Tuesday, August 24, 2010

ttt guest post: new evolution in teacher led playgroups

Hayden and I are flying off to Colorado to take care of some business, so I have a wonderful guest blog for today. 

J.C. Conklin is co-founder of Gorgeous Millie, a soon-to-open teacher led playgroup for mom's and kids 0-3 in the Austin Area. This is such a cool concept, especially since at playgroups I am dealing with two kids and leave stressed out. If someone knows of one of these in the Twin Cities area please let me know about iit.

Check out the Gorgeous Millie site and follow them on Twitter.

By J.C. Conklin, co-founder of Gorgeous Millie

I am terrified of leaving my children with nannies, mother’s day out programs, daycare or preschools. My fear has been confirmed again and again. We fired a nanny after she passed out at lunch with my children. Luckily I was downstairs working. The sound of chaos brought me to the kitchen. She blamed cold medicine. I thought the rum I smelled on her breath contributed.

My oldest son, (he’s four) is in the best preschool program in Austin, Texas. There’s a wait-list for two years to get in. Most people sign up when they find out they’re pregnant. His teacher told me that at other preschools she saw teachers force children’s heads down on mats during nap time because if they slept the teachers got to take a break. His preschool has no nap and has one way mirrors so the parents can watch anytime. Now I realize how lucky I am. 

I have been hesitant to put it mildly to place my children in anything I’m not there for until they can talk. I can’t risk it. But I want them to see other children on a regular basis. I want them to learn. And I desperately need a few minutes to breath while they are distracted. 

When a friend of mine in Washington DC told me about a teacher led playgroup she belonged to I was happy for her and envious. Mothers became members and they limited membership so the group was never crowded. The teacher led the children, ages 0 to 3, through music and art classes and supervised free play for three hours three days a week. She suggested fixes when mothers struggled with how to deal with different behaviors. The moms could talk some and have a cup of coffee. The kids socialized. The moms learned about early childhood development.

The teacher led (and fee based) playgroup is the newest evolution in early childhood education. Most cost $300 a month, some cost more. It sounded steep to me, especially since the parent is there the whole time but you are paying for 9 hours a week or 36 hours a month of instruction. I paid $75 a month for 45 minutes a week or three hours a month of instruction from Gymboree.

Washington DC has four groups with wait lists. Blue Igloo was started by the owner of the Washington Post’s grand-daughter because she couldn’t get into the other groups. Portland, Maine has the poshest one I’ve seen. They all have long waitlists.  Two different groups in New York City are planning on opening next year. I am stepping outside my comfort zone and starting one with my friend, Laura Jacks. Gorgeous Millie will open in Austin in January. Its website is www.gorgeousmillie.com 

The groups come with a bit of controversy. Some mothers say, “Why should I pay for a playgroup?” Others are more pointed, “It’s sad when you have to pay for something that you should organize in your neighborhood.” 

I say every playgroup that is mother-led I’ve heard of has broken up after a few meetings because of unresolved disputes (there’s no objective third party like a teacher who can step in), no neutral territory and irregular hours. Personally, I want to learn more about early childhood development from a professional while my baby sits next to another baby and pushes cars around. I would love to talk to other moms a few mornings a week . I crave some structure to my day besides nap, bath time and meals. But every mom is different and that’s one of the joys of life. 






No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading my 'lil ole blog! I love comments and would love to read yours.