A rural ranch family is a nest of early birds. They rise with the sun, preparing their families for the day in a flurry of activity, setting a blistering pace. On our way up the steps to Martha’s house on the McClure Ranch in Inverness, Martha’s 12 year old son dashes out the door, toward his bike, to ride down to the end of the lane to catch the school bus. His 15 year old brother is right behind him, finishing the last of his breakfast. Martha is sitting on the edge of the sofa with Isabel kneeling in front of her while quickly, gently, braiding her hair.
Martha readies her children for school, while getting ready for work herself. Martha works in town in a restaurant, assisting the chef in preparing ingredients and making desserts for the day. Her husband is already at work on the ranch, milking cows, feeding and caring for the calves, and cleaning the cow beds. As there is no school bus for pre-schoolers, Martha drives Isabel into pre-school on her way to work, it’s about a 25-minute drive into Pt. Reyes Station from the McClure Ranch. Martha is one of the lucky few who drive, and her family is fortunate to own two vehicles. This is not always the case. Many families juggle pre-school attendance with multiple other demands and places where they need to be at specific times, with only one vehicle to meet the schedule. This often creates an issue when older siblings have mid-week appointments, so pre-schoolers will often be absent from school during those times. But Isabel’s attendance at pre-school has given Martha the opportunity to work off-ranch— without pre-school, she says she had to stay home with her other children.
“Pre-school is very important for our family and my daughter,” Martha says, “Isabel has learned so much attending pre-school at Papermill Creek.”
Her other children did not attend pre-school. “We can see a big difference between them; she knows how to count, write her name and she speaks very good English—my other children had to repeat a grade due to lack of pre-school preparation,” and Martha feels heavily remorseful that their early childhood education outcomes were not as positive and uplifting as Isabel’s.
Isabel has turned five and will be attending Kindergarten in the fall. Martha will have to adjust her work schedule to ensure that it coincides with Isabel’s new school schedule. On the new Kindergarten schedule Isabel will get out of school at 3:00pm, but due to a length bus ride, won’t arrive home until 4:15. She will have to stay with her older brothers in the afternoon—though Martha is hoping to be able to arrive home around the same time as Isabel.
Martha is fortunate that she won’t need after school care in the fall because at this time, there isn’t anything out there for children her age. Martha only has one day off during the week in which to accomplish everything that needs to be done for the week. She stays up late cleaning, helping with homework, and preparing children for the day. She’s up early to make breakfast and see that her children are well dressed, well fed, and ready to learn. Isabel is preparing for school and since children at Papermill Creek still nap, Isabel must collect her purple blanket to bring with her to school for naptime. Her shoes light up with flashing pink lights as she runs to her room to collect her yellow Minion pillow. Isabel comes out of her room and strikes a pose, she is not camera shy, and her face radiates the confidence of the well-loved baby of the family, who is quite ready to conquer Kindergarten.
Article written by SARA CALVOSA OLSON