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Big Changes in Our Childcare

Londo and I are still working out the resolution to yesterday's Question of the Week/You Be the Parent. Keep commenting away, as we are getting a lot of great ideas and others are too! When we figure out what we're going to do and see how it works, I'll post a resolution.

In addition to the normal chaos of having a 3 year old and a 1 year old, there are some serious changes in our childcare situation over the last week. We've spent months of debating about what would be best for our children, and we have decided the following:

1. The Pookie started in a daycare yesterday. He's turned 1, and this makes the most sense for all of us right now.
2. The Pumpkin is going to "summer school" at the same place where the Pookie is going to daycare, and she started on Monday.
3. The Pumpkin will start in a Montessori school this fall. (I'd start her earlier, but the school is closed from mid-July to the end of August, so there was no point.)

1. The Pookie started at a really nice daycare that I think I'll be very happy with. We let the nanny go. I'm so incredibly sad, since she has really become part of the family. She watched the Pumpkin since she was 3 months old, a few hours every afternoon the first year of her life, and then all day as her nanny for the second year of her life. She's so wonderful with our kids, our dog and cat, our house and us. We gave a glowing recommendation to the family she is interviewing with. We wish we could keep her, but we simply can't afford to have a nanny anymore. To be quite honest, we never could. But we stretched past our means because we felt it was the right thing to do for our kids and their needs.

The Pumpkin was not ready to go to a daycare at 1. She needed more focus, more individualized care, a home environment and one-on-one attention. By 2, she was ready for more activity and more socialization. And just after she turned 2, we had the Pookie, so the nanny stayed with us.

But the Pookie... He is more laid back, less needy and fussy. He has just started to walk, so he is extra clingy (to me especially) lately, but overall does really well around other kids and grown-ups. As a second child, he is very used to having another kid around and having to wait for things. At 1, he is ready for daycare and will do fine.

2. The Pumpkin still needs a lot of focus and attention. Besides being unhappy with the turnover rate of teachers and lack of follow up about the bullying incident even after my talk with the director, I have been frustrated with the lack of general communication from the administration. My daughter needs time to get used to transitions, which means we need to KNOW about upcoming transitions. Like when one of her favorite teachers (she has two favorites) is moved to another room or the majority of the kids in her class are moved to the next class up at the beginning of summer. TELL US what's going on before it happens! Or heck, even after it happens!

The Pumpkin has been acting out lately, and I honestly believe that part of the reason is because of all these transitions which we had no ability to prep for. One day last week? When I dropped my child off? I knew 3 other kids in her class of 25 and NONE of the teachers there! Granted it was a weird day with one teacher on vacation, another one home with a sick kid and the other moved to another room (which she told me about herself, not the admin office). I called after I left to ask what was going on and the front desk woman said that she put out a note explaining... which I didn't get... cause it was on the door... which I didn't see... oh, because she put it up AFTER I dropped my daughter off. I was the last parent to drop my kid off. So how helpful was that?

Anyway, I was so frustrated that I called up the place where the Pookie was going to start daycare. They have a pre-school programs, fun summer activities and a spot available for a 3 year old. We did a trial free day on Monday, and then just kept her there. Yes, we're losing our deposit at the old school, but it's way better for her. And though I was kind of concerned about the sudden transition, I realized that her school was already transitioning her without our involvement by changing the kids and teachers around. I didn't think there was really anything to lose there. And she'd already visited the place when we checked it out for the Pookie.

For the summer, the class she's in has around 8 kids with one teacher. Instead of three teachers doing "crowd control" (my sister's term for the same situation at the affiliated school to the Pumpkin's old school, where my niece used to go), this teacher is able to really see what's going on in the classroom. Without the extra chaos of so many 3 year olds, the Pumpkin seems to be settling down and settling in really quickly and well. And she's having a blast doing the summer activities, like water play and digging through sand for gems!

Plus, one drop off! And the ability to check on both kids at once!

3. Although the Pumpkin seems to be doing well at her summer school, we are going to switch her to a Montessori school this fall. Having looked into different types of preschools, I really believe the Montessori method and this particular school will be the right fit for her. Although the classes will be larger than this summer class and there are mixed ages, they promote the idea of the older kids as leaders who help the younger kids and the kids don't sit around waiting for teachers to direct them in everything. The kids take the lead in what they want to do, with the teachers assisting and guiding. The materials are all very hands-on, which is ideal for my girl.

The school has a real school administration who run things efficiently, communicate and remember what you tell them, and are willing to work with you on any issues. Apparently, those are things that I need in a school. They also have a few options for pickup times, so we can get the Pumpkin by 4:30 and are paying only up till 4:30, as opposed to the price of an all day pre-school/daycare which we've been paying even though Londo usually picks her up before 4:00. (This earlier pickup option is how we can afford the school at all.)

The only negative that I can see so far is that they require tuition payments 2 months prior to the start of school, plus a hefty enrollment fee. So we are paying for three schools for our two children in July and August! There go our savings!

A huge plus is that the Pookie can start there after he turns 18 months, so we've enrolled him for January 2011. He will be in the 18 mo/2 yo toddler room, which cost less than the daycare because it's a mixed age group with 2 year olds. So even if I love his daycare as much as I think I will, I suspect the drop in costs, the sibling discount and going back to one drop off will be worth the switch. I sure hope so, because that hefty enrollment fee I paid to hold his spot is non-refundable!

So we are currently house-poor (still! Thanks, housing-market crash!) and childcare-completely-broke. But I feel really good about these changes. Hopefully, my kids do too.


Charisse said…
fantastic!! Congrats on working all that out - I know how stressful it's been! My bet is on Pumpkin really thriving in Montessori, and that will help a lot with both the frenemy and sleeping issues.

Go Caramama and Londo!
Anonymous said…
Sounds like what we did in reverse. We started with a home daycare, then went to a nanny. Then did preschool and an au pair. Preschool is over. Elementary school underway, and still we have an au pair. My kids are 19 months apart. They share a room. The au pair uses the room that will one day be a kid's room. We have wanted the one-on-one focus on the kids. We also worked for ourselves and needed the flexibility. We have also found it cheaper than a nanny in LA. Good luck with your new path.
mom2boy said…
Sounds like a good solution for summer and long term in the fall! Those deposits are killer. I put down three at various places while I figured out what to do with Tate for the coming year. And ended up leaving him where he is. Oh well. I hope the montessori school turns out to be just what Pumpkin needs. I am a fan as a prior montessori student myself.
geeks in rome said…
I hope things work out for your nanny. That's the best thing you can give her is a very good new job/family!! you could always have her back (once your savings reappear!) for babysitting or visits. My son's nanny visits and does occasionally sitting because she became just like a granny.

The school situation sounds much better. I wonder if Pumpkin was so stressed just from having so many kids in that class!! 25! that is so stressful even if every kid is behaving. It's like Lord of the Flies

I looooved Montessori. She will do great!

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