Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back to School: What You Need To Know When Choosing A Daycare (Part One: Ratios)

My little one and I :)
Que paso! My name is Denise and I'm new to the blogging world, but not to kids. I taught preschool for over eight years and I'm currently a grad student, majoring in education. And I'm a parent. In fact, I decided to write this post as I nurse my 6 month-old. Surprisingly, typing while nursing is a task that I have not quite mastered as a SAHM and grad student. 

I have been meaning to write about this subject ever since I moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to Buford, Georgia. When I earned my graduate certificate in Education from UNCC, I thought that finding a job in the school system would be a piece of cake. It wasn’t. I ended up doing what I had been doing for the last eight years, teaching preschool. As a new mom I spent time looking for daycares, my experience in the education field gave me a unique view on how to go about this very important task. I wanted to share with you a simple list of questions that may help you in this endeavor.

Here are 10 basic questions you should ask when choosing a daycare:

1. What is your student to teacher ratio? Do you hold state ratios, or do you follow other criteria? What is your average class size?
2. Is there a system in place to help teachers if they need an extra hand?
3. What are your call out policies, how do you deal with ratios when a teacher is absent ? Do you have a list of substitute teachers that you can call?
4. What curriculum does your school follow?
5. What are your classroom management/disciplinary polices? Do you do time-out?
6. What are your outside time policies? How many minutes a day are the students required to go out, do you uphold them?
7. Do you uphold state regulations on what temperatures are acceptable for children to be outside? What are your polices on lightning and rain?
8. Do you offer snacks and lunches for the children? If so,do you offer options for children with gluten or other allergies.
9. Is water accessible to children at all times?
10. What is your policy on potty training?

This is a only preliminary list. You have to think about specifics for your individual child/children. You also need to keep in mind that you must make sure these things are being enforced. Be attentive and alert once you do choose a daycare. Take the time to talk to the teachers, gauge how they are feeling. Ask them questions about how they are being helped in the classroom. Ask how you can be of service. I had one mother who came in once a month to stay the entire day and help in the classroom. She did this out of her own accord, and made the time in her busy schedule to come in and see what was happening in her child’s school. She was a lawyer. If she can make the time we all can.

My experience in the Early Childcare Education Field:

After moving to Georgia, for the first time I was teaching in a for-profit facility, but I was not wary because it was a preschool brand that was well known. In fact, I heard it advertised on a daily basis on NPR. If this facility was being pitched by NPR it had to be good, right?

Well, I found out quickly that I was wrong in that assumption. RATIOS, RATIOS, RATIOS. I had become well versed with the term due to my experience in the Early Childcare Education field. This facility was stating one ratio on paper and using state ratios when parents’ heads were turned. By ratios I mean teacher to student ratios, how many children/infants can be in one room with one teacher at a time.

Let’s explore what the state ratios are here in Georgia {make sure to check your local Department of Education for their laws and regulations, as it varies from state to state}: for “infants less than one (1) year old or children under eighteen (18) months who are not walking” the ratio is 1:6, for one-year-olds who are walking the ratio is 1:8, Two-year-olds 1:10, Three-year-olds 1:15, Four-year-olds 1:18, Five-year-olds 1:20, and Six-year olds and older 1:25. This information is directly from the Georgia Department of Education website; ratios can be found on page 68

Now, let me explain how crazy these numbers are. As a preschool teacher, who came from a non-profit school with a director who firmly believed that there should be at least two people in the classroom at all times, this was insanity. I stood at the changing table dealing with a poopy diaper and I watched 9 two-year-olds act out a scene from Lord of the Flies. I quickly got my bearings and realized that the kids needed a structured activity that would keep them engaged during diaper changing time. This worked for the most part, but there were always diapers and other situations that would occur outside of schedule times. Any childcare provider, and for that matter parent can attest for those unpredictable occurrences. We have all been there in the middle of dinner when your kid decides to have a huge poopy blow-out.

What does this mean for the people who are caring for your children? It means that they are slowly taken to a place where they cannot control the situation. They begin to cut corners and become easily frustrated with things they could normally deal with. Many are good caring people who are put in terrible situations, and those situations involve your kids. For this reason, being informed about ratios is vital. We must also be advocates for childcare professionals. We'll explore more about being an advocate for your childcare provider, and how that affects your children in Part Two of this series.

Remember, knowledge is power...

Denise has quickly become one of my favorite people in the world and I am honored to have her contributing to Mama Fashionista! If you have any parenting or education questions, or just want to chat, follow her on Twitter: @mamaprofesora and Facebook: Mama Profesora . Stay tuned for more insightful and helpful information from this lovely lady!

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