Thursday, September 17, 2015

Preschool


HP started preschool last month. I have had in my head that it would be great for him to start in a part time program the fall after he turned three. In Austin I kept putting it off finding a program for him because it was so hard to find a place that met our criteria:
  1. Within two miles of our house
  2. Had a part-time option
  3. Was reasonably priced
  4. Did not radically go against our parenting ethos (read: we wanted a place with lots of free play and outdoor time and little to no emphasis on academics)
There were places that were close, but they only offered full-time slots. There were places that emphasized free play, but they cost more than our mortgage--for part time. There were places in our budget that did part-time, but they were five miles away. So. I crossed my fingers and hoped that our plans to move would work out and that there would be better options in the new location.

Luckily for us, that's exactly what happened! We found a place that only does part-time (perfect! all the kids are in the same boat!), is amazingly affordable, and emphasizes play.

HP is doing so well. There were no tears or clinging on the first day or any day thereafter. He just found something to play with and off he went. He is one of the quieter kids in the class, which is not surprising to me since he has always been more of an observer in group situations. The teachers have told me that he is "easy," "calm," "so zen," and "composed in the midst of chaos."

Preschool came at just the right time for us. Since moving here, HP's been spending most of his time with me and E since we are still in the process of meeting other families. Back in Austin, we saw friends most every weekday. HP was missing playing with kids his age, and preschool is the perfect opportunity to meet a whole slew of new friends (for him and for me!).

Another benefit: On preschool mornings I get some time to myself while E naps. The first morning I came home, I put E down, made myself a cup of coffee, and read a book in the quiet. Bliss.

It's been interesting for me to have him in an environment where I don't know exactly what goes on. Not bad, just different than what it has been up until this point. Usually he is either with me, Neil, or a relative. Preschool gives him the opportunity to regularly interact with unrelated adults and negotiate a different sets of rules and expectations. I also love that through preschool he has something that is just his, not just something he does with our family. It made me think of this post by Jennifer Dary, specifically this passage:
It reminded me of the feeling I had when my brother went to Kindergarten. I distinctly remember him talking about some of the things they did on his first day of school and realizing that my brother was going to know people and do things that I knew nothing about. Up until that point I had known his whole world... now he was going to have parts of it that were private. He was beginning to write his own story and that's how I feel when I think of Noah spending some of his days at a daycare too.
It's good for HP. It's good for me. It's good for our family. Preschool, it is so nice to have you in our lives!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Box bike or bucket bike?

Back in the spring, we decided to buy a longtail cargo bicycle to accommodate our family of four. We have been happy with the Yuba Mundo, but since moving to Bloomington we've realized that we need to find a biking situation for the kids that will work in the colder weather. Riding a bike in the cold is okay for the rider, as you warm up quickly when you pedal. For passengers, it is a different story. Especially for passengers that are too young to know what is good for them and proceed to pull of mittens. Solution: a cargo bike with a rain cover, either a Madsen (bucket in the back) or a bakfiets (box in the front).

Image courtesy of Madsen Cycles

WorkCycles Kr8: ready-steady-cargo!
Image courtesy of WorkCycles

We were almost ready to pull the trigger on the Madsen last week, but I have been waffling. It is a major purchase and I want to make sure we are making the right choice.

Pros of the Madsen:
  • It can comfortably holds four children so we could pick up friends and bike-pool as the kids get older (most bakfiets only hold two or three).
  • Cheaper than most bakfiets.
  • It would be easier to handle the bike from the get-go. I am sure I would adjust to the handling of a bakfiets, but the steering and balance is different than a traditional bike. The Madsen would feel more familiar right away.
  • It would last longer as a child-carrying device since the kids would outgrow the bakfiets before they would outgrow the Madsen.
  • The bucket is larger than the box on the bakfiets and rated for heavier loads. It's larger cargo capacity would make it useful long after the kids were done riding in it.
Pros of the bakfiets:
  • The kids ride up front. It is easier to carry on a conversation and more fun to bike with kids in the front.
Looking at these lists it seems clear that the Madsen is the better choice: cheaper, holds more cargo, and easier to ride from the start. But the one pro of the bakfiets is the reason I haven't been able to make a decision. I really love the idea of the kids in the front.

Decisions. If anyone has any advice or opinions, I would love to hear them!