Some people think that eight months is too young for preschool considerations. However, I have a valid reason for researching programs now, and it isn’t what you might think. (I only care a little bit about getting Maggie into Harvard.) We’re done with Hawaii by the end of 2010, and Maggie will be of nursery/preschool age in 2011 or 12, depending on the school. Knowing what our options are in the locations we’re considering will go a long way toward deciding where we may go next. I am doing similar research into birth options for the McConnell V.2.0 product launch–as yet unscheduled, no upgrades planned, but the creators hope for a similarly user-friendly interface.

It is here that I must stop and remember my parents, who had nothing but our best interests at heart. Mom did her thing on instinct; I don’t recall seeing any parenting books around, and with no internet to (confuse) (frustrate) assist with research she just did what she thought was best. I think we turned out dandy. But she was the original free-range parent; we were encouraged to go outside and exercise, we had sports and dance lessons but lots of unstructured play time, our toys were designed to educate and stimulate creative free play, and little TV.

We also had jobs: we did office work with her and we were responsible for helping to clean up the house. We used to go into work with her often at the family convenience store, stocking shelves at the store and punching buttons at the register to the delight of the regulars. I remember proudly pounding an ink pad and stamping the company logo to endorse checks, and also proudly stamping everything in sight the day I found her novelty “Bullshit!” stamp. Sometimes we got to pick out candy or bubble gum, sugary and fruity and so different from the gum my mother always had handy in her purse. Some adults find subconscious comfort in the scent of their mother’s perfume or in the Proustian rush of Mom’s meatloaf; for me, the smell of mint green Trident on the inside of a leather purse is the olfactory equivalent of sitting on my mother’s lap for a bedtime story.

Anyway, there’s a point to this ramble down memory lane. My mom basically had the Montessori method down pat, even if she didn’t define herself by that label. I’m looking at Montessori and Waldorf schools for Maggie, though God knows we’d need financial aid to sustain that model down the road. Right now I’m just learning about the differences in philosophy. I like Waldorf’s focus on philosophy and learning about humanity, but I also like Montessori’s work-play ethic. (It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite characters in literature is Dr. Larch of The Cider House Rules, he who so vehemently exemplified competency and usefulness.)

Maggie is going to be coming of age in the self-esteem generation, an era defined by its unearned praise, excessive entitlement and hand-holding. Hopefully it will be the *end* of this generation as studies of the effects of helicopter parenting (how my mother would have hated that school of thought) come back with horrible results. Hers will be a generation who needs a hand to hold. I want to instill in her, at home and at school, the tools to think around problems creatively, to imagine new solutions, and to have the necessary self-sufficiency to back up her confidence.

As the Scorcese character Frank Costello once said, “I want my environment to be a product of me.” I hesitate to compare the life philosophy of a ficitional coked-out whoring murderous gangster to my desires for Maggie, but it fits. Followers go by the rules and accept things as they are. Innovators make the rules and change things to fit their vision. The right educational foundation will help Maggie be an innovator. And so I’m reading up, figuring out which areas on our short list have the best schools–best curriculum and equally important, best prices.

See? I told you it wasn’t about Harvard.