First Day of Preschool at the Washington DCJCC

Cross-posted to Imashalom

Today is a very special day at the JCC—the first day of school. For so many parents and their toddlers coming in with their new backpacks and nervous faces, it’s truly the first day of the rest of their lives.

My son started at the Washington DCJCC when he turned two last year. For us it was a BIG DEAL, and I’m pretty sure we were more scared than our son was. We’d put so much care and love into raising him and here we were, we thought, making him cog in a machine, just another child in a room full of children, getting 1/12 of his teacher’s attention. What if he hated it? What if he thought we weren’t coming back?

For the first week or two I would spy on him to make sure he was doing well. A few days into the year I passed-by his door and he was in full, inconsolable meltdown mode. His cries gutted me, and I wanted so badly to rush in and save him. But I knew that I’d do more harm than good, and so I forced myself to walk past. And then I somehow made my way upstairs, called my husband and cried.

Fast forward 10 months. Today our son began his second year at the Washington DCJCC preschool. Instead of being one of the babies, he’s got three younger classes below his. He’s got more friends than I can count, has made connections with loving adults who care for him almost as much as I do, and has learned an immense amount—from the ABCs and Baby Beluga to kindness and empathy and the things we do and don’t eat (FYI: we don’t eat bugs). I have no doubt that he’s going to have a great year.

While it’s never easy to watch your children grow up and need you a little less, that difficulty is balanced by the joy of watching them flourish. I made the decision to send my son to the Washington DCJCC preschool for purely logistical reasons, and barely had a sense of what I was getting us into. But today, on the first day of my no-longer-baby’s Tzavim year, consider me a Washington DCJCC Preschool Parent by Choice.

Eric Cantor for Veep? He can thank the Q Street Preschool

Well, since the air is buzzing that McCain will be announcing his running-mate any day now (possibly even tomorrow), I thought it was now-or-never to cash in on our connection to this year’s VeepStakes. Loyal readers may recall that our Pre-K Yanshufim class did a Reggio project on elections during the Primary season that was supposed to last six weeks, and well…went on for a lot longer than that.

Rep. Eric Cantor for Veep?

Rep. Eric Cantor for Veep?

As part of their project they went to visit Congressman Eric Cantor, the Republican chief Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives. I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with the Congressman when we first posted about the visit. You figure anyone who makes time in their day for a bunch of pre-school students (from the no-vote-in-Congress-District-of-Columbia) can’t be too important. I guess I sold him short. Way short. Because this past weekend I read this in the Washington Post.

Cantor for Veep Movement Gaining Steam

Conservatives wary of John McCain and worried about who he’ll choose for a running mate are offering up ideas left and — more to the point — right. One of the ideas gaining momentum in conservative circles is Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

The case for a McCain-Cantor ticket has some strong logic behind it:

Cantor, the 45-year-old Republican chief deputy whip of the House, has three great attributes: youth, conservative bona fides and geographic desirability, as Virginia will likely be a crucial swing state in this year’s presidential election.

Oh, and in a year where Jews are seen as a potential swing vote, Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in the House. Now, that didn’t work out so great for Gore/Lieberman in 2000, but don’t let that stop you John.

So just in-case Cantor is chosen (and he doesn’t even appear on some shortlists on the same Washington Post website) we want to say, “We knew it all along.” If you want to make sense of politics in Washington, just let the four-year-olds lead you.

Q Street Preschool Exclusive: Obama and Clinton Talk on the Phone

The Q Street Preschool\'s Primary Election MapWe’re not the first to observe that the Democratic primary season has gone on for a long time. How long? Well, in our Q Street Preschool the Yanshufim class that began a Reggio Emilia-inspired project looking at politics back in January, thinking it would be an undertaking demanding their attention for a few weeks, has seen it go on for months. While the nominating process went on and on, the children grew several inches, had new siblings join their families and doggedly stuck with their project. Now that it has “ended” with Barack Obama earning enough delegates to claim the nomination, the Yanshufim gathered in circle time this morning to consider the political moment and like alot of pundits, consider the way forward. When their teachers Jill and Gary told them that according to reports, Obama and Clinton spoke on the phone this morning, the class re-created what might have been said:

Alex- Obama will ask, “Can you be my running mate?” Clinton will say, “I would like to be your running mate.”

Anna- Clinton will say, “I want to be your running mate.”

Zoe- Obama will say, “If you want to keep running you may, but if you want to drop out you may also.”

Gabriel – Obama will say, “I think we can beat John McCain together.”

