Posts Tagged ‘Daycare’

January 27, 2017

Violating my Parent Rules

Like with all my other time my pre-child never-ever-would-Is, I find myself once again eating my words.

Nicole’s pre-kindergarden class has started assigning homework. She’s occasionally had art projects to do at home, but now they’re giving her a few activity pages a week to help prepare her for kindergarden, which is now only a little over six months away.

I’ve been using it as an opportunity to praise process. We reiterate that it’s okay to not know the answer, and okay to get the answer wrong, but it’s not okay to not try. We also get big praise whenever we come up with a new strategy to solve a problem. When we started she was inclined to just say “I don’t know” and guess randomly. Now she only guesses randomly when she’s over tired and having troubles focusing. She knows to sing the alphabet song to see what comes next, or find a number line if she’s having troubles associating a number with it’s written form. She’s getting better at trying, and she’s enjoying the extra one-on-one Mommy time. Often when Mommy decides we’ve reached our homework limit for the night, it’s met with protests and requests for “just one more.”

We’ve found that her homework fits in nicely with our bedtime routine after bath and before story time. We ended up purchasing some additional activity books so we can keep doing “homework” on a more regular basis. I’m still worried about over doing it, and I don’t want to break the positive association she has with homework, so we keep it to just a few pages a days. Sometimes we’ll skip it all together if she seems overly tired to begin with.

So what does homework have to do with my never-ever-would-Is? Before kids I was aghast to learn how lax the late homework policies in grade school have become. When I was growing up, I’d be docked a whole letter grade for each day late. Here, you can turn it in months after the fact without much penalty. Never ever would I let me kids turn in their homework late. Never ever would I let them turn it in incomplete.

This never-ever-would-I lasted until week four. I picked up her homework late this week, so we didn’t start her official homework until Wednesday night. Nicole was in need of an earlier bedtime this week and really struggling to concentrate. I figured sleep was more important so we’d turn it in a day late. Then the next day I figured we’d turn it in incomplete.

Pre-kindergarden doesn’t count, right?

September 7, 2016

Cognitive Leaps

Tonight, as many nights, Nicole was playing with her foam letter bath toys in the bath tub. She’ll hold up a letter and ask “what letter is this?” After answering her, I’ll follow up with “what sound does it make?” or “what words begin with it?”

Tonight she handed me the E. I told her it was the first letter in the word “eh-eh-elephant” and asked her if she knew what it was.

“L!”

She’s made this mistake before, with the same letter and word. Last time I corrected her, which seemed too discouraging in retrospected. This time I found the L and held it next to the E. “Yes! The E makes the Eh sound and the L makes the Elle sound so it’s E-L-ephent, Eh-Elle-ephent.”

Seeing those two letters next to each other, something clicked in her for the first time. She suddenly understood the connection between a string of letters and the word they spelled. She wanted to spell and sound out the entire word. The letter set only has one instance of each letter so we spelled ‘Elphant’, followed by ‘Princes’. (Hey, it’s the process that’s important not the exact letter sequence, right?!)

I’m a proponent of free play, and not really comfortable with the notion of formal preschool at such a young age. The research that free play sparks curiosity really resonated with me because it echos the experience of my childhood. Yet here we are, studying phonics in the bath tub.

I don’t have as much confidence in this whole parenting thing as I’d like to believe. We’re in a highly competitive area academically speaking. Some of the other kids can already read and recognize words. I was afraid Nicole kindergarten significantly behind her peers. I didn’t want her teacher forming a negative impression of her ability. Impressions, deserved or not, can be difficult to change. So we started going over letters and numbers. I even signed her up for phonics and math class at her preschool, though not without some hesitation. Sometimes it feels like a giant waste of money. Sometimes I just wish other parents would relax. But most of all I wish I didn’t let the peer pressure get to me.

At least she seems to be enjoying her letters and numbers.

April 7, 2015

Back to Work

Tomorrow I return to work after a very generous, very long maternity leave. I am not ready.

