Friday, August 24, 2007

the great childcare debate

Our deadline for new daycare is fast approaching, and we still haven't decided. We've visited to home care providers and one centre. The first home care provider I've pretty much written off. The kids watch Dora every morning at 10 and the woman drives them around in her minivan. Not that there's anything wrong with Dora, per se, I just don't really see the point of scheduling a child's day around it; there's just so much else to do.

Which leaves one other home care provider and the centre. And neither of them really jumped out at me as the right place. Why can't things just stay the same?!?

The Centre

Pros:

  • walking distance to our house - although I will have the car again in September, being a one-car family, this will likely come in handy at least once or twice
  • everything is formalized and documented (e.g. the kids don't go outside if the temperature is over 34 degrees, with or without the humidex, or under minus 13, with or without the windchill -- sorry I don't know the conversion for Americans, except to say really really hot and really cold)
  • monthly menu plans so if we don't want him to eat something, we can send him with something else that day
  • daily reports on his diaper action, eating, sleeping and activities for the day
  • structured routine with lots of outdoor time, arts and crafts, and singing/circle time; I will always know where he is and what he's doing at any point in the day
  • no worries about the care provider going back to school or having a dentist appointment
  • the director's been there for 20 years and most of the staff have been there for 10+ years
  • long hours of operation so if one day I have to work late, I'm not totally screwed
  • the two boys that he's currently in daycare with are going there, and one will even be in the same group of toddlers
  • I think the sleeping arrangement would suit Swee'pea better than a home care environment, that seeing all those kids around him sleeping will help him sleep

Cons:

  • no green space and no trees outside; just a parking lot with not much shade
  • no flexibility to change my days or add a day here or there
  • not super-great food and won't easily accommodate vegetarianism; that said, we aren't planning to raise Swee'pea vegetarian, but hot dogs creep me out and I don't want him having meat every day
  • it was really loud when we visited and they have up to 50 kids (only 10 toddlers), although Swee'pea seemed totally unfazed when we visited

The Home Care

Pros:
  • the woman is really warm and nice
  • she speaks Spanish to the kids
  • not many kids
  • feeds good, homemade food although still a fair amount of meat (no beef though)
  • not much tv and not as part of the routine, just occasionally
  • good yard with lots to play on outside (although not as nice as his current daycare)
  • recommended by a friend with similar values who loves her

Cons

  • charges full-time prices for part-time care; although I'd hate to choose the cheapest care for my child because it's the cheapest, I can't afford full-time fees on a part-time salary
  • didn't talk a lot about her daily routine or activities; I wasn't sold on what I was getting for the increased fees
  • when I told her about Swee'pea's sleep challenges* and asked how she would handle it, she said, "I can't make him sleep," which isn't the answer I was looking for. I was looking for someone with lots of ideas and flexibility to try new things. She did, however, suggest he could sleep on the couch, which is fine with me, and I think Swee'pea would go for that
  • inconvenient location that requires driving and is farther than my work
Bubandpie's insightful comment on home vs. centre continues to ring in my ears. This is the sentence that produced that familiar "Yes! Yes ! Yes! What she said!" reaction:

I am a passionate advocate for available, affordable, high-quality day-care. But what I have always loved about home-care is that a home is a place where one can productively do nothing.

All of this just makes me love the daycare provider we're losing, the one Swee'pea has just started calling MeeMee in the most adorable way, more. Why oh why can't things just stay the same?!?

So what would you do?

* I never blogged about this, but when Swee'pea started daycare, his care provider had no problem rocking him to sleep, but she couldn't put him down. He kept waking up and crying every single time. She nearly quit, but we talked and brainstormed and she eventually put him in the jogging stroller, rocks the stroller and sings to him, and he sleeps fine. But I think it will an issue all over again, especially in another home care situation.

12 comments:

Beck said...

Hm, I don't KNOW. I like MANY things about home-based care - but I would probably go with the Centre. It seems to have more pros and is closer. The quality of food at daycares is almost always abyssmal, but talking with them about your concerns might be more productive than you think.

bubandpie said...

I'm in the same grieving process for our home-care provider, even though I've now got a plan in place for the fall (nursery school for Bub in the morning, and a new home-care provider who seems extremely dedicated and conscientious, if not quite as warm-hearted as our old one). My kids mention her a lot (for one thing, they're convinced that their father spends the whole day at her house when he's at "work"). It always gives me a pang - it seems terrible, somehow, to take them away from an environment that was such a consistent and loving place for them for over a year.

kgirl said...

I think I'd go with the home care. I'm too afraid that my kid would get lost in the shuffle at a centre. If it makes you feel any better, Bee naps on the couch with her nanny. Even in her OWN home!
I feel better about the centres once children have language established, and can ask for something they need.
It's so freakin hard. But it worked out the first time, and it will work out this time, too.

Nancy said...

Well, my girls have both been in center-based daycare since they were small. I considered a home-based arrangement, but didn't easily find one that I was happy with, and a lot of the pros you listed of the center near you are things we like as well. (As an aside: the center you're looking at has great longevity for day care providers -- definitely a plus!)

