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Jul 2 2014

I Cried on the Last Day of Preschool, But Not For the Reasons You Think

By at 4:26 pm


Our son’s last day of Jewish preschool has come and gone, and there are still times I cry, but not for the reasons you may think.

I wasn’t one of those moms posting on Facebook about my son’s first day at preschool and my overflowing tears and anxieties. We took a picture of him outside with his backpack–which was posted on Facebook–and drove on, knowing he was going to have a great time. This mom wasn’t sad or worried, not one bit.

Deciding to send our son to preschool was fueled by a couple of factors: our son’s need for more activity and my history with Postpartum Depression (PPD). We were expecting our second child in the fall, and a difficult pregnancy kept my son home with little opportunity for active play, which he desperately needed. I also felt it was important to prepare for the possibility I may experience PPD again; being proactive was important to me. Read the rest of this entry →

May 13 2014

What Is It About Jewish Preschool?

By at 1:49 pm


A few weeks ago I met my two oldest friends for lunch. We’ve managed to maintain our friendship for 33 years–practically our entire lives–and through living in three different states. I’m aware that these kind of friendships are rare–as adults we are all so completely different, yet we share an unspoken connection. I can be myself around them and they have been there to offer support and guidance through many of life’s twists and turns. On the drive home from our gathering, with my kids in tow chattering away in the backseat, I thought about what’s made our friendship last when so many others have faded. It began in the classrooms of our Jewish preschool.

Jewish preschool. Exactly the place we ended up three years ago, when my oldest was 4. My husband and I thought he should spend a year in preschool before kindergarten, but the decision to make a change weighed heavily on us. At the time, I was hesitant to leave the loving arms of home day care for a more formal preschool. I had so many concerns and it was hard to imagine finding a place that would meet all of our family’s needs. “Who were these new people? Would we fit in? Would the teachers REALLY know my kids the way our sitter had?” Clearly, though, the preschool was prepared for a family with my level of worry and met my family and I with smiles at every open house and “get to know you” event.

We took the leap to enroll and almost immediately my fears were dismissed as we were welcomed into the community. Many families reached out to offer a warm welcome and to make a connection. I realized just much how this community would come to mean to me when that September my mother-in-law passed away. The preschool sent a Shabbat dinner to us and strangers, now friends, came to pay shiva calls. Remembering how those people reached out to us still touches me so deeply. The teachers took time to offer advice about how to help my kids understand the loss of their grandparent. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 18 2014

Jewish Preschool Isn’t an Option. Now What?

By at 10:14 am


There’s a preschool at one of the local temples that the parents just rave about. In fact, my husband and I recently started attending the temple’s monthly Tot Shabbat programs with our 2-year-old, and we’ve already gotten a taste of just how much these little children are picking up. Some of the older ones can recite blessings and know several prayers by heart. And even the younger ones know that you’re supposed to do things like cover your eyes when it’s time to say the  Shema.

This preschool sounds really, really great. It’s exactly the kind of place I’d like to send my son. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. Like most preschools, this one only offers programming for about three hours a day, and when you’re a family like ours, where both parents work full-time, three hours of coverage just won’t cut it. So now it’s up to me and my husband to attempt to compensate by introducing our toddler to the traditions I so desperately want him to love and appreciate, but I worry that my sporadic incorporation of Judaism into our hectic, over-scheduled lives just isn’t going to be enough in the long run. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 22 2014

Mitzvah Notes For Mommy

By at 9:32 am


My daughter’s preschool teacher has created a daily task in which we, the parents, write “mitzvah notes” for our children each day. These notes are meant to describe the ways in which our children are helpful, cooperative, or did good deeds. The notes are read in class with the children, who, I am told, are excited to hear and discuss the good things they have done.

I must admit that when I first learned about this task, I considered it a burden. How, I wondered, could we be expected to come up with a good deed that our 3-year-old did each day? Have you ever met a 3-year-old? I knew it would be far easier to rattle off “not so mitzvah notes,” like so:

She refused to brush her teeth.

She refused to get out of the bath.

She refused to get dressed.

She hit Mommy.

She pushed her sister.

She screamed in my face when I tried to comfort her because I was not Mommy. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 21 2014

A Second Chance at Jewish Preschool for My Son with Special Needs

By at 10:01 am


I had always envisioned my children growing up feeling the sense of “Jewishness” that was so special to me in my own childhood, so we started our son at a Jewish preschool at the age of 2.

