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Nanny vs. daycare and beyond

Large group, small group: Sorting through your childcare options

by MaryP  |  10985 views  |  10 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Breast or bottle, crib or co-sleep, cloth or disposable... Before your child's first breath, you've already made a heap of parenting decisions, and there are many more to come! Today we'll focus on a biggie for those mothers who have decided to return to work after their maternity leave: Childcare.

It's such a big decision, one that's been talked about a lot here at WIM. We'll take it in stages. First: What are your childcare options?

Childcare falls into two broad categories: large-group and small-group care. Large-group includes daycare centers and preschools; small-group is home-care and, the smallest of small "groups," nannies.

(One very common choice is family care -- a sister, an aunt, a mother -- but I won't be discussing that. I'm quite sure you have a clearer idea of the pros and cons of working with your family than I do!)

You will note that the same factor is often on both "pro" and "con" lists. I'm not being indecisive! These factors are very often a matter of perspective and needs. One family sees social interaction as top priority; another worries that their introverted child will be swamped by too many kids, too soon. Neither family is wrong: they just have different outlooks and challenges. You make your choice for your child and your family, not for anyone else's.

Daycare Centers and Preschools:

Pros:

1.) Trained staff.

2.) Staff is often young (with lots of energy, recently graduated, full of enthusiasm and ideas).

3.) Lots of equipment.

4.) Monitored by and accountable to government or municipal agencies.

5.) Lots of other children (and the opportunity for interaction, cooperative play, challenges, conversation).

6.) Clear, professional contracts.

7.) Curriculum. Professional staff know how to introduce concepts; some centers offer "academic" elements, like learning the alphabet and numbers. (Preschools are most likely to offer curriculum).

8.) Always open, or, if it is closed for certain times, these will be in the contract and/or announced well in advance.

Cons:

1.) High staff turnover. Tthis is something virtually all large-group centers deal with.

2.) Young staff (may be inexperienced).

3.) Lots of other children (can mean more illness, bullying, aggressions. Stressful for shy or introverted child).

4.) Less flexibility. Even the best of centers can't offer the accommodation of individual needs as well as one-to-one care; the closer you get to one-to-one, the more personal the attention.

5.) Late fees. Most centers have late fees, and they're generally pretty steep, in the order of $2 to $5 perminute, occasionally more.

6.) Curriculum. Some parents believe the focus on academic achievement is age-inappropriate to babies and toddlers, for whom emotional/social guidance is all-important.

7.) Monitoring. Some parents wonder how effective the monitoring can be, with visits from inspectors happening as infrequently as once a quarter. You will know if the building is physically safe and hygienic, but what of the emotional environment, which is so much harder to define and quantify?

One Work It, Mom! member has some good insight into possible pros and cons of large-group care: You'll find Trudi in the ninth comment down in this discussion.

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

Read more by MaryP

10 comments so far...

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    Flag as inappropriate Posted by ndks eihds on 17th June 2011

  • Hi, I am a mom of 3 and a family daycare provider for 28 years. I disagree with something you said......
    Cons:

    1.) No outside monitoring (varies by jurisdiction). This puts the onus on the parents.

    I AM STATE LICENSED AND VERY CAREFULLY MONITERED BY MY LICENSING. MASSACHUSETTS IS ONE OF THE MOST REGULATED IN THE COUNTRY. I HAVE THE STATE POPPING IN ON ME ALL THE TIME

    2.) Fewer children. Less opportunity for social interactions. If your child doesn't get along with the one other child in care, you have a problem!
    NOT NECESSARILY TRUE. I FIND THAT MY DAYCARE KIDS HAVE FORMED FRIENDSHIPS THAT LAST LONG BEYOND DAYCARE. IF THERE IS A PROBLEM CHILD WE DEAL WITH THE CHILD AND PARENTS. WE NEVER LET A SITUATION AFFECT THE OTHER CHILDREN IN OUR CARE. WE WILL GIVE NOTICE TO A PROBLEM CHILD IF NEDDED. AND WITH INTERGRATED AGE GROUPS THE CHILDREN LEARN MORE ABOUT SOCIAL INTERACTION. JUST LIKE A FAMILY!

