Monday, July 30, 2007

Daycare drama--advice, please

Facts:
  • We love our current daycare provider, "Serena." She runs a very small (~6 kids/day, w/one assistant), preschool daycare. She takes kids from near newborn to 5 years old, but the kids we see there are mostly around age 2 or younger.
  • Serena is amazing. I can't emphasize this enough. Said a coworker who sent his kids to her daycare: "If the house were on fire, Serena would meditate for a minute, then devise a fun game to get all the children out of the house without them even noticing the fire." Probably true, minus the moment of meditation. She is downright serene.
  • She's not cheap: we pay $850/month for 3 days/week, which is a sizable chunk of my paycheck.
  • Serena's daycare is a 15-minute drive from our home.
  • Dr. Wonderful and Fantastic Mentor both have their kids at "Hippie Nursery School" and rave about it.
  • Hippie Nursery School is a 5-minute walk from our home.
  • Hippie Nursery School is $650/month for 5 days/week.
  • Hippie Nursery School has ~20/kids at a time.
  • Hippie Nursery School only takes kids age 2 and older.
  • Lucas turns 2 in one month.
  • We have been accepted to Hippie Nursery School; I have the forms filled out on my desk.
Today I told Serena that for financial reasons and the proximity of Hippie Nursery School, we'd be moving Lucas there when he turned 2.

Serena was, to put it mildly, crushed. About on the verge of tears, and this was in front of a new-to-the-school parent. She was holding Lucas on her lap and clutched him tightly, saying quietly, "No, no, no, no, no." "Do not take him away," she pleaded. "We will work something out. Do not take him away. He is the best one."

She called later today to talk to Mr. Trillwing and me about the situation and told us that at age 2, her rate for full-time kids goes down to $720/month and $525/month if Lucas is enrolled for only three days. So basically if we keep Lucas there, we'll be getting the same high quality care for $325 cheaper a month than we are now. Crazy, eh?

During this call, she also mentioned that Lucas is her favorite child. (Does she say that to all the parents? I sense not.)

More things you should know:
  • Serena is not only a licensed daycare provider, but also a credentialed teacher. She's very bright, and has a Master's degree in economics. She's been teaching preschoolers for 22 years. I'd guess she's in her 50s.
  • Serena is from India and is, I believe, Hindu; the assistant I see most frequently is from Nepal, and is a very recent (9 months) immigrant. Serena has another assistant who's not usually there when I drop off or pick up Lucas who is Muslim (she wears a headscarf). I really like the multiculturalism and multiracial atmosphere. This is reflected in the kids enrolled at the school as well.
  • Lucas adores Serena. He used her name before he regularly said "Mama." He's making terrific progress there.
  • From what I've seen at Hippie Nursery School, most of the kids are white (with a sprinkling of mixed-race Asian and Latino--Dr. Wonderful's and Fantastic Mentor's kids). I believe all the teachers at Hippie Nursery School are white.
  • Aside from campus, our town is, for California, quite white and wealthy. I value the diversity of Serena's daycare and want Lucas to find such diversity completely normal--which it is in my hometown and in Nearby City.
  • Ideally, we would have Lucas in daycare for full days MWF and mornings TR.
  • Because of traffic on Fridays, the total amount of time we spend driving to and from Serena's every week is about 5.5 hours. We wouldn't drive at all to Hippie Nursery School.
  • I ran into Fantastic Mentor today. She sent both her daughters to Hippie Nursery School at age 2, and she said she felt they didn't really have "enough hands on deck" to give 2-year-old boys all the attention they need.
My head tells me to send Lucas to Hippie Nursery School. It's closer, less expensive for the schedule we'd like him to be on, and highly recommended. It doesn't have a highly academic curriculum; the emphasis is on play and on social and emotional development. Plus we'd be able to forge closer (and much desired) connections with Dr. Wonderful and Fantastic Mentor.

My heart tells me to stay with Serena. She's making good progress with him, and Lucas adores her. But the drive is a bit crazy--we couldn't live farther from her and still be in the same town--and the cost is an issue relative to Hippie Nursery School. I'm not exactly clear what her academic program is, but I recall her talking about having the kids reading and writing before kindergarten. I don't want to be a pushy, competitive, obsessive parent, but if she can maintain the confidence and curiosity Lucas currently has and have him prepared for kindergarten, I would nominate her for canonization in several faiths.

My gut says to stay with Serena for at least another 6 months to a year. I'm not sure if we'd get accepted as easily at Hippie Nursery School at that point as we did this time, especially if we turn them down now.

Mr. Trillwing and I need to go back and take another look at Hippie Nursery School, and we're scheduled to have a sit-down with Serena on Wednesday afternoon.

Those of you with kids, or who teach the little ones: What has been your experience with 2-year-olds? How did you decide upon when to send the kids to preschool, and how did you evaluate the schools you considered?

Again, many thanks in advance for your advice.

