Friday, August 24, 2012

{Friendship Friday} Do I tell or would it be crossing the friendship line?

I'm loving all the comments on the waste in the USA post. It's my most popular USA 2012 post to date.

So you know we've been looking at pre-schools.

Well, I have a friend whose children go to a pre-school about half way between our house and my work (I only work 9.8 km from my hom - I LOVE THAT! - don't be jealous). It's also on the way for D to go to work (if he chooses to go that way).

She loves the place so I thought we should at least LOOK at it as an option.

D went there on Wed morning and wrote me a nice glowing email (we never talk at work because he doesn't want the nosy people he works with to hear his business) about the place and when I read all the stuff that night, it seemed like a very nice place.

We had our fertility babies supper last night and I even said to the other girls, "this is probably it. I just have to see it but if I'm happy, we'll send them there".

Well, the babies and I went today.

I don't know how it works where you live but I like to go to these places totally unannounced to see things as they really are.

This is what I observed:

  1. We'd just walked into one class when I heard a teacher SCREAMING at a kid/ s (she had clearly lost it). It was so bad I almost wanted to turn around and leave but the lady showing me around said nothing LIKE IT WAS NORMAL. People, I'm not overly about children being cushioned and I certainly also lose it but I like to think if I was a teacher of about 15 little ones, I'd have a bit more self-control.
  2. The place seemed disorganised. On this point, I know I have high standards and it may not be anyone else's experience but to me, the classroom environment was not organised.
  3. They have 120 kids.....................I may be old-fashioned but I'm looking for a smaller school.
  4. She said there are between 15 and 20 kids per class with two people. That's technically fine but then why was that woman screaming at the kids if she had a relief person to take up the baton?
  5. In about 2 - 3 of the classes, they were doing Show and Tell. The poor kid talking was kind of talking to himself because nobody was paying him any attention. This may be me but if I was the teacher I'd say, "kids, let's listen to John. He's telling us about his xyz" if you care that no-one's listening to this child. Also, what does that do to a kid when no-one's paying you any attention? My friend's nephew was the third child doing Show and Tell while I was there. Same story with all 3 the kids.

  6. The kids either seemed bored or lethargic, both of which is not good. Again, for somewhat of an excuse, it was very hot today (yay, summer!) so maybe the kids were feeling the heat, but actually, that's not the feeling I got.
  7. Now this is the part that gets to me. I asked the lady, "where are Kid A and Kid B?" and so when we got to their class, she pointed them out. I said, "hi, Kid A! Hi, Kid B" and they didn't even respond. This is not a problem because we were out of context because their mother is usually present (Two worlds colliding a la George Constanza) but Kid A is the most talkative (in a good way), verbal, outgoing child I've ever met. And this was not her. I was FREAKED the heck out. So I eventually said, "A, is everything okay?" She just looked at me. (it's not the remembering me or my kids or any of that - I've observed her in many social situations before and this is NOT HER). Kid B is always very quiet and was like that today too.

Needless to say, my children will not be going there. If that was the way all the pre-schools were, I'd happily (HAPPILY) get V back to teach them.  I took their forms to be "kind" but I tossed them the minute we got home.

And D and I clearly have very different ideas of what is a good school. All I can say is he's going to be blown away when he sees the very organised and normal school near our house (1.1 km - 12 mins by foot according to Google Maps - 85 kids).

Now, the friendship part.

What, if anything, do I say to my friend?

We are very different as far as being structured and organised so I get that order is not important to her.

BUT I can't get Kid A's face out of my mind and how out of character she seemed.

I emailed her on Thursday to tell her I was going to see the school so she will ask me and of course, I'll say that it's not for us but into how much detail can I go???

What would you do? How would you broach the conversation?
What's the average size of a pre-school in SA? Was this an issue for you?

PS after visiting this school, I took the kids to another one. That one is number 2 on my list. The one near me is number 1. It would be a clear winner but those 85 kids are putting me off. Although to be fair, you really don't feel it - it is super organised, neat as a pin, clean and very well-maintained.
PPS this is the first time I'm sitting down today so first cup of tea and about 63 items in GR.


  1. This is what you need to ask yourself: If the roles were reversed, would I want my friend to tell me?

    Personally, I would tell her.

    Mmmmm...I'd say that 85 or so kids are average (if we are looking at the WHOLE school and depending on the ground space that they have available), they get broken up into smaller class groups and there is usually an assistant (or two) with the teacher so that's usually OK. Also, the less kids you have, the more your are going to pay. THAT is why one pays the earth at private schools. Also, order and structure are HUGE priorities for me when looking for a school because really, my kid thrives on it and needs it in order to be OK. He does spend a lot of time there and I can't come home to disorder and have to deal with a kid who spent an entire day with disorder. So no, I don't think that your standards are too high. Any good school has VERY decent order and structure and routine.

    Btw...I recommended Joel's current school to my friend who's not had a good deal with schools. I told her to go there unannounced. She went to the school a few weeks ago and could tell me that he's having SUCH a good time and that he was VERY excited to see her. She emailed me earlier to say that she's sending both her kids in the new month - she went there unannounced again today and she loved what she saw. I would have expected her to tell me if she saw or heard ANYTHING untoward.

