November 2017 Favorites

This month we continued with homeschooling Grace, but it's getting admittedly hard for me.  In order for me to spend the time during the day with her doing this, I've had to give up almost all of my work time (unexpectedly).  And I do it gladly, because I think right now it's the best thing to do for her.  But I feel like it's kind of becoming not the best thing.

Because of the 20 hours of lost work time per week, I'm having to stay up later at night, which means I'm too exhausted in the mornings to jump up and head out early on adventures with her.  And as the weather grows colder and she continues to develop an apparent boredom with nearly everything I do try to do with her, I just feel like she'd be better off in school. I'm going to more seriously look at our options for the spring semester.

But even without morning outings, we still have fun in the mornings, and while Eloise naps, we do academics or anything else explicitly taught that she's still able to sit still for by 2 pm.  We do Handwriting Without Tears, we're reading the BOB Book series, and for math, I chose a colorful, fun curriculum workbook that involves lots of like cutting & pasting and exercises for working with manipulatives, which we have by the dozens from my old teaching days (and from trying to homeschool preschool a few years back).

Meanwhile, I'm really sad we're missing out on the Thanksgiving Kindergarten event at her old school.  I'm so sad that we had to leave Westminster Day School, but we did so because of their refusal to follow state regulations or make corrections to the sanitation issues.  I have a laundry list of things we experienced, but among them: little to no enforcement of immunization records, unrefrigerated lunchboxes for as long as 4 + hours, operating the toddler room diaper changing station without a working sink next to it, not wiping Eloise's hands and face after she ate (and not only refusing to correct the problem, but defending their decision to let the kids run around with filthy mouths and faces, despite South Carolina law stating they must clean hands and faces before and after meals and snacks).  Their solution to cleaning children after meals is to let them get up whenever they are ready, leave food on the table, and if the children choose and are able, they get a baby wipe to wipe their hands and faces.  When I confronted the teacher about it after picking up Eloise with dirty food-covered hands and face the third time in a week, the teacher felt very threatened and responded by saying, "We are not equipped with the facilities to wash their hands."  And I said, "Honey, you are standing RIGHT NEXT to a toddler-sized sink."  (She was.  And this one actually worked.)  She responded by talking the director, who was not there that day, making me out to be the bad guy.  The following Monday, Jennifer (the director) ambushed me with a 45-minute meeting when I needed to be working, and without my husband there.  She and a group of people were in the room and they intimidated me into leaving and not calling the officials on them.  She also hinted that she had the power to keep Grace from being recommended for first grade.  And despite her always saying, "If you have any concerns, you know you can come to me," she ended the conversation just like every other one where I did bring my concerns to her, with the following words: "Well, Emily, maybe this isn't the place for you and your family."  Westminster Day School is no longer the place it used to be.

We had had previous issues with them, too.  Last year in the infant room, the teacher (it isn't her fault - she meant well, it's just that the school doesn't adequately train their teachers on health & safety) fed Eloise a food she had never encountered before.  If Eloise had had a sensitivity or allergy to this food, it could have been catastrophic.  Never, ever introduce new foods to an infant without permission of the parents!  When I asked the teacher about it, she simply said, "Eloise wanted it."  So I asked the director how this happened, and she responded by saying, "Well, when a child wants a food it's very hard to keep it from them," and the classic, "Emily, maybe this isn't the place for you."  I also have a friend who had her daughter attend there and escape the unsecured playground fence (it's just secured with a white plastic U-shaped latch any child over 3 can undo) into the parking lot to go look at a motorcycle parked in the lot with some other children. A teacher was there with the other group, but still, the child should not have escaped the fence to join them.  Unsure of her daughter's account, she asked other people about the incident, and their stories, along with the child's much later account of it, were consistent.  She quietly pulled her daughter out after that.  Grace also sports a half-inch long scar on her chin because the art teacher allowed the children to use a hot glue gun in pairs.  This was in the 4's class.  FOUR years old is NOT old enough to operate a hot glue gun without direct adult supervision.  And again, the teacher and the director defended this decision.  They claimed it was "a cool glue gun," so I got the exact model number and emailed the Cool Tool company.  The company responded that the gun operates at temperatures "180 to 225 degrees and yes, it can burn skin."  The director responded to me forwarding their email to her with, "The glue guns will no longer be used. Thank you."  However, about 6 weeks later, Grace brought home ANOTHER hot glue gun project.  I was furious, but it was almost the end of the year so I just let it slide.

But for me, the most egregious part about this school is that they are skirting the legal and ethical boundaries by even being open.  According to South Carolina law, any school open for more than 4 hours must be either licensed or registered, and I found out that Westminster Day School is neither.  However, their doors are actually open from 7:45 am - 1:00 pm.  They try to avert regulation by saying that the "Early Bird" drop off before 9 am and the "Lunch Bunch" hour from 12 -1 are NOT part of the school and each is operated exclusively by the teachers.  However, they are using the same facilities and same teachers and providing services to the same children.  They can and should be investigated and at the very least Registered as a Faith-Based Childcare Center.  SC law describes this:

"A faith-based child care center must be Registered and has the option of being Licensed if it operates more than four hours a day or more than two days a week. If this type of facility chooses to be Licensed, it must meet the requirements listed for a Licensed Child Care Center."

If you are local to Spartanburg, please consider my experience carefully, as we have spent two solid years at this school with 3 children and have been enrolled in every class except the two's.  This school is not all bad -- I love that they take the children to chapel, which is even led by their director, who does a great job.  And there are few things about preschool I have enjoyed as much as their annual Easter parade, where the children all make festive hats and parade around the church with maracas and other loud instruments.  But this school desperately needs regulation and health & safety training for their well-meaning teachers. 

The school also has some WONDERFUL veteran teachers who've been around long before Jennifer, especially in the kindergarten room, and they are the whole reason I have been back year after year.  Unfortunately, the kindergarten experience this year is not the same as it was Cannon's year because Jennifer let everyone in instead of using a wait list.  When I asked her why there were 17 children in Grace's class she said, "We always have someone cancel, but no one did this year."  (And I'm thinking -- that is what a wait list is for!)  The teacher told me "10, but definitely not more than 12" children would be let in when I enrolled in February.  Jennifer loaded the class with 17 children, the same average number as the public school, leaving these knowledgeable, fantastic, dedicated teachers with years and years of valuable experience teaching with the Reggio Emilia model at the mercy of now consulting with a young traditional-model curriculum specialist to help them make educational ends meet.  As a former teacher, I don't want to watch this happen.  Teachers with long, unique, and valuable experience should be treated with the utmost respect for their process.  I know they are making the best of it, and they're always optimistic, always go with the flow, and will figure it out.  But a Reggio classroom is a special place dependent on individualized attention, and with overload, it just can't be that place Grace's year.  I'm so disappointed for her (and the teachers, and all the students who were the first 10 or 12 to sign up).

There. Now you know what's really been on my mind!  Meanwhile, Cannon is doing GREAT in his new school, Geoff is chugging through another semester teaching college biology, and I am teaching The Film Workshop, by night.  Eloise continues to be adorable, and her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds!  

This is what I saw.