There are many parts of parenting my young fellas that tug at my heartstrings, keeping me up at night, searching the Internet, flipping through parenting books, polling friends and strangers alike trying to find the right answer, if there is one, to whatever the issue is. One such issue that has been a recurring theme in the tug o' war match between my heart and brain is child care/schools.
Early on, I felt secure in choosing a part-time nanny. We've had great experiences with most of those nannies, staying close to several over the years. Then, there came a time that choosing a preschool was prudent. I languished over the many choices, advice and recommendations from parents who had chosen or who had been there before. Then, I backed off and waited another 6 months before making a decision and sending Darling 1 to preschool.
While it was just a few mornings a week, it was a huge step for our family. My Darling Boys do NOT separate well from me. But Darling 1 was ready and happy in his class. Darling 1 moved on to a Pre-K class in September at the same school. Unfortunately, we have been underwhelmed and frustrated in a few instances with this class, but after changing classes early in the school year for several reasons, we have been reluctant to make any additional changes. Let me be clear, our issues and concerns have never been questions of safety or well-being.
Darling 2 also started preschool in September at the same school. Darling 2 has had a wonderful experience with fabulous teachers. And yet, based on Darling 1's experiences with the older classrooms, we are again on the prowl for a new school for Darling 2.
The Never Ending Search
I began searching a few months ago for a summer program for Darling 1. Before that, I was consumed with finding the "right" kindergarten for Darling 1. And prior to that, I was pondering whether we should send Darling 1 to kindergarten next year or wait until the following year.
The quest for the "best" schools and/or child care for my Darlings seems to be an on-going issue and will be for some time. I am excited about the choices we, as a family, have made for Darling 1's summer plans and kindergarten in the fall, but I am perplexed as to where to go next in pursuing Darling 2's social/educational development.
Placing the educational, social, psychological and physical needs of your child in the hands of strangers can be unnerving. We have all read the stories of day care gone horribly wrong or the safety hazards cited, licensing issues reported or mistreatment documented at child care facilities, large and small. Clearly, it's an area that, we as parents, must be vigilant in noticing potential issues or inconsistencies in care or reports, and not be hesitant to speak up and question the care of our children and/or report these issues to authorities.
When I held my little guys in those very early hours of life, I made a promise to myself and to them that I would always advocate for them in all situations. The well-being of our children must be a primary concern, always.
Tips for Finding "The One"
Here are tips for choosing the "right" child care/school for your child:
Decide what your choices are considering your city, neighborhood, work location, etc. How important is the location, nearness to work or home, etc. Make a list of what you want the facility to offer or focus on, etc.
Search online for centers, schools and churches with child care/preschools in the area you are looking. Then, talk to friends, parents at the park, your pediatrician, the school district or anyone else who might have suggestions about which options are best and why.
Once you have a list of potential choices, call and talk to the admissions director, curriculum director or center/school director. Don't be afraid to ask questions regarding cost, fees, schedules, teacher experience and tenure, educational approach, potty training, snacks and meals and anything else that's important to you.
Based on your phone conversations, choose a few to visit with your child. If you would rather visit alone first, that's fine too, but make sure to bring your child for a visit before choosing a school. You will be able to "feel" the climate of the school right away, and so will your child. Your child's initial reaction to the school's environment is a good indicator of how the school "fits" your child.
While visiting ask questions or make a list of questions to ask at a later time. It's important that you have a thorough understanding of the school's philosophy regarding families, kids, education and care. Never feel silly about asking a question.
Ask for and check references. If it's an in-home or small center with only a few on staff, you should also have background checks run for criminal history. You can also check for proper licensure and whether there have been any citations by the State.
Trust your instinct when it comes to choosing child care. If you don't have a good feeling about a facility or person, go with it, even if other's rave about the school. A center might be right for one family, but not another, and that's OK.
Here are other resources for finding the "best" child care/preschool for your child:
It's important to find a safe, secure, nurturing environment for your child when you aren't there, but don't torture yourself about finding the very best in all areas, highly sought after child care learning center. The most important criteria are that you feel good about your pick and your child is happy there. If you change your mind regarding facilities for whatever the reason, that's alright. You can certainly move on to another learning center if one doesn't end up suiting your family.
I'm flip-flopping the order in which I'm writing this week. Later this week, I'll provide legal information on licensure, etc. and what to look for in choosing child care regarding. Meanwhile, I'll be calling a few potential preschools for Darling 2 and asking lots of questions. Over and out...
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