But it quickly became clear that he simply couldn’t function in a classroom and was getting nothing out of school. Our journey, which eventually led to an autism spectrum diagnosis, brought with it a roller coaster of emotions and never-ending to-do lists, and dealing with all of that required me to push aside my disappointment about giving up his Jewish preschool. It had become obvious that we had to send him to a special education program to provide the hours of intensive therapy he needed. So without so much as a glance back we forged ahead on this path, and amazingly after two years he had progressed so far that he was almost unrecognizable from the 2-year-old he was before it all started.

We found ourselves at the beginning of this current school year, his last year of preschool, with some decisions to make. The special education preschool program in our new school district, as remarkable as it is, did not provide enough hours of school for him with only four short afternoons a week. We knew we should consider a mainstream preschool as a supplement to his special needs program. He would benefit socially from being around “typical” peers, but we couldn’t help but wonder if he was really ready for it. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 12 2013

Feeling at Home in Jewish Preschool

By at 10:16 am

boy playing with trains at preschool

The Northern California air is crisp and biting as I unbuckle my son from his car seat and slide his arms into his Spiderman sweatshirt.

“Stand right here by me and don’t move,” I warn him, reaching back in to hoist the baby’s car seat up into the air. I keep one hand on Max as the other clicks the baby seat into the stroller. Lunchbox. Water bottle. Mitzvah Star. Five dollars for challah. Baby’s blanket is on. Where is his hat?

“Stay right here, Max, there are too many cars in this parking lot. Wait for Mommy. Hold on to Bennie’s stroller please.” A wadded up diaper rolls out of the passenger seat as I grab my diaper bag. I stuff it back in before anyone notices.

“Good morning, Simon Family! Hi Max! Or should I call you Spiderman? That’s a pretty cool sweatshirt you’ve got on!”

He beams. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 3 2013

Our Trip to Disney World Reminded Me Why I Send My Daughter to Jewish Preschool

By at 3:44 pm


It seems that every time we go to Disney World, we forget where we park. We always have to hit the lock button on our key in order to follow the noise to our car. This year I was determined to not to let that happen, so I had my daughter count how many spaces were between our car and the tram car.

I must have looked baffled when she started counting away because she looked at me and said, “That is five spaces, Mom.” My daughter had been counting in Hebrew.

For some reason, I started to tear up. My little girl is learning another language at the age of 4. In Disney, surrounded by such a diverse crowd, you realize how important it is that your children are diversified in their language and experience. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 10 2013

The Non-Jewish Mom Prepares for Jewish Preschool

By at 9:57 am
plate of halloween cookies

Note to self: Do not send Halloween cookies to Jewish preschool.

As camp ends and the new school year approaches, I find myself going over what I remember from last year, with regards to the Jewish faith. My eldest daughter is 4 and has been attending a Jewish preschool for the last two years. Being a non-practicing Catholic, I have taken the “learn as I go” approach.

There are good Catholic and non-denominational schools available to me in my area, but I chose a Jewish preschool. My husband is a consultant and travels most of the work week. Since he is not always home I felt it was imperative for Delanie to learn her father’s faith from a place that could teach her in a way I could not.

The usual school preparation list populates my head: no meat with dairy for lunch, remember her “mitzvah notes” each week (which I admit at times I make up because there is only so many times you can write that she helped with housework or shared with her younger sister), and whatever I do, I must remember to not send her to school in her holiday (Christmas, Halloween, etc.) printed tee shirts from Old Navy. I learned that lesson the hard way last year when my daughter’s teacher told me that the school would not allow the Halloween cookies I made because it is not a recognized Jewish holiday. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 26 2013

I Chose Jewish Preschool Because of the Pool

By at 9:52 am

swimming pool lessons for kidsTotal disclosure. I chose Alice’s preschool because they have a pool and teach the kids how to swim. It happens to be a wonderful school, with lovely staff and facilities, but it was the pool that sold me.

The fact that it is a JCC (Jewish Community Center) and the curriculum is rooted in Jewish teachings was a complete afterthought. I even told the school director in an offhanded way, “I was really surprised about how Jewish the curriculum is.” He then called the local mental institution and told them a patient with a frontal lobotomy had escaped, because what did I think they were going to teach at the JCC? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2012

I Chickened Out of Preschool

By at 9:50 am

This past summer, my husband and I decided to send our toddler to Jewish preschool. We agonized over our budget to see if we could make it work. I read up on gentle separation techniques and ordered him a backpack. Since the arrival of our second baby coincided with the start of the school year, we wanted to wait until the after the new year for him to start.

January felt so far away at that point.

Fast forward to last week. And by fast forward I mean three months of figuring out the logistics of raising two kids, getting dinner on the table, and exactly how many consecutive days one can use dry shampoo without looking like Nick Nolte’s mug shot (the answer is two). And here we are at our scheduled December meeting with the preschool director to discuss my toddler joining the class in a few weeks. Read the rest of this entry →


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