The hunt for a new daycare

Aviana has been in the toddlers class pretty much since she mastered how to walk, not long after her first Birthday.  At first we weren’t sure if she would thrive in the class, she seemed to be crying constantly in all the videos we were being sent.  But after a few months she turned a corner and she seemed to be doing very well there.  She was clearly advancing quickly and was meeting all of the milestones for the next class up – “twos”, except for one – actually turning two!  Due to state regulations on teacher-child ratios she couldn’t move up sooner.  So she often visited the twos class for short periods of time and seemed to be excited to be in the big kids class.

All was good except for one problem became apparent – we felt that one of the teachers in the next class up didn’t meet the standards.  She made a great infant teacher when she was Aviana’s carer in infant class, so loving and caring with the babies, but not so much of a twos teacher.  At this age toddlers need a lot of direction and boundaries.  Strangely she then left (for some unknown reason) and another teacher replaced her who was simply worse.  I often noticed she would yell at the kids in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, so much so we complained about her.  She didn’t seem to have much patience and Aviana really didn’t care for her at all – Aviana loved all the other teachers, literally all of them but her.

The twos classroom was also uninspiring to me. It always looked a bit depressive.  The ‘library’ had about 4-6 books in it that were mostly ripped and were very random.  I picked one up that wasn’t so badly trashed and it was all about Ants…fine but the pictures were pretty much the same throughout the book and had a lot of text.  Not good for kids to pick up and be excited about.  I know the kids were read stories by the teachers all the time, but these decent books were all hidden away in a locked cupboard.  I just didn’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling about this class as I did in the toddler room.

Meanwhile in Aviana’s toddler classroom her usual teachers were being shifted around the classes a lot as the school suffered a shortage of manpower from a high teacher turnover.  The director also suddenly decided to quit and not come back after a long weekend holiday.  As an indicator of how bad the turnover was, when it came to Christmas gifts we couldn’t keep up with who was or wasn’t Aviana’s teacher that we didn’t know who we should give gifts to, so we put two boxes of goodies together and said it’s for everyone.  It seemed the school was in turmoil and it was time to leave the sinking ship to give Aviana some stability and kick start her pre-school education.

It made me think a lot about pre-school education.  I had read a book called ‘The Importance of Being Little’ and how America doesn’t do enough play based learning or teaching practical or problem solving skills that are important in early childhood development.  Instead kids as young as 5 were being given ‘worksheet style homework’ and forced to do activities that lacked enablement of child centered creativity.  It was an eye opening read and got me thinking about Aviana’s education at this young age.  I never thought it would be important, but as she is with someone who is not us for so long in the week it was clear we needed to think carefully about where, what, how and who she was with.

We decided to look around for a new school, but our standards were already set pretty high and specific.  It had to be full time, open til 6pm ideally, not too far away from our house as Chris works from home or from my commute and not religious.  We felt play based learning is important during pre-school, so focusing too much on tests, worksheets, homework etc was not attractive to us for pre-K classes. Suddenly we were down to just one alternative – a Montessori school which was within a stone’s throw of Aviana’s current daycare.

We did some research into Montessori and what it is all about.  Admittedly we thought this style of teaching and learning would suit Aviana well. Generally a Montessori school follows these principles:

  • Mixed age classrooms; classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old are by far the most common, but 0–3, 3–6, 6–9, 9–12, 12–15, and 15–18-year-old classrooms exist as well.
  • Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options.
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours.
  • constructivistor “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction.
  • Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators often made out of natural, aesthetic materials such as wood, rather than plastic.
  • A thoughtfully prepared environment where materials are organized by subject area, within reach of the child, and are appropriate in size.
  • Freedom of movement within the classroom.
  • A trained Montessori teacher who follows the child and is highly experienced in observing the individual child’s characteristics, tendencies, innate talents and abilities

montessori

We took a tour of the school and it was remarkably quiet and calm – even with a few toddlers who were crying.  It was clean, spacious, tidy, yet not ‘sterile’.  We watched a couple of classes and observed how the multi-age classes (3-6) were working on the activities they chose.  In the pre-school (2-3) class the kids were in a circle singing and dancing to some Spanish songs.  There was an indoor and outdoor garden for teaching botany, a kitchen for cooking classes, a ‘STEM’ class room with a couple of computers and science experiment equipment, various animals (bird, tortoise and fish) a gym and some awesome outdoor play equipment.  Overall our impressions of the school were good.

But there was no room immediately in the toddler class – a class size of FOUR! They did have a space in the toddler class in their sister school which was another 20 minutes away, but that was too far out of the way to make it worth it.  So we signed up for the waiting list to register for September’s class.  If Aviana was accepted into that cohort then she would be eligible for their summer camp and could start in June/July.  That was sooooo far away – a lot can change in 9 months!  It was disappointing that we had to wait so long and the thought of Aviana with that awful teacher in her next class filled me with sadness.

Thinking more about the Montessori method I began to worry whether it was truly right for Aviana.  I had read many articles about the pros and cons of Montessori, how it’s not for every child and family.  I had read from teacher testimonials that Montessori kids were coming to school with poor reading and writing skills.  Yet would be well mannered and behaved kids who found it hard to adjust to the state education system.  I read testimonials from parents whose kids were simply doing nothing all day because it’s child led rather than teacher led learning.  Was this right for Aviana?  Well the decision was a little away because it was February that we would have to register her.

