Toddler talk Society

Preschool admissions and parents' dilemma

The high-stress world of preschool admissions can be quite a revelation to the first-time parent

If there’s one thing you get used to early in parenthood, it’s a sense of absolute cluelessness. And panic. Yes, lots of panic. You might have been a sage know-it-all in your PPL (that’s Pre-Parenting Life, otherwise known as “That time when I actually had a life”), but you quickly realise that chilled out self is long gone. It hits you sometime around 3 a.m. on the third or fourth consecutive night that your newborn has been screaming non-stop, when you have absolutely no clue what’s wrong or what you should do or whether you’ll actually get a full night’s sleep again – your days of being in charge and knowing all the answers are gone.



Fast forward a year or so ahead. You’re just starting to feel smug about having some things down pat – you can now bathe, feed and clothe your child successfully – and bam! you’re hit with the next wave of panic, otherwise known as preschool admission time. I was just hanging out at the playground one evening, chilling with other moms, pleased to see my daughter braving the slide at last, when someone dropped the bomb casually: “So what school have you decided on?”



I blinked a few times, my stomach sinking to the soles of my shoes. “Uhm, school?” I said, trying to play it cool. My kid was just one-and-a-half, and my idea of successfully planning for her future was deciding on what would be for dinner that night.



“Yes, we’re planning on putting our little one in…” She listed a school that drew gasps of appreciation all around, and as all the other moms chimed in, I stood there, my heart beating fast as a whole new world was unveiled before my horrified eyes.



It’s a scary world, one in which people in the know register at elite pre-schools while their children are still in zygote form (true story), and in which pre-KG admissions can come with a whopping price tag of Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 lakh. It’s a world where there are no givens, and where, for months in advance, anxious parents throw around words like “influence”, “quotas” and “admission interviews” whenever they meet socially.



Midway through the conversation, I was hyperventilating. Oh my god, what sort of horrible parent was I? What if this meant my child would never go to Harvard and that her dreams of world dominion would be dashed before they even got off the ground? So I did the only thing I could. I ran straight into the arms of my Mommy Guru. Everybody has a one. It’s that sensible friend who has kids a little older than your own and who, having done it all before you just recently, is something of a Parenting Oracle to you. My conversations often begin and end with the words “But Mommy Guru says...”



She sat me down, and gave me herbal tea and the sort of gyan only those who’ve been on the parental battleground for years can. Fortified, I set out on my battle. I headed straight for Google, and made a painstaking shortlist out of the array of preschools in my area. There were Montessori and just-claiming-to-be-Montessori schools, the shiny new kids of the block and the grand old dames of the education circuit, the neo-hippie schools with classrooms under banyan trees and the structured, it’s-never-too-early-for-exams schools. I made endless calls and appointments. For weeks, I visited schools till my head was spinning.



Still I dithered, undecided. The more I asked around, the more hair-raising stories I heard. The child who got severely dehydrated after going to one school. The child who’s being beaten and called names in the other. I even briefly contemplated home schooling out of desperation. Eventually, after much obsessing, soul-searching and hair-greying, I whittled the list down to two or three options.



Now when the “which school” discussion comes up, I’m a positive fount of information, and when I see the terrified look on the face of a mom who’s just being initiated into the process, I pat her on the shoulder with a pitying, “there, there.”



Of course, it’s hardly like I’m out of the woods yet. We’ve only just about decided on a small, cosy playschool nearby for my daughter to attend this year. Next, we’re going to have to whip out the really big guns to try and get her into a mainstream school for LKG. All the while, of course, worrying about whether she’s get in, whether it’s the right school for her, and whether we’ve made the right choices after all…



PRACTICAL TIPS



-Choose a pre-school that’s close to home. Proximity is key



-Visit the schools, meet the principal if possible, and ask to see the premises



-Don’t go by hype or reputation alone – talk to other parents about their experiences



-Keep in mind your child’s personality and needs



-Trust your gut instinct

Divya Kumar is a free-lance journalist and stay-at-home mom. When she's not hanging out with her two-year-old daughter, she can usually be found writing and posting about her online

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 2:45:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/preschool-admissions-and-parents-dilemma/article6049424.ece

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