Child care is a very important part of a community. It allows parents to work and for children to socialize and to prepare for elementary school.
It is taken very seriously by parents, as it should. Dan Hon takes an extreme head-on approach, twisted with vulgarity and satire, to describe the process of finding a preschool that is just right.
|Mixed age groups helps teach social skills.|
Here is the thing that you may not realize:
Child care is very serious to family child care providers.
|Sensory experiences are provided indoors and outdoors to all age groups.|
You may ask yourself, "What is a family child care anyway? Don't they just sit at home while the kids play? It sounds like something anyone could do." Which, sadly, is what a lot of people think.
In Massachusetts, family child care is overseen by the Department of Early Education and Care. You can do a search for licensed child cares by visiting Early Education Search. There is basic information about programs listed there. I recommend speaking with the provider directly for the most up to date information.
In order to run a family child care ("FCC"), a provider must go through a series of steps, very similar to that of a center. A FCC must:
- register with the IRS and have a tax i.d. number
- care givers and all adults in the home are finger printed and have gone through background checks
- the home has been inspected by a State licensor to assure health and safety requirements are met
- care givers must attend at least 10 hours of training each year, including basic health & safety like: choking hazards, safe sleep, mandated reporter
- care givers are trained in cpr and first aid (although some assistants or volunteers might not)
- care givers are required to provide age appropriate activities across all areas of development and encouraged to develop written lesson plans
- care givers are required to do developmental screenings and provide progress reports for each child, including parent-teacher conferences
- keep records of the business, license, staff, and children up to date at all times
In addition to these basic requirements of running a child care business, standards are being raised via the QRIS, Quality Rating and Improvement System. The QRIS is a "method to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality" in child care. (Stair Steps to Quality, Anne W. Mitchel; (2005); United Way Success by Six, p.4). Although participation on the QRIS is not currently required, many are going through the process, as it is expected to become a standard measure of quality.
The QRIS is a 4 point scale. A score of 1 means that the provider meets all of the licensing requirements. A higher score means that they are meeting more strict guidelines for what the QRIS defines as higher quality care.
|Pre-academic skills like circle time, calendar, sitting in a group, and following a routine are a part of each day.|
A benefit of a family child care is that the cost tends to be much lower than that of a center. According to this article on masslive.com, "Massachusetts had the highest average annual cost for infants in center based programs in 2012" at a whopping $16,430. Let me reiterate: that is the AVERAGE cost for infant care. That is around $61 per day, if the child were to attend 54 weeks a year 5 days a week. That is more expensive than a year at U-Mass Amherst, coming in at around $13,258.
Family child care, dependent on the area, can range anywhere from $35-70 per day. Based on my knowledge from speaking with other FCC providers, most family child care providers charge $40-55/day, which is considerably less than a child care center. Higher rates are typically charged for infants since they require more care and affect the number of children allowed in care.
|Exploration of a variety of topics across a variety of areas is encouraged. Here, children are exploring properties of light.|
One thing to consider, alongside the cost, is the low caregiver to child ratio and consistency of caregivers. In a center, the staff often rotate, which means the children are not with the same adult throughout the day. There also tends to be a high turn over rate in centers, which means a child may not have the same teacher for the year.
In a family child care, there is a low number of adults (typically 1-3) who build a strong relationship with each child. The ratio is lower than that of a center, allowing deep connections and intimate knowledge is each child's needs and abilities.
According to The Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, there are nearly 2/3 more children in family child care than in center based care in Massachusetts.
|Observations and real world experiences provide opportunity to develop writing and communication skills.|
One of the things that I enjoy best about being a family child care provider is that all of the stuff I talk about up there ^^^^? That all comes secondary to the children. With the absence of administration and bureaucracy, teachers are able to what teachers do best:
Not only do teachers get to teach, they get to give children what they need when they need it. Some providers use a purchased curriculum to help guide their activities, while others go with the flow of children's interests. Each day has a routine, but since it is a small group that routine can be a bit flexible. Flexibility is a great thing to have when working with young children, because sometimes they need that extra 10 minutes to build blocks or extra hour outside running. That flexibility is greatly reduced in a center, because often times a space can only be used for the scheduled time.
Many of the providers that I know are college educated, which comes as a surprise to those I have talked to who are not in the field. Those are the people who make comments like, "So, you just play all day?" Personally, I have a BS in Psychology and a M.Ed in Early Childhood Education. I, like many others, chose to do this partly to be home with my own children and partly because I get to do more of what I really love. I love working with the children, helping them to learn and grown.
So, you said that there is curriculum?
Yes! Curriculum for young children looks different than that in elementary school. Young children learn through play. Which means there shouldn't be worksheets, sitting for long periods, or memorizing rote facts. A high quality child care program should have a variety of materials available for the children to explore, teachers that are on the children's level playing with them, lots of books, and lots of outside time. The written lesson plans are more about documenting the child's experiences so that you know what to provide next.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be interviewing other family child care providers in Massachusetts. Keep an eye out for those in your area! You may learn about a program that would work for you or a friend.