We’re already starting to look at daycare for the baby. I’ll be back at work after 12 weeks, and I want to make sure we aren’t left in the lurch when the time comes, even if it is 6+ months away for now.
We were planning to use the child care center at my husband’s work. It comes highly recommended by several coworkers, it’s slightly less expensive since it’s funded by his company, and if anything goes wrong, Kellen will be right there to handle any issues. Unfortunately, they have a massive wait list and probably won’t have an open spot until their September enrollment period. Even then, there are no guarantees. Scratch that.
Instead, I’ve started looking at daycare facilities in our area. I think what has surprised me the most is 1) how few daycares there actually are in our area, and 2) how much you base your decisions on first impressions and extremely limited information.
For instance, there is one local chain that I ruled out right away, because their website was terrifying. Even in the advertising for the center, it seemed like the sort of place where they basically only take baby out of the crib/swing long enough to be fed and changed. There was no mention of infant’s social and language development or motor skills. Only that they had a very nurturing staff who love to give snuggles. I like snuggles as much as the next person, but if I’m leaving my kid somewhere for 9 hours a day and paying you $1000+/month, I expect a little more than that for my kid.
A couple of the facilities around here I dismissed out of hand because they are affiliated with religious institutions or churches whose ideologies I disagree with. Obviously, I’m not going to send my child there.
This left us with 3 preschools in the area that, based on websites, I thought might be appropriate. I contacted them and immediately heard back from 2. We’ve done on-site visits with both and both really exceeded my expectations (fears?) when we went. That being said, there were some important, though seemingly small, differences that will probably be the deciding factors in the end.
Both places were clean, secure, and felt safe. I didn’t get the feeling at any of the places that there was anything amiss in terms of basic safety and care for children, so in these terms, the two places were more or less even. It was the little details of the places that really made a difference.
The director of the first facility was warm, knowledgeable, and more important, seemed to be truly involved in the care of the children at her facility. She knew the names and stories of every parent and child. Kids came up to her and hugged her. She said things about parenting that really struck a chord for me. When we asked about bringing our child in only 3 days a week (something not all facilities allow), she told us that she actually felt it was best for kids to spend more time with their families, and that’s why they allowed flexible scheduling. To me, that’s so important that she understands that the family should come first because that’s what’s best for the children.
The infant teacher was wonderful. She gave us the low-down on her classroom, let us know how the daily routine would work if we did bring out child there, and was extremely friendly, open and helpful. All the while, she was juggling two infants, who seemed completely comfortable and calm in her presence and calm with us being there. All of the teachers we met, actually, were very friendly. All of the teachers we saw also looked professional, happy, and were energetic and obviously engaged with their students.
Everywhere we looked, there was evidence of what the children do all day. Not only did we see lessons actually in progress, but everywhere there were kids’ projects on display and posters of things that couldn’t easily be hung from walls or put on cabinets. There was a strong focus on curriculum, even for infants. They seemed really committed to developing healthy minds, bodies, and hearts.
As we were standing out in the lobby wrapping up our tour and chatting with the director and the woman manning the front desk, a parent coming in to pick up her child saw us, asked if we were getting the tour, and told us, “This is a wonderful school.” Watching the children, the parents, and the teachers interact, I really felt like this was true.
The second facility on the other hand… When we entered the infant classroom, the lead teacher had a stocking cap on and was heading out the door with something that looked an awful lot like cigarettes hidden in her hands as she ducked out to “take her break.” She barely even introduced herself to us before she took off. On top of that, she looked so unprofessional. Her hair was down long and stringy, and she obviously shaved her eyebrows and penciled them in. She had stubble behind the pencil lines. The owner had to give us the tour, while the second teacher in the room sat in the corner quietly and handed the kids toys. The kids seemed wary of the owner, and it was clear the owner did not know the names of the students in the room.
As we toured the rest of the school, I was surprised to see that many of the other teachers had a similarly sloppy, unprofessional appearance. And though the curriculum at this place was supposedly much more rigorous, I saw very little evidence of the advanced curriculum on the curriculum boards posted outside of the classrooms or the projects posted on the walls. No art history. No math. No science. No Mandarin or Spanish or ASL. In fact, for every single classroom for the 3 and under crowd, the art work was all the same: blobs of a single color of paint on a sheet of paper of a different color. There was nothing else on display, no pictures. Something about all of the blobs of paint just struck me as odd for a school that supposedly has so much going on.
The school also had a 4-day minimum for its students. The argument there was that “every child has a bed,” which I guess means, since they can’t share beds, they have to require kids to be there so that they make their money. Not only does this policy make the school more expensive, it’s just not what I want to do, and it bothers me that they aren’t more flexible to our schedule.
I want to go back and do another visit at the first facility, probably at a different time of day just to see get a better idea what it’s like. However, my first impression really strongly tells me that this is a great place for us. I was so excited when we left, I called my mom to tell her about it. When I left the second place, all I could think about was the smoking infant teacher and the weird wall art. It just seems really unlikely I’d choose the second daycare, unless I heard something bad about the first place to change my mind.
I’m curious how other people have made this decision. If you’ve got kids in daycare, how did you decide where to send them? Was there anything about the facilities you did or didn’t choose that ultimately influenced your decision?