Moving to a new city is scary enough, but moving with your child or children is even more terrifying. All of a sudden the decisions you make suddenly feel ten times more important and the fear of the consequences feel equally daunting. So one of our first chores in moving to California was finding childcare for our son. He’d spent about a month out of preschool jumping between different relatives’ homes for the holidays and NEEDED STRUCTURE. To anyone who compliments me on my son’s behavior, I credit it to routine, routine, routine. Threenagers (or really anyone, ever) need expectations. Our son, more than I think some other children, craves and enjoys structure. So for us, Montessori school was the way to go. Luckily, after some interesting school tours around the area, we found one that was walking distance around the corner and our son seems to be thriving.

Below are a couple of the basics of Montessori that are reasons I LOVE it. (For those of you who aren’t educators or well versed in the psychology of child development.)

  1. It is based on the studies of Maria Montessori. Different schools with the name “Montessori” interpret her studies in different ways. ALWAYS do a tour and ask lots of questions. The name is not a brand, but rather an ideology.
  2. My favorite elements are that work and learning are play, toys are ‘materials’, and the environment is shaped for the needs of the child. Wouldn’t it be nice if secondary education adopted some of those ideals?
  3. Children are responsible for themselves. This includes responsibility for cleaning up messes, potty accidents, or behavior. YES, even for 2 and 3-year-olds. Self-reflection is reinforced very early and this is something I felt my child needed.
  4. Children are often in cooperative learning environments not structured by age. This will look different based on how the school decides to structure it, but I feel that having exposure to learners outside of your age bracket is great for development. How many parents can say their second child learned to speak, walk, or read faster than their first? Why not allow young children that exposure during preschool outside the home!? In many cases, it will be a child in the next developmental stage up from the first assisting with a puzzle, painting, or outdoor activity. For example, a five-year-old showing a three-year-old how to use a material.
  5. Social-emotional awareness is taught to both teacher and student. Remember watching Mr. Rogers growing up? How slow and methodical he spoke and how he asked us to breathe and think about how to control what we’re feeling? Montessori does that too.

My method for choosing childcare

Back in college I always, always shared relationship advice but never took my own. (Didn’t we all?) The one activity that actually worked for dating, or really any difficult decision making, and still works now that I am married with a little one is THE T CHART.

On a sheet of paper make a T chart. It is best to do this with your partner. On the left list all of the positive values you have for childcare. Clean facilities, kind staff, locking gate… etc. Then on the right make a list of the negative values that are “deal breakers” that would prevent you from choosing that location. Children in duct tape, lack of curriculum, run down facilities, etc… Try to come up with 10 values for each column. Mine is below as an example! Ok, I only did 9, but you get the idea.

While it is the age of technology, and you’ll probably start with Google like the rest of us millennials, don’t be afraid to just drive around and look at properties. Many older or faith-based child care centers may not be online. Shocker. I know. Make a list from the Google of places to call and schedule a tour.

ALWAYS TOUR A DAYCARE or PRESCHOOL. If they don’t allow a tour or observation, you probably don’t want to attend there. Once you’ve done the tour and met with the teachers, review your list and see how many values it filled, or left empty.

Again, also works great if you’re dating! Just ask my former roommates.

No daycare is the best fit for every child, because every one has different needs, values, and priorities. Maybe you want one that is faith based, or nature based, or does interpretive dance yoga, COOL! You do you!

So our step one with settling in California is complete! I hope you found our insight useful and you can use the chart soon.

I’ll be writing again soon to talk about my QUITE emotional adventure in transferring my teaching license (credential) and sharing some shrimp and crawfish boil advice.

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