Thursday, January 26, 2012

Home daycare... key word "home" {Vol. 2 daycare series}

Last week I told you a little about the process of starting my daycare.  This week I'm going to talk a little bit about the most important issue I had to weigh (and still have to weigh every day!) when starting my home daycare.  We live in this house.  That is the blessing and the curse of the home daycare.  I really had to consider what this job was going to do to my household.  I wasn't only inviting people to bring their kids to my home, I was also inviting them, the food program people and the state to pop in any time, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
 
I weighed the pro's and con's for my daycare:


Pro's
  1. work at home
  2. be able to care for my own children on my terms

 Con's


  1.  work at home
  2.  never get to leave work
  3.  some privacy will be lost

If I gave each of the pro's and each of the con's a value, pro #2 had a value that outweighed every other pro and con there was.  I needed to find a way for separating the daycare from our home.  It was about managing our living space and our "stuff".  Let's face it, our "stuff" is important to us.  Especially when it is in "our house".  At the time, I had a 3, 6 and 9 year old.  I was inviting other people to bring their children into our home to hang out for 9-10 hours a day Monday through Friday.  The home that is supposed to be a haven from the outside world for my children.  These were children who would undoubtedly want to come in and touch their toys and go into their rooms.  Before I could invite these people in, I needed to set up some basic guidelines to protect my children and their things.

How to keep our home as a sanctuary for my family: 
  1. Write a handbook of rules and restrictions for my daycare, including hours of operation, holidays, things I will and will not offer in my daycare.
  2. All bedrooms will be off-limits to daycare children.  My children need to go and close their door.
  3. All toys that are not deemed daycare toys will be off-limits to daycare children.
  4. My children are not required to include daycare children in their daily activities.  They are entitled to as many of freedom's as we can afford while running a daycare in our home.
I began the endeavour of putting together a daycare handbook.  I looked at many resources, including a variety of library books, online resources and some resources from my daycare providing sister.  It was important to me to have things spelled out in black and white in the beginning.  I really didn't realize how many things would be in shades of grey until I'd actually begun doing daycare though.  You really have to spell out every little thing for daycare parents and I do mean EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL.

Here is a summary of what my handbook now includes, after 7 years of running a daycare:

Introductory Letter
Required Forms List

Sample of a Typical Day
What Your Child Will Need to Bring
Potty Training Policy
Discipline Policy
Food Program and Policy
Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Patterns
Infant Meal Requirements
Sample Contract between Parents and Provider
Payment Policy, Daycare Hours, Vacation, Holidays and Current Pricing
Guidelines for Exclusion of Children Who Are Ill
Well Child Recommendations
Fire Escape, Tornado Shelter, Storm and Flood Plans
Disaster and Serious Injury Plan

Yup, all that, just to be able to watch a handful of children, in my home.  Honestly, it seemed a bit redundant to me.  I mean, really, isn't most of this common sense?  Apparently, it's not.  People really don't all have the exact same knowledge and belief about raising children and so spelling it out, in written form, in a handbook, was the only way to go.

I am totally open to answering questions about what my handbook contains, if anyone would like to know.

Next week, I'll talk a little bit about recruiting families to come to my daycare.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Starting my daycare {Vol. 1 daycare series}

Starting my daycare wasn't as easy as I would have hoped.  I had watched neighbor kids from time to time, but their families had moved.  I knew lots of momma's, but like me, they were stay at home mom's or else they already had daycare figured out. I found that it wasn't going to be as simple as just making the decision to do it.

First of all, there are laws about daycare.  I had to investigate these laws to find out what was required by my state, county and city before I could provide daycare for people who weren't relatives.  There are fee's, inspections and things you will probably have to change about your home before you're allowed to legally watch other people's kids.  I understand some of the reasoning behind this and I follow the regulations, but I didn't realize how much of it their would be.

There were a few safety items I needed to acquire, in addition to high chairs, nap matts and a changing matt.  I had to meet safety requirements, which meant adding locks to some things and moving others.  I needed a more expansive first aid kit, paperwork for the dogs, daycare insurance, paperwork for myself and my children regarding immunizations and background checks (yes, 2 of my 3 children need background checks), a vehicle inspection and a 4 hour interview with a licensing agent, CPR training and 15 hours of daycare related training.

Then, once I had successfully completed all of this, I was mailed a license from the state which I have prominently displayed in my dining room, lovely not! (You can see my snarky post about preparing for my daycare inspection here.) I have to reapply annually and obtain what is now 5, but will soon be 10 hours of training every year.  The regulations are currently in the process of being updated where I am and soon I believe home daycares will resembled accredited daycare centers.  This kind of defeats the purpose of home daycare in my mind though.  You can read more here about my approach to daycare in my home. 

There is a lot to consider when deciding to run a home daycare.  Next week I will talk about some of the things I had to really weigh when deciding to start my business.  It is, after all, our home and my children have to live in it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Daddy Y's hesitation to homeschool our kids {Vol 2 homeschool series}

As I was saying last week, Daddy Y was not on the same page as me when it came to homeschooling.  He really felt that having our kids somewhere in the school system was the best option for our kids.  He was concerned about the possibility of leaving out something important.  There are so many things that they teach in school and naturally, he wanted our kids to gain all the knowledge they would need to be successful in the future. 

Another thing that he was particularly concerned with was, of course, socialization.  If they were homeschooling, they would be in the house, with the daycare all the time.  He wanted to make certain that they had people in their own age groups to participate in social activities with.  He didn't want them to be lonely or left out.

