Let’s Play, School!

The hunt was on. No, I don’t mean for the Kingfisher calendar girl. They are probably still looking for one who will model for nothing (no pun) even as they try to keep the planes afloat. I mean a different hunt altogether. I mean prey, oh pardon me, play school for my toddler.

Let's Play School!

Today was his first day, and even as he sits doing something away from his mother’s madly beating heart for the first time in 2 and half years, I write this. Hence, please excuse geysers of excessive melodrama and plunges of deep philosophy as I try to tell you how my journey of picking the most suitable play-school for my child has been.

Once upon a time I wrote ‘No play-doh without dough’ Today, I care to share how the final decision was reached.

The how

How I went about looking for suggestions? Word-of-mouth, with all shapes of communication channels experienced, explored and exhausted (including Grapevine which is more complex than E=mc2). It did not mean I went around with a ‘Play-school suggestions needed’ tattooed on my forehead.

I asked people I trusted, or those whose parenting ideas matched mine. I also asked those whose pockets were the same size as mine, since I had no intention of over-reaching and certainly not as yet. And, over a month or so, I collected school names to shot-list with my husband for my son.

While people poured into my ears suggestions, I started preparing my son with the idea of a school too. Yes, I was paranoid and desperate for him to understand that it is not a jail where I send him to get rid of him.

I turned to YouTube for shows like Barney, books which treated the concept of school as a fun place and added to it all my own stories from school. (It’s a different matter that the stories were about me bullying my husband in school too, but something told me he could well imagine that already!)

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I made his older cousins share their school-tales, show him their uniforms, their books-n-bags and water bottles. Why, I even made his naani, an educationist since 20 years now, show him the bespectacled look that most teachers flaunt.

Thus, as I did my ground work, I prepared the playing field in his mind too.

The what

What we, as parents, wanted was a question we needed to articulate and answer in our heads before anyone else did it for us (an empty mind is the herd’s workshop!). For some time now, our pillows slept hearing school-talk. So, what did we want? Meaning – what does our child really need to go to play-school for? What are our expectations from the school for the 2-3 hours that he is going to spend there everyday? The following points were what agreed upon:

  1. We wanted him to understand and adapt to the idea of co-play. As a single child with no play-mate at home except his mother and father, he needed to be with children his age, stage and level of maturity. He needed to learn now what it is to share toys, sing-play-eat together, dig noses in unison and boast who found the biggest … oops, sorry, and in the process learn to understand and handle situations created by him on his own terms. Freedom from home, and independence – both!
  2. He needed to learn to obey people other than his parents. His perceptive mind and loving heart has never troubled us and heeded us when we wanted him to. But here, we were talking about his first group of teachers who were nothing but strangers to him. Despite being a scheduled baby already, it was important he obeyed instructions for a different routine – of prayer time, play time, study time, food time and goodbye time, in exactly that order.
  3. We wanted the school to not be gung-ho about ABCs, Calculus, 123s and Newton’s Laws. After all, what will the big boy school do with him otherwise when the time comes for him to don a tie, pull-up his socks and learn to say the word ‘nursery’? (Even as his parents sell their house, car, etc, to pay that hefty admission fee!) So for now, we wanted him to play in play-school, with a capital P. For the rest, there are his parents. Sending him away for 3 hours does not mean absolving ourselves from our parental roles, does it?
  4. And, he needed a well-deserved break from his momster-at-home. Anyone would!

 

The why 

Why we picked what we picked? There were options galore. We short-listed two. One was a tad fancier than the other. 3 floors of fancy chairs and tables, wall-paper and tiffins and a fashionable brigade of teachers handling 30 students in each class and many classes! We liked it. Seemed safe, clean, colorful and well-equipped with swings and slides his parents never used (Alas!).

He needed to sign in for a cab facility which would take 15 minutes from home to school, and the same time back. That meant, about a quarter of half hour extra on the road. The fee was affordable, but seemed a bit much considering I could buy him a factory of play-doh and blocks for the same money. But since the school mesmerized him with its grandeur as much as it appealed to our ‘modern’ side, we gave it a double tick in our list.

