Yesterday was Gwen's first day at preschool. She has been talking about this for MONTHS and the day certainly lived up to her expectations - and ours. Just as we were incredibly lucky to find the exact right daycare for her, almost two and a half years ago, we have once again lucked out and found the exact right preschool for her. The proof is that the preschool is owned and operated by her daycare caregiver's mother.
Did you catch all that? Gwen has been with her caregiver, D, for over two years, and adores her. D learned everything she knows about caregiving from her mother, S, who runs a preschool, where D worked for many years. D & S have very similar attitudes and philosophies of care. Gwen is now going to daycare twice a week with D and preschool twice a week with S. We just couldn't ask for a better arrangement.
Gwen played shy for about 10 seconds with the teacher this morning until she saw all the toys, activities, and so on. Then she was in heaven. A couple of times she wanted me to look at the exciting stuff she had discovered, but mostly she couldn’t care less that we were there! The teacher ran us through the sign-in/out procedures, gave us the newsletter and calendar, showed us a few things that we need to do/know, showed Gwen where to put her lunch when she comes in, showed us her cubby (sniff) etc etc. When we left, we couldn't even get Gwen to raise her eyes and acknowledge our leaving.
I was so impressed with how smoothly S helped Gwen through her shyness and set the tone for their interactions. She introduced her to another child there and asked him to show her where to put her lunch - giving them both an opportunity to be competent. "Putting your lunch in the big fridge every day is YOUR job, Gwen!" she encouraged. Gwen loves to help and loves to have important jobs, so she was all over it.
I spent my day kind of wishing I was at preschool instead of work – not because my daughter needs me (she does NOT) but because it seems so much more fun. We took some pictures and were highly impressed when we returned in the afternoon to find that there were already pictures in Gwen's memory book that were taken that day as well. The teachers also put up pictures every week on the board so parents can see what the kids are doing. And we are supposed to bring in a group of pictures of our family so Teacher can help Gwen make a family collage and put it on the family wall. There is also a family get-together night a few times a year so we can all get to know one another. These are the things that excited me about this place – so family-oriented, such a community.
And then, and THEN! The best part! D's teenage daughter comes in to help at the preschool sometimes - and yesterday was one of those times. And she walked in and said, “Hi, Gwen” and Gwen’s face LIT UP. She LOVES this kid. I could see she felt so happy and comfortable to have a familiar face there. She was already doing well, but that was the icing on the cake.
I understand that the school is generally closed in summer, but they open for this last week of August to orient the new kids in a quieter time. As such, this week there will only be 7 kids in and then starting next week it is 14 kids. Of course Gwen will only be there 2 days a week. I already looked at the calendar for the upcoming months to get a sneak peek of what's coming up. Here are some samples:
Cooking day – let’s make applesauce!
Baking – banana bread day!
Let’s make muffins!
Cooking – vegetable soup!
Bowen Park leaf collecting!
Carving Jack o Lanterns!
And yes, they all have the exclamation points after them. I do like that they put the activities on different days all the time so over the next three months Gwen will get to do lots of different things, not like they ALWAYS bake on Tuesdays and she misses Tuesdays.
At the end of the day I could hardly wait to go pick her up and find out how her day went. She was thrilled to see us, rushing towards us with her usual exuberant shouts of "MOMMY! DADDY!" and big hugs. She then told us, "You can go back home now. I want to stay at school." No surprise there. We did manage to coax her to leave, though not before she showed us all the fun things she did and all the great places she discovered.
Anyway I am so, so pleased with every single aspect of this. And even though it’s sad that my baby is growing up, it is also really exciting and awesome that my baby is growing up.