Didn’t think I would have to use that phrase for 16 years.) Milo will just have to learn his capoeira at home.