The other school was a smaller set-up, opened by a woman in her own house. We walked down one morning to see the school in running, considering it is two houses away from ours and within the same colony. To a mother’s heart, this proximity was a divine coincidence compared to the distance of the other school we had seen. He’s just 2 and a half and I don’t like the idea of cabs and Delhi roads and will he even be able to sit properly in one and how many children can the ayah hold in the car and what about emergencies when I need to run to school suddenly and what if WWIII breaks and dinosaurs get re-born and etc and blah – I went on and on for the 100 meters walk to school.

Apart from the distance, the warmth of the didi at the door ushering him in struck a chord with me. Within minutes, our son had forgotten us and was being lead to see and take in the newness, not mesmerized this time but more interested and smiling. More at home, actually! We spoke to the principal and gathered that the school laid stress on all the factors that we as parents had decided on, and in all, admissions stopped at a humble 20 students, no more. Him being the 20th! (Hand of divinity Herself?)

And here is where we walked him down today, fully confident of our pick and glad we could manage to think away from the maddening crowd and follow our own minds and hearts. As he ran to hug a little boy who was sobbing on seeing his parents leave,  I felt assured that he will always carry and not unlearn the little lessons that his parents have tried to teach him. This small, warm, personal and homely set-up will help in keeping that intact. And whatever little money I saved in the process will be spent on buying him a bigger backpack, when the time comes. But for now, I want to enjoy walking him down to school.

There will always be a plethora of institutions to choose from. Some will hang a tag around your child’s neck for all times to come, others will remain like passing references in your little one’s chapter. However, there will be still others which will leave a permanent mark on your child’s mind and personality. As you go about looking for a play-school do remember – no matter what brand the shoe carries or how much it shines, the part that needs to be polished the most is the one that stands inside.

And there, it’s already time for him to come home!

Sakshi Nanda went from studying Literature to serving the print media and finally settling with two publishing houses who called her editor for a couple of hard-bounds, no more! She writes as a work-from-home mother to realize herself as well as to be read, both – with her 2-year-old boy and her sarkari babu beau as the greatest source of ideas and inspiration. She believes eating baby food is therapeutic and that the pen is man’s best invention, after diapers that is! Meet her at: sakshinanda.blogspot.in

  • Sid Balachandran

    @ Sakshi – Yep, “Which Playschool?” is definitely one of parenthood’s most pressing dilemmas (followed closely by Which School, Which College, Which University…etc). And having been through the same path ourselves, we would like to congratulate on making a “mommy decision” rather than a “society – parent decision” – I mean, your instincts at wanting him safe and close by especially at such a tender age, made you see past the splendour and grandeur of the more commercialised set up. Kudos to that, and as usual great post 🙂

    • Indeed, @iwrotethose:disqus. Instincts often speak louder than all other noises, whether those in the background or those sounding like gongs inside our heads. It is often tough to make unheard the din, but at least this one time I could. Like you say, the School, College, University will follow close behind and it may end up being a different story altogether 🙂 Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • ronita

    Enjoyed it like any other post of your’s:)The last Para said it all.

    • Thanks for reading, @disqus_AAF5JtNsFS:disqus 🙂

  • स्वाति जैन

    ‘no matter what brand the shoe carries or how much it shines, the part that needs to be polished the most is the one that stands inside…’ superb phrase Sakshi….I will steal this one some day 😀 :P..

    Believe me, these anxiety pangs will all the more increase when he’ll start the formal school…in playschools, we have the freedom to call endless times for feedback..we have cabs or nearby vicinity…and casual dresses…
    now when i see one yr back…its was sheer heaven…
    going to big school…(my son is in nursery)…waiting for only source of feedback PTMs, school dress, huge bus for pick and drop drives me crazy…

    • Steal it steal it. I’ll only feel happy. 🙂

      Your comment makes me count the blessings in my Today basket. I know what you mean, @disqus_Lr1VH54Hw6:disqus. I will save up all the craziness for a little later maybe, and enjoy this as a phase much easier than what’s to come. Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  • Nischala

    Girl – My advice after having been there done that – Trust your instincts.. ! He should be happy and want to go to school everyday! And they usually adapt – sooner than later! Its the mommies who have it harder :).. Take Care!

