I have two sons. The younger of the two turned three in September, and up until that point, I had stayed home with him. It has been one of the most beautiful gifts of my life to have had so much time with Zeke, but it was also clear last year that he needed new challenges and new opportunities for growth and socialization — and I, frankly, needed a break. Even just a few hours a day to, you know, go to the bathroom without interruption. Or maybe write a blog post.
So, when the time came to find a preschool for Zeke, I was more than ready. But at the same time, I had some moments of semi-panic — and it wasn’t about letting my dear boy out of my sight for the first time, although that did make me feel a few feelings. It was more about not being able to feel confident that willingly handing my son off to a lifetime of schooling was actually a good idea.
As I’ve been mentioning recently, I’m crazy now. I’ve developed a deep mistrust of our public institutions. I think I come by it honestly though. In the past couple years, I’ve been shot at by the police and been part of groups subdued with sprays and gases and water cannons. I’ve been surveilled and had my phone hacked. I’ve been on-hand to watch our government break treaties, and I’ve seen them attack their own people to preserve their own racist systems. I've seen them attack their own people to protect the interests of a private security firm and a corporation of oil barons.
I have no illusions anymore. Not about this. Not when I’m really being honest with myself.
But also, I do have a family. I have a nine-year-old, and a three-year old. I have a partner. We still live here. I haven’t quite jumped into the abyss yet.
And like I was saying, however disillusioned I might be with certain things, I was still feeling like I needed a break. I was tired.
We’ve been navigating the ins and outs of assimilation and inequitable public schooling for our whole lives — and as parents for several years now with Julian. We’re being as conscious as we can be and going a day or a school year at a time, but I’m confused most of the time and not at all sure that we’re doing the right thing. The idea of now voluntarily giving our three-year-old over to the same system — of willingly starting this whole process anew, even knowing what I know — caused me such momentary near-panic that I wasn’t sure I would find a school for him that I could stomach.
Then one day last summer we stumbled onto a brand new preschool that was about to open in the south end of Seattle. Columbia City Preschool of Arts & Culture, we learned, would be centered around an anti-bias, anti-racist curriculum, with a focus on loving service to the community. And play, of course.
"We're looking to create the confidence that when these kids go into predominantly white schools that they can bring counter narratives to the school," Benjamin Gore, one of the preschool’s teachers and founders, told KING5 News last year.
If we’re being honest, that alone addressed most of my concerns. We met Jasen Frelot, co-founder of the preschool and founder of Kids and Race Seattle, and his wife Hannah Hong-Frelot, who teaches most days at the preschool as well. We made plans to enroll Zeke, and he started in September as part of a small founding class of preschoolers.
So far, so good. I really believe Mr. Ben and Mr. Jasen and Ms. Hannah have come to love and understand my son, and he’s been blossoming. I can see that he loves them.
As a class, Columbia City Preschool of Arts & Culture has lived out the give and take involved in being a true part of a community by partnering each month with a local group or organization to find a way to give back. At the same time, they regularly welcome people from the community to share their art, interest and expertise with the kids.
On top of that, the kids are spending time outside, even when it’s raining, and they’re being encouraged to explore and find their own creative solutions to problems.
Nothing is perfect, of course, but for me, it’s been an encouraging example of what’s possible. We’re able to take things a year at a time, finding schools that will welcome and value our sons as they are, and that will make good on their responsibility to educate our children without schooling them, to actively nurture their appreciation for diversity and difference rather than assimilating them. This has felt like a really good start for Zeke.
If you’d like to take a look for yourself, Columbia City Preschool is hosting an open house this Friday (Feb. 2) from 6-7:30 p.m. You’ll be able to meet all the people involved, take a look around, and even become a part of the latest service project by writing a welcome letter to immigrant families moving into the neighborhood. This month’s project is in partnership with ReWA (the Refugee Women’s Alliance). There will be a table all set up for you. But no pressure.
What: Columbia City Preschool of Arts & Culture Open House
Where: 3818 S Angeline St., Seattle
When: Friday, Feb. 2, from 6-7:30 p.m.