CJ graduated from TI Preschool in 1995. Last night we had a reunion barbeque with five other TI families, all with sons who had been CJ's best friends when they were three, four and five.
Our get-together was a celebration of the high school graduation of the three older boys, who were born in the summer of 1990. (The three younger boys, including CJ, were born in the fall of 1990. They attended Pre-K and started elementary school a year later than their friends because they missed the cut-off for kindergarten – they now have another year of high school to go.)
One of the families put together a fabulous video of TI highlights, which we watched twice. Wiping away tears, we saw our wide-eyed sons on a field trip to the fire station and proudly wearing jeweled crowns on their birthdays. Our boys looked so tiny and adorable in this montage that, as one of the moms pointed out, it was almost impossible to believe that the big, hairy men sprawled out on the couch were the same people.
The evening was not just nostalgic, but also provided hope. The graduates' list of collective college acceptances was so impressive that one would never guess that this is the most difficult year to get into college in the history of the world. One boy is headed to Tufts, admitted Early Decision II. Another will be attending UCLA. And the third has enrolled in Oberlin (after getting into all the schools he applied to, and choosing between Wesleyan, Vassar, Reed, Kenyon and McGill) - but first he is taking an inspirational gap year - part Keroac road trip, part Katrina volunteer.
Was it a coincidence that these kids all did so well? Probably not: The parents of the three graduates insisted that all the kids who attended TI Preschool got into phenomenal colleges.
So what was it about TI Preschool that gave our kids such an impressive head start? This was a school that offered very little in the way of traditional academics. There was no counting and I don't even remember the students singing the alphabet. The teachers were not particularly scholarly – one has been recently sighted working as a bagger at a local supermarket. What, then, was TI Preschool's secret?
A preliminary study by the Neurotic Parent Institute sponsored a preliminary study and has discovered that the TI curriculum was primarly comprised of the following:
3. Sand Play
4. Guinea Pig Care
5. Holiday Celebrations
Sounds like fun, but certainly these were not the learning endeavors that sent our boys to Tufts, UCLA and Oberlin.
Then, after more intensive research, we discovered the answer: Scissors.
Yes, TI preschool emphasized cutting skills. So much so, that during one of our parent/teacher conferences, CJ's teacher presented us with a work sheet on which CJ had attempted to cut along a dotted line, but instead had cut a haphazard, zig zag design on the opposite edge of the paper.
We were horrified, but it only got worse. For comparison, the teacher showed us an sample of CJ's friend's cutting: perfect – right on the line. (That expert cutter was the one who is now bound for Tufts.)
Then the teacher sternly asked if we owned scissors and instructed us to go home and start CJ on an intensive practice regime. At first we contemplated hiring a cutting tutor, but fortunately we had both remembered enough about shears from our own preschool days to help our son on our own.
CJ worked so hard perfecting his scissors skills that by the time he started kindergarten, he was cutting right on, or at least near, the dotted line – You never would have guessed that he had overcome such a severe disability.
And I guess that by next year, we will find out if that early cutting intervention paid off.