Most parents of 2-year-olds in NYC are in preschool mode. We are getting educated – calling schools to find out their admission & application process, attending seminars about preschools, visiting school websites to read their mission, and talking with parent friends who have already been through the process.
Last night, I attended a free preschool workshop. It was an enlightening discussion on The Challenges of Toddlerhood and Preparing for the Transition to Preschool. Two local parenting groups united (ReziClass & City Mommy) to present Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum of the 92nd Street Y Nursery School, who discussed their book, “Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years” a must-read bible for parents of toddlers and preschoolers.
Schulman & Birnbaum are incredible educators. I can understand why they are leaders of one of the most respected and sought after nursery schools in all of New York City. Sure, their discussion included some valuable tips and best practices, but most interesting to me were all of the true stories that supported their tips. They didn’t just give you a list of bullet points. They provided real world examples to back them up. Some serious & some light hearted. For example, the ladies chuckled when sharing a story of a parent who was very worried about separation from their child at school (who isn’t?). The parent asked to remain in the room for a while so their child would feel more comfortable. However, as the parent remained hidden behind a newspaper to not be a distraction in the back of the room…they would slip a piece of chocolate to their child every time the child sauntered over to them. You can understand why this child did NOT want to get separated!
Overall, the preschool conversation could be one of high stress and anxiety, but these gurus made the conversation enjoyable and non-threatening. “There are so many choices which is a blessing & a curse of living in New York,” stated Schulman as her & Birnbaum launched into their pitch about how important it is for parents to VISIT the schools they are most interested in. I guess that is why during the admission process at the 92nd Street Y Preschool, they offer you a tour before even offering you an application. Parents should “make sure they visit a school…to see how it is arranged, is it a clean & welcoming space?, a healthy & noisy buzz?, asking questions about the discipline policy, teacher/child ratio, teacher retention rate, teacher qualifications, and how are parents involved.”
The focus of the evening discussion was on the five core principles that all children learn by going to school. These tips are discussed at length in Practical Wisdom For Parents: “At school, children learn to separate from their parents, they learn to be part of a group, they learn to socialize with other children, they learn to become more independent, and they learn to follow a routine.” Their book, a compendium of meaningful information including chapters on choosing an early childhood program to understanding your child’s development to separation to setting limits is a fantastic resource for all parents.
Schulman & Birnbaum’s parting words: “the children we know who are confident and feel socially and intellectually competent are the children whose parents support them by loving them unconditionally & setting limits.” Many tell you The Manhattan Directory of Private Preschools by Victoria Goldman is the one book to purchase in preparing for preschool. “Practical Wisdom For Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years” should also be considered as a useful tool!