I have had an easier time recovering from delivery this pregnancy than from my first time around. I felt like my normal self, physically anyway, within a few days. The first time around I took longer to heal. I was still feeling the after affects of giving birth ten weeks later. You would think I would be ready. I most definitely am not.

I could not even work up the courage to do a daycare trial run, where I drop her off at daycare while still on maternity leave for just a few hours to ease her into it. I wanted to soak up every possible moment of baby time.

I thought daycare would be easier the second time around. It is not. I am getting misty eyed just thinking about handing my baby over to someone else to care for during the day. Rationally I know I’m being crazy. Daycare has been a boon for us. Even at a young age Nicole got a tremendous amount out of daycare, and I know Alexis will to. This is a good thing. But I am not ready.

I think the resistance I’m feeling stems from the fact that there is a good chance Alexis will be our last. Where transitioning to the next phase. It’s one step closer to end of babyhood. I’m not ready. I haven’t even gotten enough of my newborn fix. I feel like I forgot to take in the newborn smell. I’m also not quite where I want to be in terms of crib sleep, or even establishing nursing, and I worry that we’ll lose all the wonderful progress we’ve made.

I blame hormones. I can still use that as an excuse, right?

September 15, 2014

Our (Pre)school Philosopy

It’s that time of year again. With September comes in inevitable back to school posts of smiling elementary students. What I wasn’t prepared for was the wave of Moms with kid’s Nicki’s age signing up for preschool, which got me thinking – should I be doing the same?

Domingo and I plan on buying into the best school district we can come house hunting time next year, as I’m sure most parents do when they house hunt. I don’t want to rely on getting into a good school, though.

The school system I went to is consistently ranked in the top 10 of my fairly large home state. Overall the school did very well by me, they noticed the early signs of my learning disability, got me tested, and provided the accommodations I needed to succeed. Yet before the dyslexia diagnosis my first grade teacher told my parents I was a “non academic” child, and math would never be my strong suit. I think I’ve proven her wrong, thank you very much. It just goes to show that even great schools can have not so great teachers. Thus we don’t want to rely solely on a getting into a good school district.

Which then has us wondering: How? How do we ensure the drive is there to want to learn, and that our children get a quality education, independent of school system?

On Praise

The biggest eye opener was on the glowing research of how to praise. Specifically, telling kids that they are smart is counter productive. They become less risk adverse, choosing easier tasks so they don’t jeopardize the “smart” label. Praising process and effort encourages kids to try harder and take on hard tasks. That was a hard pill to swallow, especially for someone who get’s irritated at today’s “A for effort” most grade schools seem to dole out in spades. I think the catch is reward meaningful effort, and not for token effort. So a few months back Domingo and I started working on praising the effort. It was a hard change, and I still occasionally slip up. Saying “you’re so smart” still feels more natural to me.

On Learning

By far the biggest thing that I’m not happy with in our local school system is the emphasis on rote pattern matching, rather than actual learning. When I first started looking at daycares one of the centers told me with great pride that every one of their four year olds can count to 100. That sounded like an incredibly boring waste of everyone’s time to me. If it takes 3 minutes for each kid to count, and there are 20 kids in the class, an hour without any actually learning just went by.

Turns out counting to 100 is actually a kindergarden state requirement. Near as I can tell this requirement was started after a discovery that kindergartners did not have good number literacy. Back when I was in kindergarten, I only had to count to 13. At some point they raised the bar to 30, and now to 100. I get counting to 30 or so. The teens are sort of like the irregular verbs of the number world (13 is “thir-teen”, not “teen-thir”, while it’s “twenty-three”, “thirty-three”, etc.) After 30 the challenge is gone. I doubt there are many kids who can count to 30 who can’t count to 100, or even 10,000 for that matter. Knowing the pattern, and understanding numbers are not the same thing.

Anyone into machine learning will tell you: memorizing is not learning. Learning occurs when you can apply a concept to a new situation. That’s why Domingo and I would much rather focus on new experiences and new challenges, especially now while the brain is under such rapid development.

