Yes, I know, why would you listen to me about such a thing. I am angry and grumpy and rumor has it, I beat my cat. But don’t worry, I wasn’t in charge of preschools – I just know how it went with my kids, because I was there.
I am not sure how my wife came across Briar Rose, but I do know that until she did, it wasn’t looking good for preschool in general in our family.
We had a few bad experiences – preschools tended to be populated by a pretty specific and bizarre mix of timidity and passive-aggressiveness, with maybe a dash of Puritanical Ayn Rand. We were teetering on the brink of homeschooling – as if people didn’t think we were weird enough.
I went to a couple of parents’ meetings at a little preschool on North Broadway, the first one we ever tried. It was the sort of meeting where we were all just there to drink coffee and to talk about hypothetically doing things later, and to wring our hands.
After two such meetings, I announced that I could not promise to return to that room without throwing chairs through the windows and then possibly a few people after them.
And so why were we leaving our daughter there, you might ask? We didn’t know.
I was doing the office thing at the time, and Marilyn was watching a couple of extra kids so she could stay at home with Ellen full time. Preschool was a next step that I really didn’t understand.
When she started talking about Briar Rose, she did so with wonder and awe, as if talking about Narnia.
“Tom, there are no televisions or radios or computers in the whole place,” she said. “All the toys are made of wood. All the food is organic. They bake their own bread, for crying out loud.”
Eventually we got a visit from Rebecah, the head of the school. Upon enrolling, she liked to stop by and meet the whole family, to get a feel for the child she was going to be teaching. That was the first really jarring thing to me – I couldn’t think of any reason for her to do that unless she actually cared who we were.
We had a lot in common with her and with Briar Rose as well – we didn’t have a television for instance, just sat around reading books and watching Ellen. It’s not easy to watch television with a baby around anyway, so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice.
But when we actually sent Ellen to school, here’s what we found – she loved it there.
I mean, none of the guilt that usually comes along with child care. None of the separation anxiety. And also none of the nagging feeling that maybe your child was sitting around zombied out in front of a television all day.
I was a little cynical. Everything we had in common with Briar Rose was present to a much greater extreme at the preschool. I’d pick up organic milk and eggs, but they bought everything organic – even the soap.
And although we had no television, we loved to watch movies, and that was right about when DVDs were coming out – we picked up some DVDs and watched them on a large monitor.
And we weren’t crazy about commercialism, but we weren’t freaked out by it – Ellen knew all about McDonald’s, and she had a couple of Disney movies and some Barbies.
Yes, the Barbies – feel free to ask Rebecah about the Barbie Rapunzel Incident of 2000. I was basically Angry Blogging from a fax machine. Good Times.
But that’s how it goes if you want a place that’s separate from the norm. If you want an alternative to average. Briar Rose was – and is – nothing short of a place where human beings who love and care about your children watch over them.
They won’t even yell at kids – if they want your kid’s attention, and your kid is across the room, they sing the kid’s name. I’m dead serious.
And what they teach them is nothing short of how to love life, and respect those with whom they share it. You can sit around singing the alphabet all you want, I’m not impressed. This place is about kindness and harmony and respect.
When Marilyn and I adopted the girls, Chrissy was four. The first place we took her was Briar Rose, and because she was a sibling, she went to the head of the very long enrollment waiting list they had at the time.
Everybody – psychologists, social workers, parents and friends – was telling us that we were in for quite a struggle, dealing with the adjustment Chrissy was going through.
I can tell you without a doubt – the reason she proved them all wrong, and skated right through the experience with a smile on her face, was Briar Rose.
I’m not going to go on and on here, but what I usually hear about preschool – and even child care in general – is that you get a sort of disinterested babysitter, and a lot of really restrictive, corporate-conceived policies which have nothing to do with teaching your children, and everything to do with business. That’s usually what it is.
Briar Rose is a place of magic, plain and simple, and Rebecah is an angel walking right here among us. If I had to select one person to be fully responsible for educating all three of my children from preschool to college, I’d pick Rebecah, hands down, in no time at all.
It wouldn’t even be a list. It would be one name.
Eight years later, Rebecah still is a part of my daughters’ lives. She comes to dinner once in a while, and you can always tell, she’s happy to see Marilyn and I, sure.
But we’re not the reason she’s here.
And now I’m hearing through the grapevine – the economy’s down and just like everything, people are cutting back. Briar Rose doesn’t have that lengthy waiting list anymore – enrollment is down.
It’s only a matter of time before this incredible school closes its doors, while all around the community, parents struggle with the problem that Briar Rose is there to solve.
If you have children at preschool age, and you are trying to decide where to send them, I’m telling you – contact me here or on Facebook, or here’s their website. Take a look.
At Briar Rose, the kids go outside everyday. Rain, shine, or snow. They don’t make them stay out there, they just put them in rain slickers or snow pants or whatever is appropriate, and then right when they’re out there, they can come back in if they want.
I’ve been there on days like that – not many of them ever want to go inside. It’s fun to play in the sun and in the rain and in the snow. And it’s a great lesson, that we don’t need to let the weather staple us to our couches. Yes, sing the alphabet all you want, but I didn’t need any help teaching my kids the alphabet.
Briar Rose is all about engaging your kids, about opening their eyes to this glorious world around us, about counteracting the dimming, dumbing, entrancing effect of our commercially saturated, sitcom world.
When you pick your kids up at Briar Rose, here’s what you’ll notice – they won’t stop talking about what they did that day. You’ll get a full report.
And what you’ll notice when you drop them off is, you don’t have to talk them into going outside.