The Politics of Preschool

So, around these parts apparently I’m some sort of leper. I’m the one in my neighborhood that’s not sending my nineteen-month-old child to a temple preschool. Now, for those of you who are not Jewish and obviously going straight to hell or at least not fully understanding the big difference between a frozen bagel and one from a Jewish deli – let alone the difference between a bagel and a biali, temple preschool seems to be the way to go among the lox and cream cheese crowd. I, myself, am Jewish but I’m am opposed to sending my child to a temple preschool where they have the nerve to charge you temple membership fees a YEAR IN ADVANCE to when your child would attend their school. The fee to join up? – only thousands of dollars – plus a lot of extra fees for improvement or some other bullshit. I’m not sure what you get for that except for good seats at the high holidays.

It’s not that I don’t honor my Jewish heritage. I actually got lectured on a previous post for making fun of Jews because of a joke about us being good bargainers even at a nudie bar (sorry but we are). I realize that millions of us were rounded up during world war 2 and that if something that awful happened again I’d be rounded up just like everyone else. But…in the meantime, I don’t want my child leading a sheltered existance in a school where an inordinate amount of time is spend contemplating snacks and the other mothers are waaaaay too into temple politics for my taste. FOR MY TASTE, PEOPLE. Please don’t get all up in arms about this. It’s my personal decision. I think that Judaism has become something less than a spiritual endeavor in these parts of the LA Valley and more of a club of which I don’t need to be a member.

I found a cute preschool close to my house that seems like a throwback to my preschool days which of course I remember clear as a bell. Or not. But no matter. This school only has 12 kids to a class which I think is great. The two teachers have been teaching together for 10 years (maybe they’re gay. All the better). There are children of all creeds and colors and it’s non academic. A developmental preschool in this competitive age is an oasis in the desert.

All I can say is, I went, I saw, I signed up. it’s that easy. I didn’t spend the better part of my daughter’s toddlerhood weighing the pros and cons of which school would give her the best chance in getting into Yale. It’s fucking preschool. I’m putting my money where my book is. I have friends who happily spend the better part of what could be a perfectly enjoyable margarita infused playdate discussing which school district we’re in and how that’s going to affect the old college years of our offspring. Newsflash: I didn’t even go to college and I barely graduated high school with a 2.3 GPA. But in nursery school, I kicked ass. So I don’t think one has anything to do with another and I’m not going to get involved in all the drama that surrounds this hot topic. Let them discuss it on the View, in playgroups and on playdates without me. I’m going with my gut.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on June 19, 2006 5:05 amUncategorized23 comments  


  1. Neil said,

    If, in twenty years, your daughter is too busy with her sorority party-planning to come home for your Passover seder, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 11:02 am

  2. chichimama said,

    I went with a developmental, non-competative preschool as well, and spend my LIFE trying to explain to people why I didn’t send my kids to the one at our church. I think you did the right thing.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  3. ESB said,

    Right ON.

    Don’t even get me started on those temple fees. I decided last fall that I can no longer afford to be a Jew. And that’s fine with me. Once, about 6 years ago, when I *was* considering attending high holiday services after a long gap, a rabbi actually told me that “there was no room for me at the inn.” Fuck that.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 11:55 am

  4. webhill said,

    I’m confused.

    I have my kids in a synagogue-affiliated preschool. While we *are* members of the synagogue, we didn’t join until my oldest had already been in preschool for two years. There is certainly no membership requirement for preschool attendance, although I suppose if the school became completely full to the extent we could not accomodate all the children of members, as happens in some congregations in Manhattan and elsewhere, we would probably implement one.

    Regarding another commenter who said he or she can not afford to be a Jew – if they don’t want to be a Jew, fine – but if they do, I urge them to consider another congregation. it sounds like the rabbi at hers is an asshole. Our congregation has family services at the High Holy Days which are open to *everyone.* It is true that our sanctuary can not accomodate non-members during the busy holidays at the main/adult services, but our family services, which are short and sweet, are open to anyone including out of town guests and non-Jews.

    Furthermore, I have found myself in strange cities during the Holy Days a number of times. I never had a problem finding a place to attend services in San Francisco, New York, or a few random small cities along the East Coast of the USA.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 12:51 pm

  5. Mama of 2 said,

    Good for you going with your GUT! I commend you for doing so. I feel that preschool should be a fun enjoying experience that prepares our kids for what it’s like to be away from mommy and daddy, where they learn to follow rules, share and play with other kids.
    As for acedemics…I think that preschool should be a place where they learn without knowing that they are. Make it fun for them cause we all know that life gets hard way too fast.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

  6. mothergoosemouse said,

    Oy. Never understood the pre-school politicking. My girls are in a school where I know they are safe and loved – end of story.

    A former co-worker of mine in New York enrolled his daughter in their temple pre-school in Westchester. She fell and broke her arm. The director did not call for medical help – merely called the child’s mother – and no accident report was documented. The director and the rabbi refused to return calls from the parents (who understandably wanted more information about what had happened).