On Failure and Success

I love the Khan Academy motto: You can learn anything. There have been numerous studies that argue that intelligence is not fixed, that we learn best in failure than we do in success, which is why it is important not to ignore the failures. I think this is why Khan Academy resonates with me so much. The general premise is learning at your own rate and not moving on until the subject matter is 100% mastered. That’s because new subjects tend to rely on skill mastered in past subject. If one only ‘mostly‘ understand a subject like calculus, one may struggle with physics, or Bayesian theory, for example.

Obviously this approach doesn’t work as well in the classroom, but it is something Domingo and I can do with the girls. It also fits in nicely with the notion of praising process and effort. Failure is okay as long as you don’t give up and learning something in the process.

Nicki has been thriving in the infant room. She has a best friend, Kai*. They play together more than I thought was possible for one year old babies. They chase each other around the room, share toys, and “talk” to each other constantly. Even hug on occasions. Together with Lincoln* they are like the three babyteers. Always giggling, always playing together. It’s the middle of the summer, and with so many families on extended vacation, it’s just the three of them most of the time. She loves her situation at day care so much that in the morning she’ll point to the door, and start to grow frustrated with Mommy if Mommy takes to long to put her shoes on. No more signs of separation anxiety.

I’ve mentioned before that they’ve begun the process of transitioning Nicki to the toddler room. Her teachers have been bringing her over for little visits in the afternoon, so she can meet the other toddlers and teachers and become familiar with the room. Typically Nicki and Kai go on these visits together since they’re both old enough for the toddler room and do so well together. I have been secretly hoping Kai and Nicki would transition together, but he’s not as close to being ready as she is. In order to move to the toddler room one has to have (1) given up on bottles and drinking from sippy cups, (2) feeding themselves, and (3) be walking. Nicki, who has never turned down a good meal and was cruising before crawling, mastered the first two and is just perfecting the third. Kai is the total opposite. He has more interest in playing with finger food than eating it, and was a fabulous early roller and crawler who only took a few steps recently when following Nicki.

Nicki has a tentative move date in the end of August.

When I dropped her off this morning, however, the infant room was at capacity. There are a few people who enroll their children for emergency backup daycare, and one of those children was visiting. So it was decided that Nicki, whose the closest to transitioning, would start the day off in toddler room until another infant room teacher was available.

She did not like the change in routine. When I set her down, she clung to me. If I started to move her grasp tightened. She didn’t understand why she wasn’t in the infant room with Kai and cheerios. It was my intention to spend 30 minutes or so helping her adjust by sitting next to her while she played. She knows everyone in the room so if she could just get distracted with the toys, she’d forget all about the this-is-different feeling. But one of the teachers suggested it would be easiest on her if I just left. So I did. The waterworks that followed broke my heart.

I felt so guilty I waited a few minutes on the other side of the wall before seeking a peek through the observation window. She had stopped crying but was still not happy. I wanted to rush back in and hug my baby, but I was afraid I’d set off another crying jag.

I called a half hour latter. She was fine, apparently rearranging all the toys on the shelves, and would be in the infant room by snack time. She recovers much faster from these things than I do.

I’m now absolutely terrified at the prospect of changing day cares when we move.

*Names may been changed.

November 14, 2012

The Benefits of Day Care

I generally try and stay away from “mommy wars” topics. My personal philosophy is whatever works for you and your family. There is no one-size fits all style of parenting because every family is different. Still, it’s sometimes so easy to get consumed with guilt when you feel you’re not living up to everyone else’s standards, especially when it seems like society agrees what’s ‘best’ and it’s not what you’re doing. One of those areas where I felt particularly large amounts of guilt was daycare.

There seems to be a perception held by many that only moms who can’t afford to stay home are the ones who work. It’s true that leaving Nicki at day care for the first time was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I referred to the experience as my kryptonite. For me it was harder than watching Nicki get her shots, or having her blood drawn. In both those cases I knew it was for her benefit. Society sends moms the impressions that daycare is for mom’s benefit, not the baby’s.

