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How far would you go to get your kid in a good preschool?

woman wearing a cross

Brett Berk: No, this is not the name of a little-known John Hughes movie. It's a true story, one that came to me in response to an article I recently wrote about choosing a preschool for your child. The reader who provided the anecdote noted that the mom featured in my piece lived in a city (Chicago) that wasn't so competitive in terms of early childhood admissions practices -- she had a range of slots available to her -- and asked me, "What if you don't have a choice of schools, like she did?"

Living in a small, upscale, Northeastern suburb with only three options -- one of which was too far away for her driver's license-less nanny, one of which hung up on her when she called to ask about the length of the waiting list, and one of which was affiliated with a church to which she did not belong (because she was Jewish) -- this mom chose the path of least resistance: She joined the Methodists.

How does one go about converting to Methodism? Apparently it's similar to converting to the Method (as in, acting), or picking up some cheap AA-style recovery skills: you fake it until you make it. In this case, the mom simply showed up at church. She started attending Sunday services with her kids. She hit up a midnight Mass on Christmas. ("They know you're a Je-ew," her husband sang, inventing his own lyrics to "O Come All Ye Faithful." "They're all looking at yo-ou.") And she began teaching religious school. Say what? "I kind of gave things my own spin," she told me. "I rooted for Moses. I made up my own tunes to some of the hymns. And I didn't do so well on the pretending that Jesus was the savior part either." Minor details.

Did it work? Meaning, did her kids get into the school? Well, in a word, yes! "After I'd been teaching and attending services for a few weeks, I sidled up to the pastor one Sunday to chat, and he asked about my kids, and mentioned the church's preschool. I acted all surprised. 'Well, what a coincidence. I'm looking for a school for my older daughter.'" And the deal was done. How long did this charade last? "Let's see. The girls are three years apart, and preschool is for three years, so ... around eight years, I guess?" And after that? "Poof. I un-converted." Though the girls got really into Christmas, so they still have a tree each winter.

Is this fair? Faithful? Moral? And speaking of that, what's the moral of this story? I think it's something like, God Cheats, Why Shouldn't You? Or maybe, The Sins of the Mother, Something or Other. But perhaps you have your own theories. Let me know ... comment below.




next: Sarah Michelle Prinze and Freddie Prinze Jr. Have a Girl
25 comments so far | Post a comment now
birdsfly September 23, 2009, 5:07 AM

There is a distinct possibility I’m going to “rediscover” my Lutheran upbringing (long story there that involved custody threats) to get my kid into private school, because it’s that or Catholocism and I don’t have the records or time to be a Catholic.

Kirstie September 23, 2009, 6:08 AM

Birdsfly- many Lutheran schools accept children of all denominations. Despite being raised Catholic my brother and I both attended a preschool run in a Lutheran church, simply because it was a wonderful preschool (and today at almost 21 my teachers still remember me!).

Also, most Catholic schools, at least at the high school level, don’t care what you are. If you can pay tuition and pass the entrance exam, you’re in.

mom2lex September 23, 2009, 6:47 AM

Being a practicing Catholic, I’m not sure what to say except, “Yay for the kids!” that they are being exposed to ANY faith.

Pamala September 23, 2009, 6:57 AM

I’m not even sure she had to attend to church to get them in. My friend who is Christian is having her child attend a Jewish preschool. They didn’t care that she wasn’t Jewish. My church has a preschool and it’s not required that you be a member of the church to get into it. Heck most of the children in the school don’t go to the church. It’s a highly competitive school, and kids of all religions attend it (even though it’s a religious based preschool). So i think this mother sadly went to too much efforts, much of which she probably didn’t have to do at all.

Rachelle September 23, 2009, 8:05 AM

This woman isn’t setting a good example for her children. She’s basically shoWn them that it’s okay to lie, as long as it benefits you in some way. I also agree, if she’d just asked about the preschool program, I doubt there would have been an issue whatsoever. She went WAY out of her way to deceive a lot of people, just to make sure her kids could be there. Shame!

dean September 23, 2009, 8:10 AM

This woman has no class.

Renee September 23, 2009, 8:44 AM

NONE of our church-affiliated preschools even ask what religion you are. This is ridiculous. The story never says being a member of the church was required for admittance to the program! If there was a spot available when she “sidled” up to the pastor then there was one available for those who didn’t as well if they just checked.

And it really makes me angry that she taught classes for a religion that she didn’t even believe in. She should be ashamed of herself and so should the church who allowed her to do so.

Cheryl September 23, 2009, 8:56 AM

This is disturbing on many levels. She taught her children that the ends do indeed justify the means. Also that mocking someone else’s religious beliefs is acceptable - “method acting” - really?? Making up words to hymns during services? Would you approve of such behaviour in synagogue? I agree with other posters that this horrible behaviour was probably not even necessary to get the children in the program. Just sad.

birdsfly September 23, 2009, 9:45 AM

@Kristie, for the religous private school in my area (which are the only private schools might I add) it costs almost twice as much if you aren’t a member of the congregtion and most of them do not offer scholarships.

Rebeccer September 23, 2009, 11:59 AM

Mission accomplished, if the mission was to teach your children that deceit is excusable provided it advances your desires (not needs, desires).

J September 23, 2009, 12:17 PM

This must be made-up. My temple runs a pre-school and there are non-Jewish kids there. My sister-in-law is Catholic and her kids go to Catholic school, but there are kids there that aren’t Catholic. I think someone is just trying to make up a good story.

Theresa September 23, 2009, 12:52 PM

I suspect she got her kid in not because she showed up at church, but because she volunteered for things. Schools put this pressure on all the time.

Most preschools respect the fact that their students come from different backgrounds.

Depending on how she presented it in real life (as opposed to on a blog, for laughs), it *could* be a bad example for the kids. But It’s a mainline protestant church for g-d’s sake. You don’t have to profess the faith to attend church, and what % of members actually believe in all of the Nicene creed… and who seriously cares?

Theresa September 23, 2009, 12:54 PM

I suspect she got her kid in not because she showed up at church, but because she volunteered for things. Schools put this pressure on all the time.

Most preschools respect the fact that their students come from different backgrounds.

Depending on how she presented it in real life (as opposed to on a blog, for laughs), it *could* be a bad example for the kids. But It’s a mainline protestant church for g-d’s sake. You don’t have to profess the faith to attend church, and what % of members actually believe in all of the Nicene creed… and who seriously cares?

ame i. September 23, 2009, 2:02 PM

Our town has a private Catholic school & that school does charge more for non-Catholic students. There are 2 basic Christian private schools. Both require a referral letter from a minister with the application. Hello, I love my minister but I don’t think anyone should ask me to “prove” my Christian faith.
I chose the private university-prep school, one of the 3 top-rated in our state, for my older daughter last year when she hit 4th grade.
I feel that the teaching of our faith (Christian, Methodist)is my “job” & that of our church, not a school’s.
I don’t think I could “fake” Judaism and feel good about myself just to get my child into a school, much less a pre-school.

littlepeapie September 23, 2009, 3:21 PM

At my Methodist church, members get “ahead” on the list…kinda like first choice for the preschool…that being said, I am the leader of two groups and a REAL member, but I am still on the waiting list!

Chrissy September 24, 2009, 12:18 AM

My mother taught at a Catholic school (she is Catholic) and they didn’t require the school to be Catholic. a loty of catholic schools are hurting for enrollment today.
And I agree with everything Cheryl posted.

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