12 comments:

Anastasia said...

oy. okay. well. I'm about to reveal what I think about daycare so I hope I don't offend. You have, up until now, partnered with Serena in raising your child. You've delegated a certain number of your parenting duties to her. and that's been great, it sounds like, because she sounds great, she obviously loves the boy and he loves her, she knows what she's doing, and it's a small enough environment to really give him a lot of attention.

What you're considering is a new partner. The way you describe it here, that new partner is a big faceless institution.

on the model that your daycare provider is a partner in parenting your child, as a mother I would be profoundly less comfortable with Hippie Nursery School. It sounds like it's the same for you. After all, heart and gut say stay with Serena.

coming to my point, your child has an emotional connection with this woman. I don't think you can quantify that. It's an intimate environment. I don't think you can quantify that, either. And, in addition to forming him socially, academically, etc, it's directly forming him into the sort of man who will value and respect people of other cultures and religions. Not that he wouldn't learn that otherwise but here, it's directly happening already. You can't quantify that.

that's what I think, then. Leave him. easy for me to say since I'm spending your money, right? :)

Mad Grad Mom said...

I would second what Anastasia said. You are comfortable with Serena and the environment and your son adores her. Moving to a new school, albeit cheaper and closer, means an adjustment period. How long might it take for Lucas to adjust?

We use a larger daycare service for The Toddler, but it's attached to the local community college, has a small teacher to child ratio, and is play-learning centered. We were able to get into it quickly and it's affordable.

The Toddler recently switched rooms in May and is still adjusting. His new teachers are great but his love for his first teacher has made the adjustment qutie difficult for him. If I could have kept him in that room forever, I would have. Every morning is now a tear-drenched battle to get him out the door. "I just want to say home, Mommy," he says.

To me, the attachment to Serena (money and travel time off the table) would be the deciding factor.

JustMe said...

i say stay with Serena. he is only 2 and it's more important to feel cared for, have a home environment etc at that age. when he's three you can bring him to hippie preschool. because around that age, they do need preschool. and the he's my favorite, they do *not* say that to everyone. i have a serena in my family and have grown up with family daycares, so i say stick with her for another year. and make some excuse to hippie preschool that you don't think he's ready, or something, but you do wasn't him to start at age three. and maybe they can give you some sort of inclination to accept him again or something? whatever you decide, it will all be okay!

ScienceWoman said...

Stay with Serena at least for another 6 months. I'd give an arm and a leg to have someone like her for Minnow. What all the others said is true, plus if you need a cost justification, think of it in terms of student/teacher ratios. You are paying just a little more for Lucas to be one of three kids competing for Serena's attention, versus one of 20(!) at HNS.

liz said...

Keep him where he's happy for another year, if you can afford it and the drive isn't driving you absolutely insane. Two is a hard time to transition.

Genevieve said...

I like what Sciencewoman said about paying for the ratio, though I assume there are more teachers at Hippie Nursery School to go with the 20 kids.

My son went to daycare from 6 months old (extremely near my office, so I was in there all the time), and I have no views against daycare. My inclination at first was to recommend moving him. But Fantastic Mentor's comment made me think that Serena might be better for him right now. The trouble is that Hippie Nursery School might be better for him later - but I like the idea that you tell them that after looking at it further, you don't think he's ready to transition to a preschool setting yet, but you plan to do it when he's about 3, and would there be any difficulty with you reapplying then? In other words, make it clear to them that you're not dissing them.

dbm/gaa said...

I live in fear that we'll be accepted at our local daycare (5 minute walk, cheaper) now that we are settled into a place that O loves and is loved in because we'd have to make the same tough choice. I think I'd go with my heart and head and perhaps move him later when there is a more natural transition.

These decisions are really hard, I feel your pain!

Anonymous said...

I'm very glad you found yourself. Some.

.lermit

cloudscome said...

I would keep him with Serena. He's happy there, she adores him, it sounds like a better environment. Less change is better for the little ones. There will be more opportunities for other school situations when he is older. Keep the good thing you have now!

Dark Daughta said...

Hi,
We haven't met. I was "travelling" through the blogosphere and happened upon your blog.

This sounds quite straight forward from where I. a stranger, who you don't know, am standing.

I have two small children. I keep them both at home mostly because I haven't found anyone who loves them, "sees" them, has healthy ties to them, would cry for them.

You're in the right place. Someone feels for your child, cries at the thought of parting from him, offers him realistic images of his world and the people in it, protects him and allows him learning and growing space.

I envy you. You've been blessed by whatever higher powers you believe in.

The choice, regardless of monetary or time concerns is clear. Your head does speak through your emotions and your emotions are logical and give good advice.

Please don't give up your child's present daycare.

That's my two cents.

minniemoocher@gmail.com said...

stay with serena! 2 is still so little and individual attention seems so important. although i totally understand your hesitation when it comes to all that time in the car...

minniemoocher@gmail.com said...

oh hahahah 2007. i guess you already made your decision on this one. :P