Okay, so I made my big preschool spreadsheet from all of your suggestions and got cracking on contacting schools. It was interesting to see how far behind I am in this process as some schools were only accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school year. Oops.
But, you know? Sometimes things work out - I think we're going to start at the second place I toured. I like it because it's small and they keep a 4:1 ratio all the way through. I also like it because it's mixed ages and Anna really enjoys playing with older kids. This is good because if she starts next month, she'll be the youngest one there. They accept kids starting at age 2 years, 9 months, which works out exactly for us. The afternoon program only has 9 kids right now and I think that's manageable for Anna. I wasn't happy about how many kids were in her class at her last school.
I am up in the air about the fact that they are non-academic. During the tour, I brought up the concerns that some of you raised to me about getting into kindergarten in California. The woman running the school had all sorts of things to say about that but basically that public kindergarten has to admit every kid. I did look up our state law information on kindergarten, and I didn't see any guidelines. If any of you know where I can look those up, I'd appreciate it. Or maybe it just affects what school you get placed in? Since I don't know if we'll even be in this area when Anna is ready for kindergarten, I feel kind of freed from the planning. Also, I decided a while ago that I'm not going to play that game of best preschool -> best kindergarten -> best schools -> perfect life. I'm going to take it as it comes. I just went to local public elementary in the 'burbs and look how great I turned out!
I feel pretty good about not having to do any more preschool tours. I had two scheduled for early May and I couldn't bring Anna - so it would have been a pain. I'm not just choosing this school to get out of more tours though. I think. I know I didn't like the first place I toured - they were disorganized and kind of boring. The place I visited today was full of fun activities like arts and crafts, dress up, play kitchen - etc. They also had some class pets - some snails and a turtle and I was all about that. I liked that they allowed me to bring Anna to the tour - she got to see it too and she really liked it. I explained to her how she was going to go there and showed her how I mailed the application. Of course that probably won't make it easier when I leave her there without me for the first time but well, that day will just have to come.
Oh and the cost? Pretty reasonable for our area. It's $330 for 2 afternoons a week (which I'm going to do) and $494 for 3 afternoons. I have to admit that I kind of pushed aside the school choices that only offered mornings because ugh, I just can't get out of the house that early if I don't have to yet. Especially if we're thinking of having another.
They only have one fundraiser and it's way more mellow than the one at our last school. There are parent responsibilities of course, but even though they call themselves a co-op, the responsibilities are no greater than those I had to shoulder at our last school. So I'm feeling pretty positive right now. I can't believe I'm going to have 2 afternoons a week to myself. I feel a little scared of that and a little guilty because taking care of Anna is my only job now. But after hearing all of your positive feedback on preschool, I'm going to give it a try. We'll see.