At the age of two, our pediatrician suggested we start preschool a couple of days a week to introduce our daughter to socializing with other kids. As a parent of a now 3-year-old who visited over 20 preschools in the South Bay of Los Angeles (my husband at some point gave up and told me to start visiting them on my own!). I realized then, that finding a preschool is so much harder than you think.

All I wanted was a place that encouraged love, trust, commitment to development, community values and a safe place where my child could grow up to be well adjusted, competent kindergartener (no pressure on the teachers!). For me, specifically, I desperately wanted my child and family to be a part of the community. I was committed to searching for a preschool that would promote honesty and strong moral principles. I wanted a place where my child would learn to respect others and admire their abilities, qualities and achievements. At the same time, I hoped to find a preschool where education and facilitating the learning and acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits would mold her into a well-rounded kindergartner with the ability to grab life and education by the horns and be the best she could be (no unrealistic expectations here!). I believed that the teachers were going to teach, train and carry on in the exact same fashion that we do at home, giving my child a code of solid moral fiber and the brain of Einstein!

After much too-ing and fro-ing, between different schools and different philosophies, I read a fascinating article on the blog about the “33 Reasons Why You Should Choose A Play-Based School For Your Child And Not An Academic One”. Further along in the blog they had an even more interesting article on “Why Preschool Should Not Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten”.

Oh man! Did I have it all wrong? Was preschool not getting her ready for Kindergarten? Did I want my 3-year-old to be an academic? Be able to write her name by 4 years old? Do math? Know the alphabet? Be the class captain? Sportsman of the year? YES! But no, it doesn’t work that way! Had I missed the memo on how to let kids be kids? How did I miss that children need to be knee deep in muddy puddles and covered in chocolate icing and paint? They don’t need rigidity and structure, they need freedom. Freedom to learn from their mistakes and not be taught how to never make mistakes. They need to learn how to fail, failing helps them understand how it feels to win. They need to entertain themselves with dramatic play and wild imagination to realize that anything is possible if you set your heart and mind to it. Exaggerated and creative play with other kids encourages wonderful social skills, and I believe it is in fact one of the best methods for teaching problem solving skills. Children are unselfish and uncomplicated – we should let them be happy, smiling, laughing little people.

I soon came to terms with the fact that all of the above, would not be possible without a dedicated principal and supportive teachers. I didn’t realize how much I would rely on, trust in and expect from teachers and educators. They are the direct link between the school and the parents and we trust them immensely with our precious cargo.

Now that this is all this is said and done, all I want is a preschool where play, imagination, sunshine and nature can make a happy little girl who can grow into someone who can build positive relationships, is empathetic, logical, and creative. And may these traits follow her through Kindergarten, thereafter as a 1st grader, middle schooler, high schooler, college student and adult.

Shalem Preschool is going to be the best foundation for my child’s education. The happy environment that seeps through every part of Shalem as well as its philosophy will teach my daughter about community, social development, compassion, honesty and most importantly how to be a well-rounded child, teen and grown-up.

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