    3.) Training. Is "the nice lady down the street" going to provide the same quality care as the trained professionals at the center? Evaluating her expertise is harder without that piece of paper.
    I AM HIGHLY TRAINED. THE STATE REQUIRES IT TO BE LICENSED. I ATTEND SEMINARS, CONFERENCES, COLLEGE LEVEL CLASSES, FIRST AID AND CPR.

    4.) No back-up. When caregiver takes time off or gets sick, she rarely provides back-up.
    DAYCARES HAVE BACK UP. THEY HAVE TO. ITS THEIR BUSINESS AND THEY NEED TO BE REPUTABLE AND DEPENDABLE. AT LEAST I AM.

    5.) May not have contract. How will conflicts or misunderstandings be resolved?
    EVERY DAYCARE PROVIDER I HAVE EVER KNOWN HAS A CONTRACT.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by marilyncorliss on 9th November 2010

  • Hello, Emma! Glad to see you're still around. Have you received my network request yet? I'd love to have you in mine: makes for interesting conversation when people have differing perspectives. Though I don't think ours are all THAT different, really, just enough to make it interesting!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 9th April 2008

  • I must have said that wrong. We don't have to have an ECE, just early childhood education hours. Washington State requires 20 hours the first year and 10 hours each year after. If you want to be acredited, you need your ECE.
    As far as the law goes...I think it is a pretty good idea. I have known 2 gals that started up a daycare but didn't want to get licensed. They both didn't care about the kids just the money. They got lots of kids because they would charge less. They took in way too many kids, and they weren't being cared for properly. I actually called the state on one of them. They were nice girls to the parents...just not the kids. Some parents just don't care, as long as it is cheap. The U.S. is pretty messed up that way.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by emma on 8th April 2008

  • Emma - " 'The lady next door' is against the law now." That makes me sigh a little. It's a shame, isn't it? While there is value in education, there is also value in experience and character -- which cannot be guaranteed by the right documentation. Parents should have the right to choose someone they think has the experience and character, with or without that piece of paper.

    I have had communication with providers in various states, and though most of them have to take some courses, none have reported neediing to be a full-fledged ECE. Though perhaps we define "ECE" differently: where I live, the ECE course is a year or two (depending on how intensive) of full-time study. Or perhaps they just assumed the need for ECE credentials as a given, figured I would know that, and didn't feel the need to make it explicit! Now I'm curious. I will have to go ask them.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 5th April 2008

  • I am pretty aware of the requirements, but only in the U.S..
    In the U.S. you need to have a license to care for more than one family and with the license you need the early childhood education. I didn't say 'the lady next door' had any shame attached...you said it was a con. I am just saying that in the U.S. we have just as much education as if we were working in childcare centers...therefore, over here, it is not a con. That's all.
    I love the lady next door as that is what I had growing up, which made me want to be in the childcare business. It's just against the law now.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by emma on 5th April 2008

  • Heels - You're right on both counts: you're lucky, and it's possible! I'm glad you've found an arrangement which works so well for your family.

    Florinda - thank you!

    Emma - the certification requirements for home care providers varies *enormously* from one jurisdiction to the next. In some, they are well-trained and have high standards applied to them, in many others they are "the nice lady down the street." There is no shame in the latter, of course: most mothers have less experience than that "nice lady" when they start out, yet we generally all do a good job.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 3rd April 2008

  • In the state of Washington home care providers are required to have early childhood education. I have my early childhood degree plus I attend local 'stars' (we need 10 'stars' hours every year) classes at the library and I attend the NAEYC(National Association of Education) conference every year. Sooooo, most of us are not 'the nice lady down the street'.
    Good article though!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by emma on 2nd April 2008

  • I'm WAY past where I need this myself, but it's a great, objective overview of the options available in what is ultimately a subjective decision.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 2nd April 2008

  • Perhaps I'm inordinately lucky, but I feel like we have the best of both worlds. My son is in a home daycare with only 5 other children (ages 10 months to 3.5 years at the moment). However, the provider is a woman who takes school preparedness very seriously. They (those who are old enough to do so) have a class time every day, and she goes to continuing education classes monthly on weekends and evenings. I suppose she is the exception, but finding dedicated people like her IS possible.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by heels on 2nd April 2008

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