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Surviving Preschool Sign-up Season

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Signing up for preschool is like trying to scalp tickets for a sold-out concert: It's irritating, ruthless and leaves you wondering whether it's worth the price.


Blythe Newsome: It is dark, rainy and cold when my alarm rings at 5:30 AM. Why is it that the one morning I have to get up so early, the baby is sleeping soundly? Any other morning, and he would be wide awake and ready to play.

I put on my makeup, fix my hair, put on the outfit I've picked just for this day and sneak out the front door. Everyone else is snug in their beds, sound asleep.

I pull into the parking lot, and panic begins to set in as I see that it's already full. Cars are streaming in behind me. I quickly get out, not wanting to waste a second grabbing the book I brought to read, even though I know I have hours of waiting in front of me. As I walk down the path, I hear footsteps behind me. Why did I wear heels? I speed up, trying to keep my balance and composure but not wanting anyone to get ahead of me. I see the long line of people standing in the rain and curse myself for not bringing an umbrella.

February is the month of the dreaded preschool sign-up. Who would have thought it would be so tough? Yet there are only so many slots for these beautiful little children, and it can be cutthroat trying into get one of those coveted slots. This year, at one school in my city, parents actually camped out the night before to secure their place in line. 

Here in the South, it's like having a flashback to your teen years -- complete with the peer pressure to have on the latest Lilly Pulitzer outfit, as well as shoes and jewelry to complete the ensemble. Let me assure you that at 5:30 AM, I do not usually look put together -- much less wear heels. Come on, we're all thinking, why can't they start sign-ups at noon? Or let's have it be a pajama party the night before, and just sign up in our pj's.

It takes strategic planning to handle preschool sign-ups. I am an old pro, having had children in preschool for 12 years, but I have to admit I still get anxious thinking about sign-ups. When I dreamed of having children, I never envisioned standing in line in the rain so that they could spend three hours a few days a week in preschool. Dreams of a few hours of free time dance in my mind as I stand there. All the moms smile and I say hello. But I know we would all happily knock each other out of line to get the last slot. It would be the WWE of preschool moms.

Then there is the cost. I found myself calculating how much I have spent on preschool. What with registration fees, supply fees and tuition for six kids, I could have sent two of them to an Ivy League school. Too bad they can't graduate from preschool and go straight to running Crayola. I have told my children that they need to do well in school so they can get a scholarship to go to college. The reality is, they need to get a scholarship because I spent their college funds on preschool!

I wish I could say my children will remember that Mommy went and stood in line in the rain to get them into preschool. Or that those nine hours a week (at the cost of a small island) will help them become fabulous people. But really I wish that they'd remember what I did to get them into preschool just so that when I get old, they'll stand in line to get me a bed in a great nursing home (preferably one where George Clooney is in the room next to me).

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara February 23, 2010, 4:46 AM

Or you could send them to a reasonably priced pre-school that doesn’t involve camping overnight for a spot. Coloring , number and letter awareness and cutting will be taught there also.

Sandra February 23, 2010, 7:25 AM

I moved to my current town during the summer when I had to register my 2nd son for preschool. I was lucky to get what space they had left (3 half afternoons a week).

Other moms later told me what they had to go through to get their child a spot. The preschool had a sign up sheet at the front door that they put up the night before. Parents would go there to sign up & stay overnight in their cars to ensure other parents don’t cross their names out. Yes, it’s competitive here in Jersey.

Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, it turned out okay. I’m able to teach my son a lot myself. The point of him going to preschool was to play with kids his age.

Gail  February 23, 2010, 9:19 AM

I have spent the night is a beach chair for a summer preschool program. I’m thinking we need to open our own preschool…there is obviously a demand. Nah…it’s much more fun to sleep in a chair out in the elements!!!

Anonymous February 23, 2010, 5:52 PM

It’s just preschool. Get a grip!!!!

Tara February 23, 2010, 9:05 PM

I can totally relate to this post. One of the previous commentors made it sound as if only the super cool “in” preschools have this issue of such high demand, but here in the sub-burbs of Vancouver that is not the case. I’m in the midst of looking at preschools and let me tell you that competition is fierce and lineups are long, regards of the school or its cost.

In fact, I am headed to an open house tomorrow night and I know I need to get there insanely early and this is not an elite list preschool either!

PlumbLucky February 24, 2010, 7:08 AM

Where we live, our local school district has exactly four sessions of preschool - no, that isn’t two sessions of preschool at each of the twelve elementary schools, that is two sessions of preschool (morning and afternoon) at two of the twelve. That’s approximately 100, maybe 120 spots at most? And they’re given in this order: “At risk” children (single parent households; recipients of WIC/public assistance; etc), then based on an income formula.

100-120 spots for preschool in a district that has total kindergarten counts that are more along the line of two classes at each of the twelve schools…that’s probably 50-60 kindergarteners per school (we don’t have half-day kindergarten, its full day only) times twelve schools…there is much more demand than what is available.

Which means…we’re trying to figure out what our options are for our son who isn’t even two yet. Even our private options are fairly limited…I can teach him at home, yes, but I’d like some interaction with others his age too!

HeeHee February 24, 2010, 8:36 AM

It’s just preschool; not a Bon Jovi concert which is worth camping out for!

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