But there are benefits to daycare for baby as well as mom. Here are a few that I have discovered.

Between the two of them, Nicki’s daycare teachers have over thirty years of infant experience. Thirty. At an 8:2 baby to day care provider ratio, that’s 240 babies! I may be Nicki’s mom, but I don’t know much about babies besides what the books say, and both our families live pretty far away. Let’s face it, being a parent requires on-the-job training. Some days I feel like I’m fumbling my way through it. I’ve asked Nicki’s teachers for advice on everything from brands of pacifiers, to sleeping habits, teething and feeding. Sure, I don’t always follow their advice, but I’m grateful to have the extra perspective. Since they spend three days a week with Nicki, I’m getting advice tailored specifically for her.

The day care center prides itself on the level of stimulation they provide. They’re always buying new educational toys, and trying new activities. They live, sleep, eat child development. They do sensory play and baby sign language. If I was a stay at home mom, child development would only be one thing on my plate. While I think I could find some fun things via pintrest, I don’t think I can keep it up as well as a group of people whose full time job is baby development.

Then there was this week. Domingo and I got sick at the same time. I suspect it was food poising, he thinks it was a fast moving stomach flu. Whatever it was, taking care of Nicki was difficult. She was happy, healthy and wanted to play. Us, not so much. Not only were her day care workers healthy enough to take care of Nicki properly, but it gave us a chance to rest. I wasn’t able to rest when we all got sick previously. It took me three weeks to finally kick it! Being able to get well sooner meant I was able to better take care of Nicki on her home days.

My point is not to suggest that every parent should utilize a day care. (That would be just as mommy wars-ish as suggesting every mom should strive to stay home.) But there are some benefits to day care for the child, and for some parents day care might make more sense then staying at home. It doesn’t make someone less of a mom for choosing that path for her family.

I can check one thing off the baby to-do list; zippy is officially enrolled in daycare. As much as I’d love to keep Zippy home with me, I’d never finish my thesis. At the same time daycare is expensive, and my fellowship is ending this June. We decided a good compromise was to enroll Zippy in day care three days a week, and have her home with me the other two. Fortunately, the center we picked is extremely flexible.

I was pretty sure I wanted a day care center and not an in home provider. The in home providers here are licensed up to 8 kids per adult, including 2 infants, which just seemed like an awful lot for one person. The day care centers are licensed for 4 infants per adult, which seems more manageable to me.

I had been reading that the best day cares can fill up a year an advance, so I wanted to get a head start and started looking in mid January. I am not sure if it’s the area I live in, or the economy, or maybe I’m not looking at the ‘best ones’, but there were no problems with spaces with any of the centers we visited. Every day care was surprised I was visiting while pregnant. In fact, when I dropped off the paper work to enroll zippy today, one person asked me if I had brought in my baby girl to meet everyone. I replied by rubbing my tummy and saying “yup, she goes everywhere I do!” Everyone laughed. I guess my baby bump isn’t as noticeable as I think it is.

Despite what the books lead me to believe, there wasn’t a lot of difference between the centers we looked at. The day to day of the infants’ room was identical, right down to the activity planning sheets. The places were also within a small price delta of each other as well. I’m sure there are more differences for toddlers and pre-kindergarteners, but for infants the parents set most of the schedule. So we settled on one that gave me the best vibe, friendliest staff, and all around good feeling. I really liked the director of the day care center we choose. After I called to say we would be enrolling in her center, she even made sure I was aware of the coupon for free registration on the website. A woman after my own heart!

So now I need to get zippy’s “school supplies”. The director sent me home with a list of items to bring on Zippy’s first day. I was surprised at how much the day care center was requesting, including 2 sets of changes and a sleeper ‘just in case.’ It made me realize I am probably way under estimating how many clothes zippy will go through in a given day!