(Warning: this is one of those long, rambling posts I am most proficient at creating. My apologies to my patient readers. Please feel free to skip it altogether if it’s just too much for you!)
Almost three years ago, I was excited to learn about a small preschool co-op in our area that is run entirely by mothers. It wasn’t something I could take advantage of just then, but it sounded fantastic to me and I tucked the idea of it back in my mind for future reference.
At the time, we had just made the decision to keep Nicolas out of preschool to further our goal of affording Covenant’s tuition for our older kids, and I knew we wouldn’t sending him back. This was hard in a couple ways: for one thing, Nicolas LOVED school. He is our most social child and really thrived on the experience of his sweet little preschool class. For another thing, I loved his school. The teachers were compassionate; they taught their little students well, sharing the love of Christ with them in word and action, and it was just really a great little place for him at that time in his life. The selfish side of me also loved the little “break” it afforded me in the middle of the week: to accomplish errands with one less child in tow, get to the doctor’s without finding a sitter, or drive a school field trip for one of our older children without finding someone to watch Nicolas.
But there was no question that based on decisions we’d made about private school, preschool would have to go, and so we said goodbye to our beloved little Church school with wistful hearts. Last year Nicolas was home with me, and we did some small school type activities together, which he enjoyed dearly. But he would ask me on a fairly regular basis, when he would get to go to school again, and obviously yearned to do so.
This year, even though Nicolas could technically (just barely) qualify for Covenant’s Kindergarten class, we chose to hold him back for another year before enrolling him. His birthday is less than one month before the cutoff date for his age group, which meant he’d be the youngest in his class. He is a tiny little guy compared to his peers (all the four year old girls in our neighborhood have now passed him in height), he’s a little slower on the gross motor skills, plus he still gets extremely tired by 1pm, to the point of actually taking a nap some days. I could go on and on with all the reasons we as his parents felt it wise to keep him home, but Jay and I felt so comfortable and of one mind in the decision to wait before enrolling him in school. The only downside in our minds being that again, our little guy might have some emotions to work through as he continued to wait his turn for “big school”.
And then God provided Chapel School. I put my name on the waiting list for this co-op over two years ago. It’s not an exclusive club by any means, but it is limited in size by the ability of moms to run their own little school, and the fact that lots of families are hoping for a chance to join in. When I put my name on the list, I was hoping that a spot might open up for Nicolas someday, but not right then. I was about to have a new baby, and knew a house move was likely in our future as well.
A couple years went by, and then early this summer I received the call I had been waiting for, telling me they had an opening for Nicolas. It’s what I had thought I wanted, and yet when they asked us if we were interested, I hesitated to say yes right away. I worried about the fact that his ability to participate in this “school” hinged on my own involvement, which meant more work for me, and less time in my already full schedule. My saying yes to Chapel School meant I wouldn’t be dropping my little boy off for a few hours while I ran errands or accomplished tasks. Quite the opposite: in this situation, I would not only stay with him for the entire morning he attended school, I would actually teach a class for one out of every four meetings, and at the time, such a thing sounded a little daunting. And truthfully, I sort of wished we could just scrape together enough money to send Nicolas off to preschool for a couple of days a week. I really did. Which isn’t a terrible thing at all…but it wasn’t an option, and still wanting it left me in a state of discontentment, even if it wasn’t a constant pestering thought. I prayed about it, and mulled over my options for the next few days. And without feeling 100% confident in my decision, I told the organizers of the co-op, yes, to please put us on the roster for 2007.
Well, last week, after a couple months’ countdown by Nicolas, who has been eagerly awaiting the start of school all summer, we had our first day of Chapel School. I’ve had several organizational meetings before this which facilitated my meeting many of the other moms who are involved. We attend school and church with several others, so there were quite a few familiar faces by the first day. Nicolas knew very few of the other children, but he jumped right in, and had himself a blast. After watching him enjoy his first day so much, there is no question in my mind that I made the right decision in saying yes to this commitment. This year he will have himself a bit of a preschool experience: at his school, he will enjoy learning phonics, math, and language and participate in art, cooking, Bible and music. All in a loving, grace-filled environment with other children and moms who are blessed to have the chance to experience this together. Even Josiah, who is in the nursery because he is under the age of three, will enjoy enrichment time for some of the morning. He, along with the rest of the older nursery crowd will have a time for singing, stories, recess, and games. This was an unexpected, extra blessing for him to enjoy.
But it hit me this past week, that the most unexpected blessing was for me. I was recounting the events of our first morning to Jay, eager to share with him all that had gone on, impressed with how much this group of Moms manages to accomplish in two and a half hours’ time with thirty bouncy and active children ages 3-6. The atmosphere at Chapel School was wonderful. But not just for the kids. All of us moms, as we work together to help teach our children, are serving as helpers and sources of encouragement to each other. Supporting one another in a hugely practical way as we strive toward a common goal of training up our children. How wonderful to have another source of help, a group of moms doing the same things I am doing, facing the same struggles and triumphs, and attempting to nurture these little people in the things of the Lord.
Despite our enjoyment of this new experience, it came as a complete shock to me the realization that even if tomorrow we all of a sudden had the ability to enroll Nicolas in a regular preschool, that I no longer had any desire to do so. Funny and wonderful how this has changed. It’s not that I’m not busier – I am. Life is fuller than I have ever felt it was, and I have yet to catch up with my laundry, needy house, and a mountain of other tasks that still are asking for attention. But I have gained a sense of peace about this precious time with Nicolas. Instead of feeling like I am lacking somehow because I won’t send him to a traditional preschool, I know I will dearly treasure this fleeting time with my sunny boy before he’s in “big school”. I am so grateful for the chance to participate in this co-op, both to be a part of teaching sweet Nicolas along with several of his peers, and to form some new friendships with other moms of preschoolers. I am glad that my two little boys will have this opportunity for growth and learning among friends this year. Most of all, I am utterly thankful for the very real blessing of contentment (in at least this part of my life) with our current situation. That is a very good thing, and one for which I humbly give thanks.