As a parent of two children under the age of five, I find myself constantly thinking about my parenting decisions. Should I have stayed home to raise them during these early years? Should I have worked harder with my second to make homemade baby food? Did I pick the right pediatrician to help me care for them?
As a member of a few “parenting” groups on social media, I know I’m not the only one thinking about these questions. I guarantee at least one of these questions shows up almost weekly posted by yet another new or curious parent.
One of the questions I see most frequently is a parent asking for recommendations on preschool choices for their child. Honestly, it was a question for me, too. Just over a year ago, my child was in a childcare center that, I felt, was a good fit. It was affordable for my family’s economic situation, provided consistent care with great hours, and seemed to keep my child engaged throughout the day. Yet, I was curious about how my child would change or grow if we enrolled somewhere else.
My family and I decided to do some exploration. I started attending the kindergarten readiness sessions offered by our school district. After all, it had been…a number of years…since I spent time in kindergarten! I also started looking into other daycare centers and private schools that offered preschool and kindergarten options.
Meanwhile, my child was happy. She enjoyed the daycare center where she had spent more than two years and the thought of her leaving made me a little queasy, especially knowing that the current daycare center offered their own version of “preschool.” Then there was the convenience. After my second child was born, we enrolled in the infant program following my maternity leave and enjoyed the luxury of a single drop-off. Hello, convenience!
But the choice to send my oldest child somewhere new seemed interesting. Our current daycare classroom had nearly 20 preschool students and the availability of alternative and outdoor space was limited — especially in our Minnesota winters. With so many students, it was also harder for the teachers to cater to the needs of the individual students — some were more advanced and older in age while others were new to the classroom and at a different stage developmentally.
After focusing on the priorities for our family, we ended up enrolling at Breck School. We made this decision for a number of reasons. First, the needs of our family were a priority. My husband and I were raised in the rural Midwest. The thought of my child growing up in a classroom of 20-30 students was incredibly uncomfortable, especially because my entire graduating class was 42. Right now her classroom has 16 students with two teachers.
We also felt there was great possibility with the move. Breck’s focus on learning and the brain through the Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education was a huge factor in our decision. Every other school we visited touted curriculums pervasive in the education landscape that were often based on standardized weekly lesson plans, whereas Breck focused on knowing my child, research-based practices, and an emphasis on child-directed, purposeful play. Breck also afforded large playground spaces, specialists in music, physical education, art, STEM, and chapel, as well as a great community.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also share that the cost of the education carried considerable weight in our decision-making process. Could we commit to paying tuition for our children for the foreseeable future? I honestly can’t answer that yet, but we felt like if there was ever a time to influence the way our child develops a love of learning, now was the time. We made the leap and, supported by Breck’s $6+ million financial aid program, we are making it work.
We are about four months into the switch and I’m happy to report the most important news: my child is happy — still. We visit her previous daycare center when we can, coordinate playdates with old friends, and share stories about our time there. We are also enjoying the experiences of her new school at Breck. My child has gained an intense interest in writing and has really learned more about resilience and self-advocacy throughout this year (but we’re still talking about a four-year-old here, so there’s always more work to do).
One more thought. I also think it is important to mention my own personal growth. Throughout this process, my eyes were focused on the benefit for my child, but I never really considered my own growth, too. I truly believe I’m a better parent because of this switch. Breck’s parent education has allowed me to learn more about teaching my child the importance of diversity and inclusion, managing emotions, and resilience, among many other topics. I feel supported in my parenting journey like I never have before and I’m so grateful we took the leap to find someplace new. If you would like to know more about Breck, I encourage you to visit their website for more information.
*Independent schools aren’t for everyone and I especially didn’t think they were for a public school, small-town person like me but I took a risk and I’m so happy we did.
For more information on a Breck education, visit them online at breckschool.org.