    • Yes @nischala:disqus trusted our instincts exactly. So far so good! 🙂 You are right, mommies have it harder, always. Makes me respect mine so much more. 🙂

  • Reema Sahay

    Sakshi, as if you read my mind! This is exactly where I am and preparing my little boy for the big milestone in his life. I keep showing him bhaiyas and didis going to school, telling him how all his friends [who stay around] go to school, and so on and so forth. The next step is actually going to school for shortlisting. I am getting nervous as every day is passing by. I am such a control freak! You know, I am almost convinced that I should attach a GPS chip and a little camera / speaker to him. Do you think that will be too insane? Just asking 🙂

    • I cannot expect you to not get nervous, but I can tell you it doesn’t help. Pick a school that appeals to both you and your husband, and go with that instinct. There’s no better pointer. Also, keep the doors and windows of your house closed to unnecessary advice from people. Knowing you, I know you think away from the herd anyway, @reemasahay:disqus . 😀

      LOTS of good luck. Don’t worry, I realise now there is actually nothing to worry. And that chip/GPS idea – well, it’s possible. Let him communicate with you everything that happens in school. You’ll learn ways to draw it out form him, slowly. I’m still learning too. On the first day, I sat wishing I had Tom&Jerry’s Invisible Cream to rub and walk into his school, see for myself what exactly happens there, how does he behave, the teachers, everything. 🙂 But it’s time to let go, even if it’s only for a few hours everyday, it helps build the strength in the mother’s heart for the 6 hours that the big school will demand. 😛 Yeh toh laga raheyga, Reema. But then someone told me – Kids will always be stronger than us mothers. 🙂 I’m taking that at face value.

  • manjulika pramod

    The read through is gonna be useful in future …

    • 😀 Thanks for reading, @manjulikapramod:disqus 🙂

  • Hi Sakshi,

    This play school thing. I was in Palakkad (way away from what I would call my home) with new language, new people, new everything. My husband would be on official touring for most part of the week, his job being such. So, that left me with just my little toddler. With him on my waist, my handbag on the other hand and lots of hope and apprehension I burst into the town (it is not a city). I walked around everywhere not willing a vehicle to rush past some educational haven for my baby.
    My legs ached, my mind reeled trying hard to connect with people despite my incapability to speak the local language. I did not consult my neighbours because many of them were sending their children either in cars to hi fi schools or were just opting for some play school nearby. I did not want to get influenced. And I am glad I did what I did. I chanced by a good play school which nourished my son. Today, there are many options….lots of choices…. but the nervousness stays the same.
    Wishing you and your baby lots of joy.

    • Wow. That does sound like a difficult phase, Shail. My ordeal wanes in front of yours. What remains the same between us thought is the “I did not want to get influenced”. To parents like us who look away from the crowd and the hi-fi both, there are many options but very little choices actually. 🙂
      Nervousness is here to stay I think. Today it’s play-schools, tomorrow something else. 🙂
      Wishing you and yours lots of joy too. And thanks for reading! 🙂

  • I am sure in a few weeks he will have a group of buddies and will be eager to share his stories with you. This is the stage when kids learn to get comfortable with new people and develop their social skills. I am sure he will learn to be away from mom, I have no idea if his mom will be able to cope up with that 🙂

    • Well, it’s been a few weeks and truth be told – you were bang on @desitraveler:disqus. 🙂 He has found other buddies, and while mumma gets bored at home trying to cope with his absence and her substitution, kid has found a real playground of his own. 🙂

  • For me, decision time will come next year but believe me, I have already started my research. People say ” Abhi to bahot time hai” but I am bit nervous or you can say choosy this time. Some says- You should go for one which prepares him for his Nursery so that he would know ABC and all on his fingertips. I reply in confidence- For that, I am here.
    Some suggest- Just a place away from home where he can fun around and make friends. My Instincts. Ummm..I just want him to learn sharing and respect/obey elders (other than Family). Thanks for sharing.