One girl in the class summed up her feelings as being, “Happy and Sad. Sad because Hillary didn’t win, but happy because Obama got the nomination.” This may have been the most apt observation, as the Democrats’ chances in November ride on whether enough grown-ups will also feel the same.

A Modest Proposal to Hillary and Barack from the 16th Street J Preschool

Preschool Girls for ClintonAs was mentioned in an earlier post, one of the Pre-K classes in our Preschool was studying elections as one of their Reggio Emilia-inspired projects. Since then, the kids have visited a polling place during the Potomac Primary, followed the elections results and delegate counts in the newspaper, and paid a visit to Congressman Eric Cantor at the Capitol where they were treated to a full tour and an autographed copy of House Mouse, Senate Mouse.

Having no doubt learned that all politics is local, the students decided to hold their own election for president of the school. They formed political parties and nominated candidates:

  • The Rainbow Party–Running on a platform of get-well cards for kids who are out sick and a proposal to initiate a clean-up project at our local park.
  •  The Pink Star Party–Running on a platform of a school-wide recycling program and new books for the library.
  • The Lion Party–Running on a platform of keeping the Preschool neat by evenly distributing clean-up jobs so that the burden is shared, and a new “Weekend Activity School Board” which would be a collage of what people did on the weekend.

Exercising the FranchiseA voter registration drive was held and all members of the Washington DCJCC Preschool community (including staff and parents) signed up to vote in the March 4 election. As the election drew near the candidates took to the streets, pressing the flesh, meeting with voters to present their platforms and ask for their support. Finally, on the same day as the close contests in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island, the polls opened at the 16th Street J (complete with “I Voted/Yo Vote” stickers).  The electorate anxiously awaited the returns, and the next morning we received this email from Jill and Gary, the teachers of this extraordinary class:

The votes have been counted, each and every one.  The preschool had an amazing 118 people who turned out for our Super Tuesday.  It was by far the closest race that I have ever seen.  While I am sure that most of you are on the edge of your seats to find out who had the most votes, our class was met with a huge obstacle that Recount - No Hanging Chads!changed the whole picture with regards to a Preschool President.  The Pink Star and Lion party tied with 40 votes, closely followed by the Rainbow Party with 38 votes.  With a two-way tie, our class had to decide what solution they would choose.  I left it completely up to them.  Isabel thought that we should count again, in case we made a mistake.  After we did that and still had a tie, we opened the floor back up to ideas.  Adam said we should have two Presidents and everyone else should be on the Presidential Cabinet.  J.T. said that we should just have three Presidents.  Instantly the class all started agreeing, so I took a vote, and it was unanimous.  Then we figured that since there were three people that were getting the job, we should call them something else.  After further discussion we came up with “Presidential Team.”  Now, that the voting is over, the hard work of fulfilling our platforms begins. 

Could it be that our Q Street Preschool is ahead of the curve in figuring out how to resolve a close political contest? Remember you read it here first.

The 16th Street J Preschool, Good For Democracy

Super Tuesday: Q Street Preschool Edition

I fondly remember the Weekly Reader Presidential Election that we used to vote in when I was attending elementary school back in the good, ole analog days. It was my introduction to politics (and third-party politics at that, as 28 years ago I cast my vote for John Anderson).  But I grew up in New Jersey, and since this is the epicenter of politics in America, it only makes sense that our kids get an earlier start on understanding the political process. Thus, it wasn’t surprising when I learned that one of our Preschool classes, in accordance with the project-based educational method of Reggio Emilia that our Preschools employ, had chosen to study the current election. What was surprising is the degree of detail these 4-year-olds are already familiar with, as demonstrated by their concept-web below:

concept web

The concept web is a product of “brainstorming” sessions about the topic  (in this case elections) to which both the students and teachers make contributions. An amusing case in-point: on the spoke labelled “campaigns” a child named Anna has added the sub-topic of “Get Money.” Clearly Anna is a campaign finance chair in-the-making.

The concept web helps shape the focus of the project and allows the teachers to respond to an emerging  curriculum in which age-appropriate skills (basic literacy and numeracy) are taught through the children’s chosen topic.  The concept web is posted in the classroom to help guide continuing debriefings as the project proceeds over weeks or months. 

The project next moves into an exploration stage, one part of which was the kids listing what the next president should do. So, in case any of the candidates plan to be canvassing DC looking for votes in-advance of the Potomac Primary on Tuesday, February 12 (when DC, VA and MD will all hold primaries) they should be prepared to address their bona-fides on the following Presidential priorities:


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