We returned to Aviana’s daycare after the winter break with Aviana turning 2 she was moving permanently into the Two’s class.  The first day back in her new class there was a new teacher – I felt sudden relief…wooohoooo the one we didn’t like had gone!  Perhaps we didn’t need to change schools after all?  As expected when changing classes and returning from a long period of time away Aviana had a tough time at drop-offs.  Aviana screamed and clung to me refusing to go to her new class.  From when she woke up she kept saying how much she didn’t want to go to her new class.  It was breaking my heart to hear her say this and very difficult to leave her when she was so upset, she’s always been a crier at drop-offs when with me, but this was a totally new level of crying.  It was breaking my heart.

On Aviana’s fourth day in her new class I got a phone call from the Montessori offering Aviana a place in their pre-school class immediately because a military family had just left.  We jumped at the chance and accepted.  The timing was just right.  She could start the very next week.

It was very hard to tell her current teachers who have been at the daycare since Aviana was 4.5 mths old because they have cared for her on and off as Aviana has been an infant and toddler.  I questioned whether it was the right decision.  But when I showed Aviana around her new school her eyes lit up – she was so excited for her new classroom and to take her own packed lunch box.  My worries started to dissolve away thinking this is the right thing to do.  Aviana’s new teacher has been there for 15 years so we are excited for Aviana to have a bit of stability.

In fact Aviana starts her first day in her new Montessori school today!  I’m unfortunately out of the country for work right now so I am excited to hear how her first day goes.  I imagine there will be some crying and we need to get into new routines….packing lunches, new school times with before and after school care hours we are charged by the half hour so we will be getting used to all that.  As it is a school and not a daycare they follow the public school holidays so we will need to figure all that out too.  But I’m excited for her.  It’s nerve wracking making a big decision like this, I just hope we made the right one!

12 thoughts on “The hunt for a new daycare

  1. Sanibel says:

    I worked in public daycares for 8 years and the turn over, is unfortunately, a big problem. Daily you could have no clue who was watching your child. It always seems to fall apart more the older the kiddos get. That is why we opted for a home daycare situation.
    My sister, who lives with us, is going on her 15th year as a Montessori school teacher! I would say, you made a great decision for your kiddo! Turn over seems to be relatively low, the structure is so much more conducive for kids, and the best part is they learn to problem solve. It is true, it isn’t for everyone, my sister comes home with all sorts of stories, but for the right kiddos it works. Aviana will flourish and I’m sure she will be fine heading into public school down the road.
    I will say the number one thing my sister complains about is the parents getting in the way of their kid. The teachers give kiddos the time and patience to work things out for themselves and parents often want to jump in and “save” them. From simple things such as putting on their own coat to more complex tasks as remembering their own show and tell project and not having mom run back home to get it:)
    I hope you guys have the best of luck there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dani says:

      Thank you for the insights!!! The whole Montessori way of letting kids figure it out for themselves when they can do it is definitely appealing and complimentary to how we approach this so I’m hoping Aviana won’t find it too much of a shock!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nara says:

    Oh wow! The Montessori nursery sounds great. We considered it but there is no Montessori near ours and we have two good nurseries five minutes walk away so we picked one of them. We are happy with the one we have and I actually think they have a good balance of child led and adult led activities. And I’ve really seen B develop from things he’s learned there. Hope A loves it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dani says:

      She had an AMAZING week! It was a good decision we think! Almost immediate difference to her confidence. I think UK nurseries have better teacher-child ratios so I think generally they sound better overall 🤷‍♀️ but they are more expensive…!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nara says:

        Oh that’s wonderful! So glad she’s getting on well there. I think it’s always a worry sending them anywhere. I’m glad that our nursery seems good and caring – I would hate it if I didn’t get along with them!

        Like

  3. ourgreatestdesire says:

    I love the montessori method. I’ve thought of going that route for my in home and actually taking montessori classes via online, but at this point, I’m hoping as my group gets older and goes off to school, I’ll be able to be done with daycare all together. I do think montessori would be perfect for Bella so I’m interested to see how it goes with Aviana. I just don’t know that Bella will do well in a traditional school setting. She’s not one to sit still and focus for too long. Lucky for me, if the current principal at our elementary school stays put, I have his 5 yr old now so he is well informed about Miss Bella, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dani says:

      Aviana’s first week went SO WELL! First time ever in the morning she’s run off and left us to go be with her new friends! She settled in immediately with no problems, we think we made a good decision ☺️
      Ooooh so what will you do after you close your daycare?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ourgreatestdesire says:

        Hopefully Young Living and just being home to take care of the house and kids and keep fostering. Although we just found a property in between my home town and where we live now that has a house and a church on the property for $119,000. We’re looking at it on Saturday and I’m thinking about seeing if my Sister would want to work on opening a group center in the church. Lots of variables though to look at first.

        Like

  4. RJ says:

    I hope this transition went well! How very exciting for all of you! And it sounds like you’ve really put in a lot of effort to make a good choice! Good luck to all of you!

    Like

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