Questioning choice of mostly white preschool

We enrolled our child in preschool this past January. We have an active kid, so we prioritized a school with a lot of free play and a lot of outdoor time. We noted when we visited that the teachers and students were nearly all white (our family is white as well), but we decided that the benefits of the school for our particular kid outweighed the homogeneity. At the time, we felt like we could make sure they interacted with lots of others from diverse backgrounds on playdates, at playgrounds, in activities around the Bay Area & trips to other cities, etc. School would be just one part of their life.

Fast-forward a few months and we're back at the same school, but with none of those other outlets available. It now feels like the white community we chose is the only one we have access to, and I'm feeling increasingly cringy and ashamed about that choice — my kid growing up in an all-white environment does not reflect my values. I also haven't seen any evidence that the school is engaging or grappling with this issue, even in light of the protests over the spring and summer and the subsequent reckoning and self-reflection many organizations have begun. I've been actively trying to do this reflection myself, which is part of why I'm writing now.

What should we do? Should we move our kid to another school, disruptive and challenging as that might be? Should we press school administrators about why the program seems so segregated, and push for them to make changes that will make it more welcoming and accessible? Should we just wait it out and redouble our efforts to make new friends and build diverse community after COVID finally passes? I want to make a choice that pushes all of us to do better, and I'm not afraid to feel some discomfort in service of that goal. 

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If you want to switch, could try Grand Lake Montessori in Oakland.  We went there years ago and at that time the teachers were diverse (as in majority minority, I think, if I remember right).  Large play yard, but expensive at the time.

I don’t know if this is helpful, but as the parent of older kids, I can say that preschool is a very short period in kids’ lives. It seems like everything at the time because it’s your child’s first real school.  But it passes quickly.  If the school is a good fit otherwise, you could keep things stable for your child right now (so valuable in these crazy times!) but take what you learned about prioritizing diversity and apply it to your choice of elementary school.  Elementary school 1) lasts longer, 2) is more likely to be the source of long-lasting friendships, and 3) is remembered more clearly.  If you choose a diverse K-12 environment, I’m not sure the white preschool experience will have all that much effect on your child’s long-term values and attitudes. 

I'm a white, heterosexual (but unmarried) mom. I moved my child out of a majority-white preschool and into a preschool that was diverse in all senses and also employed an anti-bias curriculum, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I worried about the disruption of switching schools, but that disruption was very, very brief. And the benefits were so worth it. I also subsequently learned that, developmentally, preschool age is when kids really start to tune in to visible differences and perceived hierarchies among those around them, so it is the perfect time to proactively address race, gender, family structure and all kinds of differences. If you don't address it, they will draw their own conclusions at that age anyway. So it is valuable for your child to be in an environment where they will be mindful during those years.

(My kids wound up at Monteverde Preschool in Berkeley. I cannot overstate how fabulous they are all around but particularly in this arena.)

My kids are older now (grades 6 and 3), and I have spent the last 7 years engaged in processes around equity and inclusion at their OUSD schools. If you're considering asking your current preschool to grapple with this, I say that's great. But I would not expect it to materially change the experience your child has. Given the pace of change around race and equity in schools, my guess is that you would be doing work that *might* benefit future students at that school but not your own child. That is definitely worthwhile, but if your goal is to impact your child's upbringing right now, then you need to make an immediate change.

Also, if you decide to stay where you are for now, maybe you could consider being more purposeful in your choice of an elementary school? Now is a great time to educate yourself on the politics and history of school integration and prepare for your upcoming choices about kindergarten. The Oakland chapter of Integrated Schools Network is a great place to start for white parents who want to support integration and choose integrated schools for their kids.

Perhaps you could engage with the administrators or other parents you've come to know at the school and begin a conversatiion that acknowleges the initial observation you've made, and importance of your school representing the larger community you're a part of.

