Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pre-School Blues

So we finally did it. We scraped together enough cash to enroll Aidan in pre-school.

Pre-school costs are seriously outta control here, ranging from about 8K/year on the low end up to 24K. So really, you have to choose: do I want to send my kid to pre-school? Or do I hope some day to partially fund his college education? You shouldn’t have to choose, but there it is.

In the fall, Aidan will start kindergarten at one of these pricey schools, courtesy of the State Dept (your tax dollars at work!). But until he’s 5 years old, we’re on our own.

We’d resigned ourselves to the fact that he wouldn’t be going, but we couldn’t help feeling we were doing him a disservice by keeping him home, as next year he’ll be thrust into an all-day, hard-core educational environment.

The final straw snapped when we enrolled him in soccer. He was thrilled to go, but when he got there and saw all the other kids, he burst into tears and refused to participate. Bummer about the soccer, but it made us realize we couldn’t let him hide from situations like that forever, and we decided we had to make school work, if only to ensure that he wouldn’t burst into tears when the time came to board the bus for kindergarten.

So he started at the cheapest one we could find, a little art-focused school just down the road. He started last Friday, when the school held a Chinese New Year’s party, and he had a great time making dumplings, doing Chinese calligraphy and papercutting, and listening to an opera singer from the Beijing Opera, who performed snippets of different characters and played some traditional Chinese instruments.

The class is small – just 5 other kids, and only 1 other American – so it’s a good size for him. And the school is heavy into arts and crafts, which he loves. He also gets to take tennis, kungfu and Chinese classes.

So far, so good. He seems to be having a great time. In fact, he told me he wants to sleep at the school from now on. Of course, next week Chinese New Year begins, so school will be closed for 2 weeks. But it’ll give him something to look forward to.

Me, I’m already looking forward to college. I just finished up a story about “preparing your kids for college,” and one of the sources I interviewed was a financial advisor. He took me through the financial calculators, and determined that if we want to send all four kids to U.S. colleges, we need to save $1500 a month from now until baby #4 heads off to Harvard. $1500 a month. Here I’d been hoping he would congratulate me on how good a job we’ve done thus far saving for college – alas, apparently we’re nowhere near our goal.

Let’s hope the kids all get scholarships at state schools somewhere. Because who knows? We could still be paying off pre-school 18 years from now…

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