    My point is that anything can happen at any school, which is why “safe and loved” are my top priorities.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 1:47 pm

  7. mama heidala said,

    Wow, I have never been more proud of you than I am right now. I joined my local Temple so my daughter could go to Sunday school. The cost was way more than I could afford. The other moms were mean stuck up bitches who had no interest in playdates with my child. I stayed a member only a few months and then just felt more and more uncomfortable each time I dropped my kid off so I stopped going. I will never “pay to pray” again.
    My daughter had a great preschool experience at the local nursery school, and I am sending my son there this fall.
    Maybe you should try Mormonism. Once they are married they don’t change their underwear.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

  8. Stefanie said,

    Dear Webhill, I think perhaps it’s different where you live. In my area, every temple is the same. In fact, some are worse than the one I described. I went to the Mommy and Me group there and very seriously considered sending my daughter to their preschool but when I found out about the not-so-hidden fees, I decided against it for many reasons. There are no free services around here. Believe me, I’ve checked.

    | June 19, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

  9. jackt said,

    The school of hard knocks has no religious affiliation. 🙂

    | June 19, 2006 @ 7:15 pm

  10. Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said,

    Down here in the Bible Belt, we have 150 versions of Baptist pre-schools, all of which teach lots of Jesus songs and nothing else. Religious-affiliated schools scare me … but that could just be the Catholic School flashbacks I’m having …

    | June 19, 2006 @ 7:53 pm

  11. Antique Mommy said,

    Good for you. The whole pressure to find the “right” preschool for your kid sickens me.

    | June 20, 2006 @ 12:09 am

  12. Haley-O said,

    Don’t even give it another thought! I think you made an excellent decision. And, you didn’t have to wait in line at 6am, did you? I’m only sending Joey to a Synagogue preschool because that’s where my good friends are sending their kids–but it’s not my synagogue, so I won’t be dealing with temple politics (well, I never deal with temple politics–I go on the high holidays, end of story). Sounds like your daughter will be very happy at the preschool you chose for her. 🙂

    | June 20, 2006 @ 2:18 am

  13. stephanie said,

    Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.

    That’s what I say 🙂

    | June 20, 2006 @ 3:48 am

  14. stefanierj said,

    This was hilarious. FWIW, the director at D’s preschool-to-be said that for the pre-two set, they mostly focus on learning to get along in a group and helping at clean-up time. THAT is an academic program I can get behind.

    I’ve missed you–catching up now.

    | June 20, 2006 @ 3:58 am

  15. stephanie said,

    Yo Bitch – 3 smacks!!!

    Woot 🙂

    You rock, but you already know that 🙂

    | June 20, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

  16. Taira said,

    You tell em sister!!! Good for you. My son went to a regular-cheese and crackers-preschool and the teachers were great! I think my son is less screwed up now because of them. Also, I completely understand the whole pushy mommy sydrome. One woman actually gasped when I told her I wasn’t part of a Mommy and Me group, then she proceeded to “educate” me on the pros. Needless to say, I never saw her again.

    | June 20, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

  17. KaraMia said,

    Here from “I talk too much”. Love this post. I know how you feel about choosing what’s right for you and your child. Mine’s ten now and I still have those times…ah well, like to say it gets easier..but..lol.
    and this phrase “Now, for those of you who are not Jewish and obviously going straight to hell” had me rolling. My babtist minister of a brother said something along the same lines to me…lol

    | June 20, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

  18. Denise said,

    why do any of us have to defend ourselves for making an intelligent, well-informed decision that we feel is the best thing for our child?

    | June 20, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

  19. Kim said,

    Whenever I don’t listen to my instincts about schools for my children it always turns out bad. I wish I trusted myself when my kids were little like you do.

    | June 20, 2006 @ 7:34 pm

  20. SMIT said,

    I’m not Jewish but I TOTALLY miss a good bagel. The only bagel shop around here is owned by a Korean family. WTH??? It’s like a hampster teaching flight lessons.

    | June 21, 2006 @ 1:23 am

  21. Nila said,

    The whole schooling thing is difficult. I often wonder who the hell left me in charge. Although instead of preschool, my battle will be to find a good Jr. High in a couple of years. My kids have been in a small Montessori school, so a traditional school seems a bit scary.

    | June 21, 2006 @ 2:40 am

  22. Naomi said,

    I don’t intend to send my son to the synagogue preschool either. Or any of the so called “day school” programs. I don’t know where I will send him, but hopefully I can find something local, colourful and welcoming.

    I’m a teacher at a Jewish day school (high school) too, and, although it is a good school, it’s not for us.

    So good on you for sticking with your instinct!

    | June 22, 2006 @ 8:41 pm

  23. Heels said,

    1. What I know of temple fees and high holiday seating I learned from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm from my DVR a couple of weeks ago.

    2. Aside from the fact that it’s Alabama (and therefore admittedly not great), the good thing about raising kids in Alabama is that even some of the Jewish kids go to preschool or MMO at the neighborhood Baptist or Methodist church. No membership fees. I guess the downside would be the Easter carnival and the fact that the ultra-competitive mommies have fixed it so that a gal has to show up at the asscrack of dawn to have a chance to sign up for the sign up list to qualify to attend the MMO program…

    I guess it’s a bitch everywhere, then. Hmpf.

    | June 26, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

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