I was offered free preschool yesterday. As an SMC on (obviously) only one income, it was mighty tempting.
Miss K somehow managed to qualify for the Colorado Preschool Program, a program I registered for way back in January or February, when I was more concerned than I am now about her fine motor skills and how they might be impacted by her vision challenges (severe farsightedness). At the time, I was told that it was a long shot because there most likely would be four and five year olds with bigger issues that would need to be resolved before they entered kindergarten, and K is only three. In a nutshell, CPP is geared towards preschoolers who are considered to be "at risk" for a variety of reasons: living at the poverty level, being homeless, struggling with language barriers, and also having some sort of special needs (like vision) that might affect their success in kindergarten and beyond. Most families qualify due to income, but not all, especially where special needs are concerned.
And we got in! I just got the letter yesterday in the mail. At first I was excited, because hey, it's free preschool! And it does feel somewhat like an honor to qualify...hard to do at age three. I was excited because it's an intensive program that coordinates with a lot of community resources to support the "whole" child. It goes without saying that I want the strongest possible start for K, and this program really seemed to be a great way to go about it.
But... (and it's a big but) it's only a half-day program, four days per week, held at an elementary school that is in the opposite direction from my workplace. Doable, but certainly not convenient. The website claimed that they partner with other daycare centers and home daycares for parents who need full-day care, but when I called today, I was told that they couldn't "advertise" daycares because it would be showing preference for certain ones. (Wha?) So it leaves me with the need to find afternoon caregivers who can pick K up from preschool, not to mention the impact it would have on K, needing to go to two different places every day (and the whole day on Mondays). Not good.
But the biggest reason I think I'm going to turn it down? My dear girl is NOT actually an at-risk kid. Not financially, cognitively, socially, or emotionally. Not even because of her vision. She's handling her glasses just fine, they correct her vision just as they're supposed to, and she's currently doing beautifully with her fine motor skills. Some would say that my single parent status puts her at risk, but I strongly disagree. It doesn't sit well to consider putting her into a preschool program where she'd be surrounded by other kids who have greater challenges (socioeconomic, behavioral, emotional, etc.) than she does. This program requires two home visits per year by a "family advocate" (because they want to support the families as well as the kids) as well as a 90-minute home visit EVERY WEEK to do customized activities with the child. Yeah, how am I going to find time for that?! I'm not too excited about basically being treated like a family "at risk" for an entire school year, feeling like I'm living under a microscope, meeting with all these different people. For a little while after I got the letter, I did consider forfeiting the registration fee I just paid for K's new preschool so I could go with this one, but now I'm content with my decision to keep her at the one we chose. It's nice to feel like I made the right decision in the first place. :)