Wife: "Honey, we've decided that Karissa will be attending Explorer Preschool this year."
Me: "Yes Dear"
Wife: "It's a Co-op Parent Participation School, which offers kids the wonderful opportunity to be introduced to a school classroom and outdoor setting that fosters healthy learning and social skills through play and exploration of nature!"
Me: "That's really great Honey"
Wife: "You'll be the Working Parent, so you'll be required to work in the classroom, preparing meals, cleaning restrooms, vacuuming, sterilizing toys, supervising play outdoors, knee-deep inside a creek, and so on "
Me: "That's sounds like fun Honey...wait, what?"
"Clueless Dad", that was my official self-imposed title during our first 2 wonderful years at Explorer Preschool. Our daughter Karissa began her first day at Explorer as a 3 yr old, me as a 43 yr old. On the first day of school I signed Karissa in and began putting on a blue apron with a number 2 on it. It was my first time donning an apron and as I struggled with the rear ties, I looked around and noticed something different about the other working parents and teachers. Apparently I was the only one that needed to shave north of the neckline before coming in. No problem, I could handle being in a room with 7 or 8 women and 20 preschoolers. Then I wondered what they would think of me being there. Would it be uncomfortable for them, the teachers or the kids? From the jump, many of my fears and discomfort were alleviated by Teacher Jackie's pat on the back and in her soft English accent, "You'll do just fine Nick." The moms in the class also made me feel like one of the family and never out of place. As a new dad I had a lot to learn in all areas of parenting and it was at this point that I told myself that I was going to allow myself to learn from every one of these parents and teachers to help me become the best possible dad. Wednesdays were my days to work in the classroom, as that was my day off in my "other job". I completed my daily tasks as outlined in the little laminated card which I carried in my front apron pocket like a kangaroo carries it's young. I cleaned restrooms and vacuumed and took out trash...but I also helped kids make rockets, paint Valentines, create ornaments, build haunted houses, fly kites, explore the creek, play football, soccer, rehearse musicals, make burritos, quesadillas, BBQ hot dogs, and so many other enjoyable activities that I could write for days about them. I also watched in amazement as Teachers Konne and Jackie always had the right response to each and every child's behavior- each remark, action, or conflict..always keeping calm and maintaining the peace while acknowledging every child and never letting them feel ignored or hurt. When they would catch me trying to do too much for a student, like putting on a shoe, or cleaning up a mess, Jackie or Konne would whisper "Let them solve it on their own Nick, they can do it, let them show you." I was in awe.
Karissa's last day at Explorer was an emotional one for us. We said goodbye, wishing it didn't have to end and Karissa was an only child..until she wasn't and her baby "bother" Evan came along...then we got to do it all over again with Evan!
When I think of the alternatives that some families opt for, such as drop off day care/preschools for example, I think of how fortunate we were to find Explorer (OK my wife found). I'm sure there are some top notch programs out there, but I treasure each and every memory from every moment I was able to spend at Explorer. Our kids are only kids once and for a very short time that just flies by in the blink of an eye. I am so very grateful to Explorer Preschool, both teachers and parents, for allowing us the opportunity to share in the rich experience of being at school where we both played, learned and grew.
This was my family's first year at Explorer. Our oldest, 3.5 years old, attends on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He loves the outdoor equipment and playhouse, the mailbox in the literacy room, the water feature in the sandpit, and all the instruments and books in circle time. He had attended another preschool, but once he moved in to their 3 year old classroom, he wasn't happy. Watching him thriving at Explorer thrills me. Our youngest, 18 months, does Together Time with me on Tuesdays. He loves the outdoor kitchen and the sensory play area. Both kids are so happy here and it is wonderful to watch their confidence grow. I think that the biggest difference for our family though has been the sense of community and the parent education offerings. My husband enjoys going to the evening workshops and I love having so many opportunities to learn from and connect with other parents. I couldn't be happier with our experience here.
Searching for a preschool for your child is quite a process. I researched approximately 20 different local preschools - reading reviews online, attending open houses, talking to staff/parents. I knew I was looking for a co-op preschool since my daughter was just 2 years old and I wanted to remain a strong influence in her education, growth and development. As a parent it is amazing at the choices available when searching for the right preschool. After considering the necessities of a safe, clean, stable, educational environment, I really wanted a school where she could learn from her peers, teacher and yes, still a little from mom.
I stumbled across an Explorer booth at the Las Madres School Faire and instantly I knew this was the top contender. I immediately applied and noted the open house on my calendar. My eggs were all in one basket. I was ecstatic when we were accepted into the Friday 2's class. The school, lesson plans, teachers, moms and students have all surpassed any expectations I had entering the preschool world.
There is a lot of strength behind the community unity when all parents choose to be invested in their children's education. My daughter and I have truly thrived attending Explorer.
We started our daughter at Explorer last Fall when she was 15 months. Another mommy who I really trust recommended this fine school, and I also did extensive research. We wanted a program to engage her and encourage her. She wasn't yet walking when school started in September but she still was able to engage. When she started walking, we liked the environment and Teacher Annie so much that they found a way to add us to a second day. She goes twice a week with me for 90 minutes which is a perfect amount of time.
She loves Circle Time at the end of class which is different each time but has enough predictability and repetition that she gets excited.
The mothers you meet in this class will be long time friends. Everybody is incredibly nurturing and helpful, I never worry about anything.
She will continue this summer with their one month summer program which incorporates more water play and outdoor activities, and then she will continue into the 2s class in the fall.
We are very grateful to Explorer, especially Teacher Annie. My daughter has prospered here and I've learned so much about her and developed great friendships with wonderful moms to boot!