After Benny's third birthday, we realized how much he needed to be in school and researched the local preschools in Ames. We ultimately decided on the school he's in for a few reasons:
A. It is a non-denominational program.
B. It is through Iowa State University, so the calendars are more or less the same for Shuky and Benny.
C. Because it's a university school, there are a lot of families in similar situations to us, one or both parents being students.
D. It is way more affordable than any other school in Ames.
Last year, we had a great year, with only a few small hiccups in terms of Judaism. They did a baking project as a class, without thinking how that would affect Benny. They forgot to give us notice (I probably would have kept him home that day) and called us a few minutes before starting the project to make sure it wasn't a problem. It was. Three year old kids don't bake without licking their fingers. I'm 26 and I don't bake without licking my fingers. So Shuky skipped a class and ran to sit with Benny to make sure he had one on one attention to keep his fingers out of his mouth. And, after all that, he didn't get to eat it with everyone.
Halloween time last year, they took the kids on a 'Costume Parade' - they took them to a nearby business building to go trick or treating. That's like celebrating the holiday in our book, so we just kept Benny home that day. Did something nice with him. What can you do.
Around Valentine's Day, they had friendship week. Had the kids make cards for each other and give out cute little goody bagies to all their friends. Again, that's like celebrating the holiday in our book. I took the kids on vacation for that week. Not directly because of that week, but I was planning to visit family in California so it worked out to make that the week.
We know it's not a Jewish school so we don't expect it to be completely accommodating. But I do expect to not have to keep my child home for a day because 'the kids just love trick or treating' (true story, a teacher said that to me last year as an explanation).
This year, Benny is in a different class and I feel the teacher is definitely more educated about Judaism. And more flexible. The specific program Benny is signed up through does not offer school on Wednesday, so the teacher told me she would plan any baking or other problematic lessons for those days. The class had a trip to see a play about Clifford the Big Red Dog. At pickup time that day, she came over to me and quietly told me in the beginning of the play, Christmas was brought up as Clifford was a present to Emily Elizabeth for the holiday. She wanted me to be aware in case Benny came home questioning.
Next week is Halloween week and I was so excited because Halloween falls out on a Wednesday this year, Benny wouldn't have to miss school! Turns out they are doing the 'costume parade' on Tuesday. Ok, I'll keep him home Tuesday. No big deal. Maybe I'll be able to go to the first day of Torah Tots in Des Moines, which we usually miss. I just got next week's schedule for his classes and it turns out each day is another version of dress up day. They chose to make the week all about dress up and imagination. While they are really cute things - crazy hat/hair day, fancy dress up day with a fashion show, crazy dress up day, pajama day and movie watching - had they been any other time of the year, I would have been thrilled! Benny loved pajama day last year!! But, revolving around Halloween, which Benny is already having a hard enough time with, seeing it all around him, there's no way we can send him for those days. I am going to see what kind of movies they plan on showing and maybe, MAYBE, send him for that.
Benny understands that, as Jews, we don't celebrate Halloween. He tells that to everyone he can. He still has a million questions about it. And it just wouldn't be fair to him to confuse him like that. He is smart but he's only four, his brain needs some more time to be able to take it all in.
In other news, it's freezing cold today.