Ellie wasn't the only girl in this family who started school on Wednesday.
Stephanie has started attending FriendShip preschool at the Presbyterian Church near our house. The preschool is not religious, though they do say a prayer of thanks before snacktime. It has a play-based learning model, which Stephanie loves! She has been a happy camper since day one. She was so very ready to go to school. Of course, I'm sure it helps that last week was a starter week with only one hour of school each day for three days. Her regular week will be daily "school" for only 2.5 hours, a far cry from her rigorous, highly regulated 8:30-1:30 days at her previous Montessori school.
I've always been a big believer in the Montessori method for under-6s. While no one approach is perfect, I really like the emphasis on independence and structure in the Montessori system. It was ideal for our rule-bound Ellie; not so much for our free-spirited Stephanie. We always suspected that a play-based program would suit her personality better, but it wasn't worth sending the girls to two different schools to find out. In this location, however, we have no choice about that; two different schools was our only option. Stephanie is thrilled!
In the US, Kindergarten is the first year of mandatory schooling. The year before that in most preschools is called Pre-Kindergarten or Pre-K. Since Stephanie won't reach the Pennsylvania age cut-off for kindergarten until next year, she is in pre-k now. Her teacher, Mrs. Lear, is very kind, warm and experienced. She gave up teaching kindergarten more than 10 years ago and has been teaching at this preschool ever since. There are only seven other children in the afternoon class (mornings are more popular; we couldn't get in), so the small class size is fantastic. From the very first day, Stephanie has gone in without a backward glance. We're so happy we found a great place for her too.