The pre-school hunt actually began last year when our speech and language pathologist assistant told us that it would be super beneficial for Fernando to socialize in a pre-school setting. Now, my mom, Fernando’s primary caretaker, used to be a middle school teacher for 20 years. Fernando, now, knows A LOT because of her. However, my mom is not a fan of socializing, so I had to make sure I took care of that aspect of schooling. What our SLPA had had in mind was a drop-off pre-school program. This was around January of 2017.
At the time I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of dropping off our non-verbal, almost 2 year old at a school where he didn’t even know the language. Luckily, a co-worker of mine had told me about an evening Mommy and Me class in Cerritos. I grew up and live close to the city of Pico Rivera (Montebello, Bell Gardens area). While Cerritos was not an ideal location, I liked the idea of being able to accompany Fernando to this class. And an even better bonus, my husband could go, too. Great!
NOT. I’m literally laughing out loud right now because I can clearly remember my husband telling me that he did NOT want to go back after Day 1. It was HARD. Fernando did not want to sit still AT ALL, he didn’t understand the teacher (English only), and he couldn’t communicate his needs. We stuck with it, though. February 2017 – June 2017. The entire semester. I remember having to make sure that there was a bottle of wine waiting for me in the fridge every Wednesday after class.
Mommy and Me was not offered during the summer and I was having trouble finding a pre-school that I was comfortable with. I visited SIX different schools. SIX. Please keep in mind that Fernando was pretty much non-verbal at this time and only understood Spanish. There was this massive fear that if something happened to him at school, he would not be able to communicate what happened, who did it, or defend himself verbally. He had no words. None. Of course it was going to be impossible for me to find the perfect school where I could feel comfortable leaving him.
I had to make sure that the school he attended had someone that spoke Spanish and it was disheartening because I struggled to find any. There were also certain behaviors I saw from both children and teachers in each school that I was not comfortable with. I saw some children isolated from the class – and to be honest with you, I didn’t know if it was because they chose to, or if they were placed there. But then I thought our luck had changed and I had a found a great school/day-care in our city, where Fernando’s cousin attended. They even offered me the ideal schedule of twice a week, 3 hours each day. It was perfect! It was a short amount of time, he would be with someone he knew, and it would be close to home! I immediately filled out the paperwork, took our son to get his TB test, and called them to turn in the application. They would not take my calls. After hounding them for days, the person in charge finally picked up and said, “We can’t offer you that time after all. If he was coming daily, then we could.” I even tried to tell her that I had already taken him to get his TB test and she pretty much shot me down and hung up. The rage I felt at that time was the kind that makes you tear up which makes you even more angry because you’re tearing up. It took awhile for me to let go of that one.
A trusted friend was taking her home-schooled daughters to a Spanish program near a beach city. They also offered a drop-off program. It was once a week for 1.5 hours. PERFECT! Spanish, super short time, the 30 minute commute each way didn’t matter because I was off for the summer and I was doing everything possible to follow my SLPA’s advice of finding a drop-off program for him. Long story short, by the third class, the owner spoke to me to tell me that Fernando had been allowed to cry for 40 minutes and that maybe we should try their mommy and me instead. We did not return.
Luckily I have a couple of close friends with kids. We were able to have play dates over the summer. Fernando socialized. Summer 2017 was tough but memorable.
NOW, I can feel summer 2018 breathing down my neck. Currently we’re doing the Mommy and Me evening class again in Cerritos. And lo and behold, Fernando LOVES it. He asks to go. The teacher even commented to us, “Fernando has just BLOSSOMED. And keep speaking Spanish to him at home because he’ll pick up English quickly.” I am currently on the Tiny Tots wait list for our city, which is not my ideal choice, but it leads me to my BLOG RANT:
I do not understand why my city and the cities surrounding it, do not offer a Spanish/Dual-Language Immersion/Bilingual pre-school. My local libraries do not even offer a Spanish reading time for children. We are talking about cities where if you are not Latino, you are a minority. A nearby city adopted a Dual Language Immersion School and are now in the works of making it a full blown Dual Language Immersion School and there are citizens RESISTING the school. They are calling it a “Spanish-only” school and some of these citizens are even commenting things like, “You’re in America. Speak English.”. Again, in a city where 91.2% of the residents are Latino (Census). But cities in Pasadena and Long Beach have actual wait-lists for their Spanish Dual Language Immersion Schools. The rage is real. And it’s what inspired me to start Raising Español. Because while there are plenty of people who support bilingualism, I find them few and far between where I live. The stigma of being labeled ELD, Spanish speaking, of having an accent, are strong. And while few people may read my blog, I want these stigma-fearing people to know that there concerns are not founded. Speaking two languages is AMAZING. It really is. And it has so many benefits.
This rant has now motivated me to call my local library and inquire about Spanish reading time for children. I will keep you posted.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with this pre-school process, but I’m glad I have an outlet where I can write about it. I wish someone would have told me how challenging this process is. I hope I am helping some of you out. Or that you can at least empathize. Feel free to leave your Pre-School tips and/or suggestions! Hasta luego!