Tiny Trees with Twins: A Mother’s Story

Preschool is expensive, and as a mother of twins it’s doubly expensive.
It felt impossible, but then I found Tiny Trees…

By Katie Johnson, Mother of 2 Tiny Trees students

Our family moved here in January, 2015 from Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a very exciting, challenging, and melancholy time. My husband, Aaron and I grew up on Air Force bases all over the world, but our Dads decided to retire in Albuquerque after being stationed at the local base for more than 10 years. We had visited Seattle only a few times before deciding to pick up and move across the country. Our twins, Maximus and Zoe were 18 months at the time we embarked upon this new journey. Our main reason for wanting to move here was because Max and Zoe were going to have more opportunities, and a better education than in New Mexico, which is currently ranked 50th in the nation for public education. We were taking a huge risk, leaving everything and everyone we knew for Max and Zoe’s future, but our motto is “what’s best for them is what’s best for us.”

The one thing we were really concerned about before we moved here, was finding daycare for twin toddlers. Previously, Max and Zoe had only been babysat by their grandparents and family members, and since Aaron and I worked opposite schedules, we needed care only a few hours a day and my amazing mom was there any time we needed her. When we arrived in Seattle, we tried for a very long time to find affordable daycare that would work for our family, but with childcare rates being ranked toward the top in the country that was proving to be very difficult. At that time in King County, childcare for toddlers was an average of $13,000 annually for EACH child. Plus everywhere we looked had year long wait-lists just for one spot, and we needed two.

We decided that Aaron would become a stay-at-home dad. To make it work out financially he also became a caretaker for an additional child (if you’re looking for a challenge, try having 3 kids under 2 in a household 5 days a week) and worked on the weekends. My job is very time consuming for about 5 months out of the year, requiring me to work most nights and weekends. This meant Aaron was with the kids basically all the time he wasn’t at work. We did this crazy routine for a year and a half, and were preparing to make this a usual thing until they got to kindergarten.

Then I learned about Tiny Trees and their partnership with the Seattle Preschool Program. I had been following Ed Murray’s plan for universal preschool that became SPP since we first moved here and was very inspired. I knew it was going to be challenging getting 2 slots in the city wide program when at the time SPP only had space for 160 children and give preference to 4 year olds, but we applied as soon as we were allowed to. Around the same time, my mom saw Tiny Trees pop up in her feed on Social Media (in Albuquerque) and shared the quirky (and in hindsight absolutely awesome) idea with me. The concept of an outdoor preschool completely blew my mind. The idea that three and four year old kids were going to be outside for 4 hours a day, with no brick and mortar option in the event of inclement weather sounded crazy to me. But after I did some research, and read about the countries that had been doing this for decades with more intense climates than Seattle, we decided we wanted to be part of it.

As a Seattle Preschool Program – Pathways – provider at Carkeek Park, Tiny Trees prepares children for Kindergarten with language, math, and social skills. Photos by Julie Harmsen Photography.

We followed Tiny Trees for several months through their approval process to start opening schools and were thrilled when we were able to apply. That summer, we didn’t get selected for any of the three rounds of the Seattle Preschool Program and our hopes of school this year were dashed. We were also on the wait-list for Tiny Trees (also a Seattle Preschool Program – Pathways provider) but classes were full and it didn’t look like we were going to make it in anywhere. We decided that preschool just wasn’t in the cards for the kids. We buckled down, and decided to incorporate preschool activities in the kids every day lives being with Aaron and I so that they wouldn’t fall behind their peers when they got to Kindergarten. After all, Aaron and I didn’t go to preschool when we were kids and we turned out just fine.

I was sitting in my office, eating lunch when I saw that I had a voicemail on my cell phone. It was Veronica from Tiny Trees saying they had 2 Seattle Preschool Program slots open at Carkeek Park and I needed to call back right away if I was interested. I was in disbelief, could this really be our moment and was this actually happening? I called back immediately and connected with Andrew Jay telling me that we were in! Free tuition, free rain suit, and lot’s of love and support. 24 hours later my children went to school for the first time.

We were trepidacious about how our little ones were going to react to so many new faces since they had never been to a class before; but once they started playing with everyone and talking to the other kids we knew they were going to be great. The last two days had been a whirlwind for us as a family. We went from deciding the kids probably weren’t going to be in preschool at all, to starting 5 days a week and not one daycare or preschool experience to pull from! But it was worth it to see how much my kids loved being at school, making friends and playing with their peers.

Having Max and Zoe in Tiny Trees has been nothing but a blessing for our family. The kids are getting exercise, and growing emotionally and physically by leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact, once they get home from school they are always hungry and sleep so well! I love hearing about their days at school, and when they tell me about the banana slug they saw, or the mushroom they learned about, and the songs they sang. They also tell me about their interactions with their classmates and the successes and problems they are solving all by themselves. They are learning so much about the outside world, they are interacting with their peers and learning social, personal, and ecological responsibility. I also appreciate how diverse the student population is and how different all of the families are from one another. I’m so thankful for this community that we’ve been welcomed into, and thrilled that I get to tell people in the future that our kids were in the first class of this wonderful school!

I cannot thank all of the teachers, board members and staff who have made this school a reality and I can’t wait to see how Tiny Trees evolves, grows and flourishes. I feel so privileged to be a Tiny Trees family and am thrilled that the program is getting so much well deserved attention and recognition. Keep up the great work Tiny Trees, I know that Max and Zoe will never forget their experience at Carkeek Park and we have you to thank for that.

Katie Johnson lives with her twins and husband in Seattle. Tiny Trees is a provider for the Seattle Preschool Program – Pathways at Carkeek Park. Families that make less than $72,000 a year and live in the Seattle city limits receive free tuition at Carkeek Park paid for by the City of Seattle. Learn more about financial assistance at Tiny Trees Preschool here. On March 3rd Tiny Trees will learn if our other locations are selected at Seattle Preschool Program – Pathways classrooms for the 2017-18 school year.

 

Photos by Julie Harmsen Photography.

 

Photos by Julie Harmsen Photography.

 

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