You might discuss the richness this brings to children's lives. Interacting with teachers of different ages, genders, cultures, races, etc is crucial. And I would venture to say that parents of color may be hesitant to send their kids to a school where not a single teacher looks like them. In that case I'd say encouraging a diversified staff might help build a more diversified student body.

Our preschool has a diverse staff and a fairly diverse parent/student body, and is actively engaging in coversations around bias and racism. There's a Black Lives Matter poster up in their window and they have been extremely open to having conversations around approaching conversations around things like gender as the kids started to call out "boy things" vs "girl things"...all in an age appropriate fashion. There will always be improvements that can be made, but I feel grateful that our school will engage so willingly with parents around these topics.

Feel free to message if you'd like to chat more about the topic.

I think you should wait it out. She needs stability right now with everything going on in the world. She is so young. She has time to absorb your values. 

Hi, I so appreciate this POV on this forum of supposedly progressive folks who sometimes seem all about me-and-mine. I too, had started my (white) child in a Montessori preschool, following in footsteps of my brother whose kids were enrolled there in past years. But it dawned on me it was all-white, and economically not diverse at all. There was a certain snobbiness towards certain schools when discussion of kindergarten began. That's when I knew we were done. My son is now at a wonderful, diverse school run by a Black family, with kids of all backgrounds, and we are much happier overall. There is a sort of uptight attitude I find at institutions that cater to all-white families, and without sounding crazy I do think it's part of white supremacy culture. I recommend checking out Diamond Little People Academy. They have two locations. Awesome teachers, family run.

Even without the pandemic, my recommendation would be to leave your child there. As adults we have interacted with hundreds, even thousands of people in our long-lived lives, but for kids that age, they've only known and implicitly trusted a few people in their little lives. Pulling them out of there is way more disruptive to them than we can imagine as an adult who would just quit a job or quit a club. Unless this kid is really not in a safe and respectful environment, leave them there. You can explore all kinds of fabulous, diverse options for elementary school much more easily and keeping things in their life stable and secure for them right now will pay off in the end. I really recommend leaving them there - it's a wonderful plan to expose them to diversity, but don't do it to ease yourself, do it when it's developmentally time for the change.

Why not expand your social circles and develop authentic connections with families from diverse communities. Sure the current COVID crisis we are experiencing poses difficulties to meeting people but it can be done. COVID is not going anyway any time soon and waiting to have your child become a more culturally aware human being is more sad to me than your personal feelings of shame. I comend your awareness though. How you can effect change is sharing your culture and other ethnicities culture with your children at home, as well as, inquiring how your preschool can attract families from diverse backgrounds and incomes to your prteschool. As far as moving your child to another preschool I cannot give my opinion on that. I will say as a Black parent when my child was younger I remember feeling very uncomfortable by white parents at playgrounds who were fine to have their children play with my child and other children of color but rarely communicated with us beyond social greetings. Our chldren are not diversity props. We are not here to make you feel better. So if you do move your child, or stay at your preschool, look to build authentic relationships and connections for your child and yourself with people from different cultural communities.  We can tell the difference.   

We had a similar issue when we sent our kid to daycare for the first time. When we toured we noticed it wasn't very diverse, but especially as a mixed race family, for some reason we hoped the class they were admitting us to would be better. No luck, of course. We enrolled because we thought it would work for us in all the other ways we needed, but I always felt weird about it - the east bay has so much diversity that it felt like surely these preschools with more demand than they could accommodate could make a better showing on that front. The teachers were more racially diverse, and some of the outside folks who stopped in from time to time to do storytime were too, but they were outsiders to the class, not a friend, a peer, not someone they played with and got to know. I hope you stay and push the administrators on this. We need to have more of these conversations, and I'm glad to see that you're willing to engage on it.

Most kids don't really remember much from these years, but I definitely see your point. You could always look for a specialty school or one that prioritizes cultural and racial diversity. Plus there are a bunch of really great books out there that you can use during COVID to help educate your child!