Tuesday, August 14, 2012

School Switch

So as mentioned here, Claire is on her 3rd school in 6 months and Landon is about to join her- it's a good thing kids are so adaptable. (Side note on that point: yesterday on the drive home from daycare, Landon mentioned that we've lived here "a long time" and wanted to know "when are we going to the next place we're going to live?". He agreed that he liked Fort Worth, but noted that there were lots of places we haven't lived in yet, so you know, we should probably get on that. He inherited our wanderlust.)

We picked our original Fort Worth daycare ("ODC") in very large part because it was the only one we contacted that had immediate availability for both kids. JP and I drove out to Fort Worth one Friday to tour 5 schools (3 daycares, 2 elementary schools) and the house we'd just purchased (that we'd previously seen for 10 minutes on our only other trip to Fort Worth), and of the daycares we toured, ODC was our favorite (which was nice to not feel forced into the only place that happened to have availability). We moved on a Friday, the kids were at school at 8 a.m. that next Monday, and ODC gets a lot of credit for making the transition go so smoothly. I would absolutely recommend the school to anyone in Fort Worth. In particular we LOVED Landon's primary class. Neither JP nor I had any experience with Montessori schools, but it is a perfect learning environment for the Lanman. In his first month at the school not only did his learning explode, but his INTEREST in learning exploded. This is something JP and I had been secretly... discussing (because "concerned" is too strong a word) for a few months. Five weeks in ODC and Landon was jabbering non-stop about his "work" and his words and numbers and math and facts about the continents and geography and singing songs in French. He made a ton of friends and his teacher adored him. His teacher and that class are the reason we made the official decision to hold off Kindergarten and keep him in Montessori for one more year.

Claire on the other hand, had a tougher adjustment. She, for all her general feistiness, is far more wary of new people and situations, though once she's accepted you, she is morphs back into her very affectionate, smiley, and independent self. It's the two extremes of Claire. ODC is big- there are several classes for each age, and quite honestly it just felt like what I always thought a national chain daycare would be like. Not bad- it is bright, roomy, and has a deservedly great reputation, but it's definitely big and a little more institutional. That, combined with the new Montessori format, just wasn't the right fit for Claire. She thrived in our Austin daycare's warmer, smaller environment where every teacher knew and loved her, and where the front desk lady would steal her out of class so Claire could sit on her lap and wave to all the parents passing by. And while we didn't have a problem with her new teachers, we didn't affirmatively love them either. This may be in part the Montessori format, but there wasn't much interaction (songs, books, etc.) with the teachers, and while Claire did enjoy the "work" and the practical learning, I think she missed (or at least would have greatly enjoyed) the other fun group/teacher interactions. Still though, she had stopped crying at drop-off, seemed to be enjoying school, and had a genuine affection for her teachers. Plus, she loved seeing Landon on the playground, the school's facilities were very nice, we liked the director, and one day we knew Claire would be in the fantastic primary class, so we didn't think much about switching.

Then my co-worker mentioned she'd just toured a Montessori school near our house for her 2-year-old daughter. She and her husband had loved it, but ended up picking one closer to their home in another neighborhood, so they knew there was still an open spot in the toddler class. Suddenly I realized it was possible for our kids to go to two different schools. What?! It would happen in a year anyway, why not try it? I went on a tour in July, loved it, and JP and I decided it was the right thing for Claire, even if we had to separate the kids and deal with the hassle of two drop-offs several miles apart from each other. We gave our 30 days notice to ODC and confirmed Landon's continued attendance in the primary class.

New Daycare ("NDC") is much smaller- one class for each age, no more than 8 kids in a class (until primary, where there's 16). There's 2-3 teachers in every class and on the day I toured, I was so impressed with how much the teachers seemed to love and play with the kids. There was singing songs between rooms (the toddlers came in from the playground singing "the ants go marching" and it was adorable), a dress-up corner with mirrors and play kitchens, and just a much cozier atmosphere. It is not nearly as fancy- fewer windows, older building, etc.- but it was warm and happy and the director knew the name of every kid (and every kid wanted to give her a hug when she walked by). It is still a Montessori school, but I call it "Montessori light" (not sure if they'd approve of that term, but it does feel like a warmer mix of Montessori + happy church preschool (minus the church part)). Claire had her first day at NDC last week and we knew right away it was the right decision.

And on that same day we got the price list for ODC. Tuition had gone up and suddenly the already substantial difference between the cost of ODC and NDC was hard to ignore, and it became impossible when we found out NDC gave a discount for the second sibling. Switching both Landon and Claire to NDC would result in a $750/month savings for our family. $750 PER MONTH. And it's closer to the house, on the way to/from my work (instead of past it), and JP can be far more involved with pick-up and drop-off. A family at NDC put in notice that they'd be moving at the beginning of September and suddenly there was a spot the director could give us for the primary class, so we put in our notice for Landon at ODC last week. It's hard- we did love his class and he was doing so well there, but NDC also has a wonderful primary class and teacher and I think Landon's personality will thrive there as well. He makes new friends and just generally likes new people a lot more than JP, me, or Claire.

So that's the story. Right now we're doing the double-drop offs and I'm already very glad that's ending 2.5 weeks. Claire LOVES her new program- she hasn't cried at drop-off once and she is already singing new songs around the house. When JP picked her up on Monday her was able to sneak in without her seeing and observe their freeze dancing game which he said was hilarious. Landon is excited to start there too, even though I know he'll miss his friends and new teacher. Starting in September we'll have both kids under one school roof and we should be set on schools for a while - at least until May when Landon stays home with JP and goes to a few summer camps and then starts Kindergarten at a not-yet-determined elementary school in the fall (we want to lottery into a district-wide magnet school, oy). At least Claire should be good until mid-2015...


  1. Wow, that place sounds great. I am a big fan of small class rooms. We were looking at preschools for Jacob for a while and when we toured one with HUGE class sizes, I nearly freaked. It looked like a production line school!

    Think of all the shoes you can buy with $750 per month??!?!

  2. Oh, wow, that's a big lot of juggling you've been doing. We've never had to switch to a different daycare, but we have had periods when we weren't thrilled with a teacher or a class, and that's hard. If you can get better circumstances at a better price, it's a no brainer! I'm excited for Claire and Landon!

  3. Sounds like a great fit for your family!!! $750 per month savings is a ton! I had both of my older girls in Montessori - O for her last preschool year and S for two years - and we loved it. At our Montessori, classes were pretty big but there were tons of teachers per class so the student to teacher ratio was about 5 to 1. There were a lot of songs too but the Montessori experience varies a lot from school to school. Toddlers need cuddling, so I could definitely see how the other school would not have been a great fit for Claire.

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