One thing I do like about day care centers is that the environment is fairly predictable: you know who is authorized to be there and interact with your children, and the security is comforting.

A lot of it does depend on the kid, though. My older daughter is a social butterfly and loves structure, so the day care center arrangement has been perfect for her. My younger one is a little less social, a little less inclined to go with the structured activities -- but then again, she loves the center too. I can identify with Bub and Pie's comment about a home environment being more conducive to doing nothing, but we've found our center is flexible about that as well. If our daughter doesn't want to color or build towers with the group, they will let her stay off on her own to play quietly with dolls or rest.

Good luck with whatever you decide. And remember, you can always change tactics down the road if one solution doesn't work out.

Momish said...

I just went through this same dilemma. My daughter has been in home care since she was 8 weeks old and the woman is like her second grandmother. It was hard to consider moving her from there. Really hard.

Yet, we just moved her to a traditional daycare this week. It has been both up and down overall. I think she is more stimulated, but then she is not as "comfortable" or attended too.

I can see both sides as pro and con. Our decision was made based on the fact that with homecare, if the provider was sick or off, we were basically stuck. This was happening more and more, so we really had no choice.

I agree with B&P, I like the idea of toddlers being toddlers and not pushing the educational issues too soon or too fast.

It's not an easy decision, but no place is going to be perfect. I guess you have to weigh in all the factors (and cost is definitely one of them, no need to shy from that!!!)

Good luck!

Suz said...

No place is perfect, and I have the same concerns as you do about both daycare centers and home daycares. I'm sensitive to noises and know that I would have a hard time in such a situation, so find it really difficult to put my boys there. With the home daycares, I'm wondering if they might just be a better fit - just not the one you visited. I would also be turned off by the woman's non-answer to your question and paying full-time for part time care would also not sit well with me.

Bon said...

the grieving process for a caregiver you've trusted has got to be brutal...i'm just starting to realize, now that i've really attached to ours.

in your situation, it does sound like the Centre - as is, not in some generic Platonic ideal - has more pros...at least the big pros that matter to you. it's possible a different home situation might be better, if you could find one that was close and where sleep was focused on...but the truth is, not all home situations fully the potential in B&P's point to fruition, either. so, yeh, i'm generally for home care for under threes, but only on paper. in this case, if these are the two options, i think i'd lean toward the more accountable Centre.

i wish you luck, Sin. this is hard.

Christine said...

this is tough, tough, tough. no good insight here, but beck makes a good point.

NotSoSage said...

Oh, Sin, this is hard. We were so lucky to find a Centre that feeds such good, good food to the kids. This was key for me, and a huge part of the reason that I was disappointed with the first place. It does seem as though the Centre has more pros, but then I can tell you're still wavering.

My own reason for choosing a Centre over homecare was that I felt (perhaps erroneously) that there was so much more accountability when more than one person was caring for the kids. But I think it's so important for you to be comfortable with your decision and every child is different.

mamatulip said...

Such a difficult decision, isn't it? Given what you've said I think I would lean toward the Centre, because, like Beck said, there are more pros. Go with your gut, though. It's usually right. Good luck!

Jennifer said...

We've been through the same dilemma. My son was at a home-based daycare when he was a baby and then we ended up switching to a center when #2 came along for several reasons. There are definite advantages to both, and I would guess that with whichever one you choose, you will end up with some things you don't like and some things you love.

For us, the switch was made largely due to finances: I work only part-time and our in-home provider did not offer a part-time payment option. But, as it turned out, the center was a better fit for us. One of the main reasons I like the center is that I felt I had a bit more "wiggle room" to voice any concerns. With the in-home provider, there was more of a friendship and while that was nice, it also meant I felt I was walking on eggshells at times. I didn't want to criticize or question too much. With the center, there is a director I can speak with if I have a concern -- I am friendly with the teachers, but I seldom have to "talk shop" with them. And I really like that.

I would also offer that being closer to your house (walking distance!) could be a huge plus. Our center is only about 8 minutes farther from our house than was the in-home provider, but I often find myself driving back and forth to the center a few times a day (for a forgotten lunch, a quick hello, any random reason) and that 8 extra minutes can wear on me, as silly as that sounds.

Incidentally, our kids are being raised vegetarian and though the center isn't "vegetarian" itself, I've found they are very willing to accommodate. :)

I'm sorry for the novel but I hope that helps! I'd love to know what you decide.

DaniGirl said...

You know I feel for you on this one.

It sounds from your post that you like the centre better, IMHO. Myself, I've always preferred home care to 'institutionalized' care, especially for the smallest ones. I was thinking what Suz said, that maybe home care is the right answer, but with a different provider?

One trick I've often used when trying to choose between two (apparently) equal but different choices is to imagine your reaction if one were denied to you. Imagine you had settled on the daycare centre, then found out they didnt' have space after all. Would you be secretly relieved, or crushed? Amazing how often I can trick myself into revealing my own hidden answers!

Hugs to you in the meanwhile.... it's just never easy.