Friday, January 23, 2015

The preschool game of NYC

Zoe's arrival here in NY is closing in and hence, I have been introduced to the preschool game of New York. Or maybe it is even an art, I'm not sure yet. What I am sure of is that it has taken me the better part of the past two weeks to research, call, visit and get rejections from several preschools. The great advantage of the free market is that you have choices, and many of them, particularly if you are willing and able to pay a lot of money. The downside when it comes to the free market of preschool is that they also have choices and sometimes the don't choose you.

I had been emailing with a administrator at one creme-de-la-creme-de-la-Chelsea Art preschool who finally asked me to "come down to fill in an application" at 11 am one Wednesday morning. Now that throws off my day quite a bit and I ended up having to stay at work until 8pm. Never mind that. She had ignored my request for a tuition schedule, she had also been vague about any details of hours but I took the chance anyway. There is a huge difference in price though with anywhere from 15.000 to 25.000 dollars per year (okay, I know my scandinavian readers now are gasping in disbelief). I walked into a reception like area and received the application. On that I had to list different details, for example if I was married, divorced, bla bla bla and religious affiliation. I realized it was a religiously affiliated school although it didn't seem to have much weight in their everyday activities which were illustrated with brightly colors and pictures on the wall. I handed over the application and let her know the dates I needed the preschool for. Yes, they had one spot in the classroom I was looking for. Two hours later I received an email notification that they did not have any spots after all. I was rejected (I say I, not Zoe, because they never even saw a picture of her). I got really annoyed and wondered if it was the non-religious affiliation or the single divorcee status that I had, which had gotten me rejected. I complained to a NY friend who simply said I shouldn't take it personally. I tried not to but I was so annoyed that this woman stole my time without being clear on any of their criteria. And why wasn't I good enough anyway? The irony of it all of course being that I had been on the receiving side of 'special treatment' when I got Zoe's private trilingual daycare in Stockholm, being invited for a meeting and not until the director had seen me and talked to me, been told that there was a spot for Zoe.

My continued investment in finding a preschool led me to a university (loosely) affiliated place where I met the most helpful woman in NY. It turns out that she is the savior of all incoming parents who dare go against the regular academic system of September starts, and knows prices, places and tricks. I called up two more places and went to visit. It turned out that at one place I qualify for subsidy of the tuition fee, which would make the price almost comparable to Scandinavia. Well, almost. So here are my non-sugar coated final choices:

  • The university affiliated place in a new building with plenty of room and 15 kids in a class. However, they are all 1-2 years younger than Zoe, only one boy was almost her age. It is 10 minutes walk away.
  • The community care in an old (but charming) building with 22 kids in a class, all Asian and African American. Zoe would be the only white kid in the class. However, I saw at least 2 or 3 girls her age whom I cannot imagine she would not get along with. The place is a subway ride away and a bit of a walk on each end.
  • A private place that I'm seeing on Monday. It is also 10 min walk away and they provide lunch. She assured me that there were children her age.
I'm strongly leaning towards the community care because, and these are some of the (perhaps politically incorrect) thoughts I have had before when she has been in these types of daycares (because these are the only daycares that will take kids temporarily): As a well-educated parent with a smart and articulate child, who is doing really well developmentally and personality wise, I think I have a duty to 'give back' to the community. It is all very nice to donate money to the poor and bla bla bla, but I actually think another way is to integrate more. I don't want to be the goody goody white woman who just dives in and buys the cookies at the neighborhood fund-raising fair. Zoe could be a fresh breath of air in the classroom where the diversity is much bigger than in her upper-middle class Swedish daycare. Besides, she has plenty in common with them, they are all bilingual, speaking another language at home, having different roots. The place was rough on the edges but everyone was as nice as all the other places I had visited and well, kids are just always cute no matter what tone of skin. 

After a week of hard work, I now just have to go and see the one on Monday before making up my mind. But it has to be amazingly perfect and super-crazy good to beat the community preschool. I can't wait to tell Zoe all about it when I see her next week in Stockholm


  1. Children love to play games at preschools, whether it be board games or outdoor games. At Montclare Children’s School is a preschool located in Manhattan, New York where teachers provide engaging ways to teach your children in a play way manner. Montclare Children’s School is more than just a preschool for your children. It is an institution that helps lay the foundation for a child’s transition into a more formal education set-up and also helps your child learn essential life skills.

  2. Thank you for the reference. While the preschool looks great, this is by far the most expensive preschool I have seen in Manhattan. It is almost 3000 dollars per month for not even full days (ends 2:30pm). I would never in my life have been able to afford this on an academic salary. It makes me even happier that I chose the community school that Zoe was very happy to attend and got several friends. But others should feel free to check out the preschool above.

  3. Preschool are a very a important part of any child's learning process. He learns through daycare, preschool, elementary school and finally graduates after high school. Preschool definitely sets up the base for future learning. My sisiter recently enrolled her son into a Preschool in Brooklyn. She seems to be very excited with the kind of activities the little one has been engaging into.