That is great! I am always happy to know parents who take their parenting job seriously. So why does it worry me?
Well, when I first started out working with children, I worked in day care centers that accepted many children from low-income families. Later, in AmeriCorps, I worked in a preschool and daycare program that served children with special needs, most of whom were in foster care or at risk of being placed in foster care. And once I started working in public schools, I encountered many, many children who were from low-income homes. I'd estimate that, in the classrooms I've worked in, 80% of the children are on the free lunch program, and at least one child in every classroom I've worked in has been homeless.
In many cases, the children's poverty is caused by various factors, often all adding up to their parents having had a lot of bad luck. These are people who have blue-collar jobs and work hard, but they just haven't been able to stretch their paychecks enough to pay for all of the things their families need. Sometimes a parent has been very sick or has a disability. Many times the parents are struggling to learn English. Many times the parents are very young themselves and don't have a lot of support.
But I've also known many children... too many children... whose circumstances were caused by the parents' attitudes and lifestyles. I've known children who live in homes where heavy drinking, drug use, and domestic violence, are the norm. I've known children who have to start each school day by going down to the nurse's office so she can document any new injuries and report them to Child Protective Services because the parents are being investigated for child abuse. I've known children who cried when it was time to go home each day. For a lot of children, school is the only happy place in their lives.
In one classroom where I was an assistant, there was this 7-tear-old boy who had autism and was, for some reason, obsessed with the letter I. (His name didn't start with an I, so I have no idea what was so special about that letter.) He would always play with the alphabet blocks or magnetic letters during free time, and he'd often try to steal the letter I and abscond with it in his backpack. He would cry when we took them back.
Once, trying to cheer him up, I asked him if he had any alphabet blocks at home. I was going to try to remind him that if he took our letter I home, he would not have one to play with at school. But when I asked him, the boy gave me a puzzled look. His teacher said quietly, "I don't think he has any toys at home."
I know that Over The Rainbow is going to be a wonderful place. I know that at-risk children could benefit from being there
One way I hope to make it more accessible to everyone is to only charge donations for the drop-in hours. I'll ask for a $10 donation per family, per visit. But if families really can't afford that $10, I'll let it slide. However, I can't be as lenient with the preschool program, because I'd end up being homeless myself and having to teach the children from a picnic table at a public park.
It would be awesome to someday be able to provide free or sliding-scale preschool. Some may suggest becoming a nonprofit, but the problem is that by becoming a nonprofit, I'd have to follow many of the same rules that public schools have to follow, which would include a lot of standardized testing and strict guidelines on what and how to teach.
What do you think? Any ideas out there?