  2. I'm sure your friend would ask about your visit. That might be the time to tell her, though I'll find a way to not be too harsh so you don't leave her feeling like a bad mum (for not noticing the things you did).

    I would want to know if it was me, because who knows maybe she's never seen the place in it's true colours

  3. Lesley11:56 pm

    Nursery schools(not sure if that's what they are called in S.A) interest me greatly as I'm a qualified nursery nurse. I love seeing good practice, but unfortunately i've seen a lot of bad practice in places I've trained in and later visited. I could tell you some horror stories :( I think you were correct in visiting unannounced - to really 'see' what goes on.
    As for telling your friend, i would be careful - she may not like you telling her. I think you will know if she really wants to hear the truth or not - unfortunately not everyone wants to. Hope it goes well.

  4. I use to work in a pre-school / kindergarten. I can tell you that nothing is quite as wonderful as it is advertised (maybe the teacher yelling was missing the second worker that day) ...

    and even the best of them can have a bad day. We had a pretty nice church one - plenty of workers, and lots of room. But there was the day that 10 of the kids got sick within hours of each other ... stomach sick. And we couldn't get ahold of 2 of the parents for hours. The next day 4 more of the kids called in sick. Whatever the stomach bug was - by the end of the week, every worker had called in sick for at least one day, and we were very tired of cleaning up after the kids. If anyone had visited unannounced during those 2 weeks it took for it to run through all 20 workers and all 150 kids, we would have given a very poor impression.

    I would go back to that school a second time - totally different time and day of the week - and see if you get a different impression. If not for your benefit, then to see if child A is still "not herself", especially before saying anything to your friend.

    I've also worked with preschoolers long enough to see that it is quite common for a child to be one way and personality with a parent around, and a totally different child when the parents are missing.

    Also, once you narrow down your pick, go back unannounced several times. Ask to join the group on an outing (you and the kids) to see what happens when they go on a field trip (do they do those over there - over here they do at least one a week, some places almost daily). Once you've been a few times, ask if you can just wander around and observe the kids for an hour without the "escort" or sit in the back of the room and observe the class your child will be in. But do try to "hide" and not be noticed.

    I also know that the kids and teacher will automatically act differently if they know you are watching. Kids will act out just to see if the teacher will ignore it with an audience. I use to DREAD a parent coming to visit. Because I was more self conscious being so shy - but the children would act completely different as well - noisier and it was harder to keep their attention, sometimes children would cry and want their parents. I found it worked best if I gave the parent a job and kept them busy.

    I have worked with the 3 - year olds since I was 15 - 1982 or so. I could probably write a book about the strange things a preschooler does while they are away from their parents.

  5. I have to agree that I wouldn't put much faith in a toddler's reaction away from their normal settings. HAM is a completely different child around her parents. COMPLETELY. As for telling your friend, why not just say you're looking for something closer like the one just by your house? Something the nanny can handle on her own and such. That way you're avoiding the issue. You clearly don't like the school so there's no sense dragging on about it to someone who is clearly of a different mind. If she pesters you go on about the organization. Your kids are like you and thrive on organization and structure, and you don't want to remove them from their element. :)

    I'm horrible on this preschool business *says the woman flipping through her homeschool book*.

  6. My one DIL freaked out last week when she visited the preschool my grandkids attend. They were wiping all the kids faces(and noses) with the same cloth. They don't sleep under the same blanket on the same mattress every day and she feels that is why the little ones have continues colds. I guess you need to be happy with the place you leave your children. You have to have faith in how they are being treated and that it is in your children's best interest. I would check out more schools before I decide if I was you.

  7. As I have said to you before, your pure gut feel is very important and this one is clearly not for you. Just tell her that you have decided on another one - it works better for your situation. However, she may want to know about the shouting etc and really, it depends on the type of person she is and your relationship. I have friends that I could tell about it and others that I could not.

    As to school sizes, it is one of the reasons we use the pre school we are at - 45 to 50 kids. Lovely small environment. I can walk in there any time and they are happy to see me and there are never issues. FOr instance we provide wet wipes every year for face wiping (like what Lynette refers to), they have their own blankets and sheets that get washed.(If they still nap). However our grade R school is big - because it is now part of primary school - 5 classes of 20 kids per class! But it is a good transition from that small environment into proper s school.

    Do ask the schools what their discipline guidelines are - almost all use time out, which is fine, but some have a reward type system too and that works really well.

  8. I had a gut feeling when I went looking for schools - it either works for you or it doesn't!

    Should you tell your friend? Not sure - it depends on your relationship - I have friends I know will take it from where it comes and I have friends who I know will take it personally. You know her and you know your friendship - trust that.

  9. I would tell her that it doesn't feel like the right fit for you, and if she asks why then elaborate, otherwise leave it at that.

    I think Nicola's school has about 70 kids in it, the baby class has no more than 8 and all the others no more than 12. It works well for us and in general she loves it there and they love her.

    You've already seen my list of things to consider when picking, but i agree with Cat - you have to balance it all and go with your gut feeling. These are the most important years of your children's life and you want to make sure that you are comfortable with what they'll be learning while you're not around.


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