Photo: 3 pigs craft and flannel board story - Creative Commons, by Mommachels-Flickr
I have only touched briefly on the school changes that have happened with us over the past few months, but I want to give a bit more background because this has impacted us a great deal. Around December of last year, it was becoming painfully clear that (1) due to staffing changes, Ceeya’s preschool was not providing the type of care we had become accustomed to; and (2) it was becoming cost-prohibitive to send her there. The preschool was struggling financially so it was understaffed and couldn’t afford to bring in different teachers, and we became aware of an exodus of kids from the school.
Ceeya’s preschool teacher had taught 3rd and 4th grade previously but she had no classroom experience with this age group. I didn’t feel she was engaging the kids at the appropriate level – she seemed to default to arts and crafts and coloring, which I felt was a missed opportunity for this age group. They are little sponges for information at that age, and school can be so much fun for them. I also noticed that Ceeya’s toileting hygiene started to slip because the teacher wasn’t as on top of it as the previous teacher. The children in the class were a mix of three-and-four-year-olds, so they were all potty trained but still at the age where I would say they needed regular reinforcement on how to wipe and wash their hands. At home in the bathroom with her I realized she had stopped wiping at all and no longer even flushed the toilet. It was infuriating and I had to have repeated conversations with her about how important it was to keep herself clean. I also had conversations with the teacher that seemed to go nowhere, since there was no change.
As things deteriorated, we started working with Ceeya at home in the evenings and on weekends with materials we got from Lakeshore and various online sites because we felt her fine motor skills were stagnating (a relevant concern due to her sensory processing issues) and quite frankly because she was bored with school.
At the same time, I started looking into other preschools in our area, most of which were (1) just as, if not more, expensive and (2) not accepting new students. The situation was looking desperate. And then the skies parted and the fates conspired to have me run into a former coworker/ friend/ neighbor at an event that I would not usually have been at, but was asked to attend because another coworker had a dentist appointment. And there, my problems were solved, because she told me about a FREE LA Universal Preschool (LAUP) program in our old neighborhood, which was collaborating with a FREE pilot pre-K program at Viva’s school (which, hello? How did I not hear about it?). They were in need of additional kids for the program because it was still new.
So in February, Ceeya began attending two FREE educational programs and our only cost now is before and after care, which saves us $500 a month. Instead of coming home with coloring pages, Ceeya now comes home with sheets to help her trace her name. She is learning to read sight words (the, and, this, etc.) and can read some books by herself. In LAUP, they have done a unit on the life cycle – so they have hatched real live chicks from eggs, they have a tank full of tadpoles, and they recently acquired caterpillars and are learning about chrysalises. She has a new best friend named Miles, who is crazy about her.
All of this is great, except for one thing: the naps.
Due to the structure of the LAUP/Pre-K programs, there is no nap time scheduled for these kids. The person running the LAUP program also runs the after-school program, which includes older kids. There is no separate quiet space for the younger kids to nap.
Ceeya is awesome when she’s well-rested. When she’s not, it is – how do you say? – challenging. Basically, she falls apart at the slightest perceived provocation. Witness, last week at around 5:30:
I have just gotten home and I have gone into the other room to change my clothes. Ceeya and Viva have unpacked their lunches and are sitting on their bed talking.
Ceeya: Guess what we had for snack today?
Ceeya: Tacos and chips.
Viva: Chicken nuggets.
Ceeya: [falls out screaming and crying]
Mama [runs into their room]: What happened?
Viva [wearily]: I have no idea, all I said was chicken nuggets.
Ceeya [after 3 minutes of unintelligible cry-talking]: I said I had tacos and she said I had chicken nuggets! [screaming and crying again]
Mama: I don’t think that’s what she meant.
Ceeya: But I didn’t HAVE chicken nuggets! I had tacos!
Mama: I understand. So if YOU know you had tacos, then you had tacos. What difference does it make what she says?
Ceeya: Because she is MEAN.
Viva: WHAT? Oh my God. I didn’t even –
Mama: She is deliriously tired. Let’s not make things worse. Let me talk to her. Why don’t you go relax yourself in the other room, okay?
Viva goes off in a huff. I am left to put Ceeya back together from a little puddle on the floor.
And repeat this scenario in various incarnations to infinity, and that is what our life is like right now on the weekdays. Sometimes Ceeya passes out at about 6:30 and we have to bathe and pajama her in a half-conscious state. Sometimes depending on his schedule Sweet Dub is able to pick them up from school at 2:30 and can manage to get Ceeya to take a nap by 3:30 or 4:00, but by that point since she wants to sleep for two hours she is impossible to wake up. Either way, it is not a good time.