My son, Oliver, hasn’t even started at the Grove School yet, but I’d count myself among the school’s biggest fans. For anyone who knew me a few weeks ago and heard me talk about how wonderful our current preschool is, this would come as a huge surprise. And we still believe it’s a great place … there are just a few things that bug me that I’ve set aside/ignored/forgotten about, and they’ve recently pushed their way back to the surface and forced me to deal with them.
Let me start at the beginning. When Oliver was born, my husband, Josh, and I both underwent somewhat of a transformation, recognizing the importance of organic, natural products in general, and food in particular. We felt strongly that it was important to our bodies and the planet that we make the best decisions possible when it came to our food purchases. Oliver was so little and … untainted. We wanted to give him the best, healthiest possible start. So, I made all of his baby food from only fresh, organic fruits and veggies, and I bought plain organic yogurt and generally became a little bit crunchy. We started a garden so we could have even fresher, very local vegetables. We switched to cleaning pretty much everything in our house with some combination of water, vinegar and baking soda. I made my own laundry detergent and started shampooing with a combination of baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I obsessed for WEEKS over which sunscreen to buy for him to take to school so as not to poison him with chemicals. Really, every decision about what to eat or put on him was weighed very carefully.
Then, Oliver got older. I got lazier. We got less militant about all of that stuff. He seemed less … breakable. And, importantly, he started eating school food. It bugged me that the school’s food wasn’t up to my standards, but I didn’t really think there was anything I could do about it. I knew we weren’t allowed to bring our own food, and I really liked the school otherwise. I didn’t really think I had a choice, so I just shoved my concerns to the back of my mind. I suppressed a cringe when they served him Fruit Loops full of sugar and artificial colors topped with milk full of antibiotics and hormones. (I just looked online, and did you know that SUGAR is the first ingredient in a box of Froot Loops? Also, did you know they spell it Froot Loops? I mean, they probably shouldn’t legally be allowed to use the word “fruit,” but still.) I knew I’d never buy him that stuff myself, but I tried to “lighten up” about it.
And lighten up I did. Gradually, I stopped buying organic food, trying to “maximize” our rather small grocery budget. We started eating … well, crappy quality food. But it was cheap! We lightened up on other things too, like composting and even the type of diapers we used. We generally fell back into complacency. We cruised along like that for a while, then, on my way to work one day, I noticed that there was a new sign outside a daycare that was only a few steps from our house — the Grove School. I wondered to myself if it was another daycare or if it was a small private school or what. When I got home, I looked it up online — and I was immediately fascinated by and excited about their three-pronged philosophy — healthy body, healthy mind, healthy planet. It seemed like such a cool place for kids.
But, I brushed it aside – surely a place like that was far too expensive for our budget, and even if we could afford it, surely everyone there would be stuck up and perfect and would be off-putting to those of us still trying to figure out our eco-comfort zone, if you will. Or, they would be so focused on environmental awareness and preaching the organic gospel that they wouldn’t provide a well-rounded education. I didn’t really think about it for weeks.
Then I happened to mention it to a friend and co-worker of mine (who’s also a mom) as a possible advertising contact for one of the magazines we work for. She checked it out and then mentioned it again later. Her son attends the same preschool Oliver does right now, and we commiserated about the tater tot casserole and cheese danishes that they’re served on a regular basis. The canned fruit and the processed snacks that “balance out” their meals — totally typical school food, but totally not what I wanted him to be eating. And so I decided to contact the Grove School, just to see.
They invited me to bring Oliver by for a tour, and we went last week. We were both completely blown away, not only by the “eco-friendly” component, but also by the incredible educators, commitment to technology and clearly exceptional learning environment they had created. Even though I may have gone in mainly interested in the organic snacks and ability to bring his own lunch, I came away completely sold on the quality of education and FUN provided there. We were only there for about 30 minutes, but I haven’t stopped telling everyone about what an incredible place it is, unlike any preschool I’ve ever seen, and Oliver has been talking about it almost nonstop too.
So, long story still incredibly long, Oliver starts in the three-year-old room at the Grove School on June 21. He’s been telling everyone about his new school, and while I’m sad to be leaving all of the great people at our current preschool, I feel like this is a really good move for us and for Oliver. He’s getting ready to move up to the three-year-old room at his current preschool anyway, so it’s good timing for us to switch. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the one-on-one attention that he’ll get at the new school or the technology — they have a SmartBoard and two touch-screen computers in his room. Plus, the teachers are clearly lifelong educators, people who really seem to have a passion for education.
Of course, transitions are tough. Oliver is excited about his new school, but I don’t think he quite understands why he’s not going there yet, and I know he doesn’t really understand that his friends won’t be there, although he has mentioned that he’s excited to make new friends. He’s been having a LOT of trouble with drop-offs at daycare this week and with Josh leaving for work in the mornings, and I can only assume that has something to do with his confusion about what’s going on with his preschool situation. So, I think it’s going to be a tough month of transition for him, but I also think that when all is said and done, he will (and we will) be very happy with the new school. Now we just have to make it to June 21.