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Gymboree? No thanks!

gymboreenothanks.jpgTen years ago, you could find me and my baby boy every week-same day, same time, same place- at Gymboree class. I did the same thing with our second son, 2 ? years later. But this time around?you won?t catch me at Gymboree.

After recently taking my niece to her ?Music is Beautiful? class, I saw the difference between classes which are offered by chains across the country (and world, I think) and smaller, unique baby and toddler-centered classes. The teacher at ?Music is Beautiful? (located about twenty minutes from our little town) composed every single piece of music herself. She recorded an album of the songs and distributed one to each child enrolled in her class. Other parents told me that their little ones love to listen to their music in the car and at home. It was evident that Miss Cathy, the teacher, understood children?s language; the lyrics ?spoken? to these kids.

Miss Cathy did, indeed, have a certain kind of magic, in person. The children were mesmerized. Her songs were interactive and tapped into the kids? imaginations. I truly felt as if I had escaped from the pressure and fast pace of the real world as I enjoyed the class. Miss Cathy played her flute, guitar and banjo during the duration of the 45 minute class-I was impressed! Many teachers are great with children but some are simply playing the role of music, gym or ?Mom & Me? instructor; following the outline of a course which was invented and developed by someone else. And the tuition for such classes pays the teacher but it also pays the company which runs the entire program.

I like the idea that Music is Beautiful was custom-made for a small group of kids in one little town in northeastern Pennsylvania. I like the fact that the tuition money, in its entirety, supports a very talented musician who happens to have a genuine love for and magical way with children.

Gymboree was fun but in contrast was, shall we say, ?canned? or packaged for the mass market of parents of babies and toddlers. You can compare the difference to that between a small, hometown preschool in a little church and a large preschool/daycare ?chain?, which accepts kids in mass numbers. I made a similar mistake when I first sent my two-year old to preschool before he was ready, and without picking and choosing which place would truly be the best fit for him. After a few months of leaving a screaming toddler behind to have ?fun? at preschool, trying not to burst into tears myself, I listened to my gut and pulled him out. I then took time to find a very special little school and wait for an opening before rushing my little guy off again. The difference: he couldn?t wait to go to school; he ran ahead of me in his rush to greet his teachers and friends.

Parenting is indeed a learning experience. As I await the arrival of baby #3, several years after having my first and second, I know how selective I will be when it comes to where I enroll him to play, learn and meet his first friends. I?ve definitely learned that for some teachers, teaching is a job. For others, though, it is a calling; these special people were born to work with children and leave lasting impressions on our little ones, and on us.

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