Byline: Rick A. Maese email@example.com / 823-3687
THE STATE OF OUR CHILDREN
The concept of early education providing young children with the learning skills that will help them later in life is an idea educators have largely embraced nationwide. But in New Mexico, good preschools are expensive and hard to find, and many like Kohl have to wait.
PLACITAS Kohl Kaplan is prowling around on all fours, having an identity crisis of sorts.
He's surely wearing a hole into the denim of his kiddie jeans, as he crawls into a brown cardboard box, the living room's centerpiece on this day.
Above the box's crudely cut doorway and in red letters is: F-I-D-O.
"I'm a puppy," he shouts. "Woof! Woof!"
Throughout the rest of the day, he'll also be a cheetah, a zebra, a monkey, a bison and a lion cub.
If that sounds like a busy day, that's because it is. But to Kohl, who's 3 feet tall on his tippy-toes, with pale blue eyes and pure blond hair fashioned into a budding mullet, it's all just part of the show.
Kohl spends all day with his mother, Kris Kaplan, and his 1-year-old sister, Wren, in the family's Southwestern-style Placitas home, about 15 miles northeast of Albuquerque.
It's not that Kris and Todd Kaplan or even Kohl are apprehensive about preschool. "I want to go to school!" Kohl proudly announces.
With Kohl soon turning 3, his parents want that, too. They just have had a hard time finding it.
As they've searched, like many other families around the state, they've run into some common troubles: few good-quality facilities, high costs and long waiting lists.
The family isn't searching for simply child care, which they say is easier to find. They want the early education an introduction to learning tools and social skills for young children before they hit formal schooling that the experts say will pay dividends for Kohl much later in life.
"Sitting the child down and just watching him or even worse, allowing a TV to watch him is just not enough," said Emily Darnell-Nunez, director of the Community Development Institute in Albuquerque. "The child needs more than that. The child needs to be nurtured so he is ready when it's time to enter kindergarten."
Educators in the state and nationally are calling for an added emphasis on early education in hopes of creating better students and better schools.
Statewide, early education is a problem New Mexico is barely recognizing, experts say. The Kaplans live in a state that spends only $1 on early education for every $100 it spends on higher education. …