These were my greatest fears as well, that combined with the knowledge that I was not a teacher.  Every parent wants the best for their children.  I was nervous about proceeding in the direction of homeschooling, but nervous as I was, I wasn't afraid.  I knew that no matter what else happened, my kids would be ok.  They are resilient, intelligent, beautiful spirits and I felt like this was the path we needed to take.  I was patient and prayed a lot.  I was asking lots of questions, researching options and generally determined that we would homeschool.

After a couple of months, Daddy Y was ready to hear me out.  It took a little time and more than a couple of arguments before he reached the point where he was ready to hear what I was saying.  His heart was beginning to soften and the moment finally came for me to share what I had learned.

In my research I had discovered an online public school option.   The school offered several parent/student discovery days.  They arranged activities for families to come, hear an introduction of the school, ask any questions they had, look over the curriculum and then participate in a fun activity.  I signed up to go with just myself and the kids.  Daddy Y was ok with me attending and interested in hearing what information I would come back with.  This online school option provided a computer, curriculum, social activities and and education specialist for each child.  I felt that this might be a common ground between Daddy Y and myself and could possibly be the answer.

Excitedly that evening I shared everything I had learned with Daddy Y.  The curriculum was in place and laid out for the year.  We could proceed through it as quickly or slowly as we needed to.  There were online resources and an education specialist who would check in with the kids monthly to make sure we were doing ok and everything was on track.  There were social activities planned for the kids to participate in right along with other kids participating in the program.  Daddy Y opened his heart and began to listen.  This option seemed as though it was one that would give me the homeschooling opportunity I wanted for my kids, and still provide me with teacher support for difficulties and socialization for the kids.  Daddy Y agreed to go to a discovery day meeting with us.  I was ecstatic!

He sat in on the meeting with me.  We loved the idea of moving our kids through the curriculum at their own speed.  We were excited about the opportunity for Cosmo to breeze through his work and be done for the day by noon if he chose too.  We were thrilled with the possibility of Amazing being able to skip over any work that she deemed "preschool" work.  After the assessment, we toured a zoo with the kids and talked about the school.  By the end of that day, we were finally on the same page.

That's not to say that there were no challenges.


Linking up with the Hip Homeschool Hop today!

Hip Homeschool Hop

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why I chose to be a daycare provider

Plain and simple, I love my babies.  After the birth of my first daughter, Daddy Y and I decided that we needed to move closer to family.  The 1,600 miles between us and our parents was too great with a little one to care for.  We'd made a trip home for Christmas after she was born and I swore to never do that again.  She was great on the plane ride, but the moment we encountered family that she'd never met she began to cry.  Pretty much from the moment we stepped off the plane until the moment we got back on the plane, she cried, non stop, for 10 days.  When we got back, Daddy Y finished his college semester and I quit my job as an accounting assistant, we packed up all our worldly belongings and made the move.  Once we were back home he and I decided that he would go back to work and I would stay home and take care of our baby. 

A couple of years later we had a little boy and moved to a bigger house, which was followed the next year by another little girl.  We had chosen, at the time, to put the first two kids in private school.  I'd visited our local public school to get a feel for the environment and wasn't happy at all with what I saw.  I attended a school carnival and got to see the families as they really were.  Kindergarten, at this point, was rapidly approaching for my son and we decided that I was going to need to find some kind of employment in order to give them the education we wanted.  I wasn't willing to put my last baby into daycare though.  I wanted to shape her tiny view of the world and I wasn't willing to miss a single moment. 

So instead of finding employment outside of the home, I chose to be a daycare provider.  I was willing to take a couple of extra kids into our home, in exchange for being able to be home with mine.  It was a win win situation.  The first couple of families that I began to provide care for were teacher families.  These were people I had known and they knew me and my kids.  They had holidays off, extended breaks and summer time off as well.  Their schedules matched up with my children's schedules.  It was a wonderful start. 

My daycare has evolved since then.  I've modified it to fit our new homeschooling life and the adjustments have been well worth it.  This is what I do now.  The children in my care have become like part of our family.  It has been a good choice for me.

In an attempt to help other daycare providers, or momma's who are thinking about being daycare providers, I plan to outline my daycare for you from the very beginning until now.  I will explain how I started my daycare, what resources I found most helpful and how my daycare has evolved over the years.  I will release these daycare posts on Thursdays.  Also, starting next Week, Wednesdays will be a craft or activity or daycare tip of the week.  I hope to figure out how to set up a link option for that, as I think it would be most beneficial to have a place for daycare providers both to share they're successes and to learn from other provider's successes.  I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge with you and hoping to gain some in the process as well! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why I chose to homeschool {Vol. 1 homeschooling series}

First let me give you a little background on my children's education.  I have 3 children, ages 9, 12 and 15.  The 15 year old is a sophomore who is currently attending a private high school.  She has attended private Catholic school since the age of 3.  My 9 and 12 year old also attended private Catholic school, until 1 1/2 years ago.  The schools they attended were fine.  They were receiving the education they needed.  The schools have wonderful teachers and the Catholic environment I wanted my kids to grow in.  There were lots of kids, lots of activities and lots of social experiences.  It was an entirely acceptable schooling experience.

The idea of homeschooling had been lingering in the back of my mind for quite awhile.  In college, before my 15 year old was born, I was studying elementary education.  One of my classes had us research different types of schooling approaches.  I chose to research homeschooling.  There was next to no information available.  In the process though, I met a girl in one of my classes who had been homeschooled.  She was very bright and independent.  She was a class leader.  Writing this college paper about homeschooling started the wheels to turning.

Fast forward to the 2009/10 school year.  My little Amazing was in the first grade, Cosmo was in the fourth grade and Awesome was in the eighth grade.  My sister had started homeschooling her kids because of the health needs of one of her two children.  I was her biggest fan.  I loved how she dove right in.  I admired her courage and determination.  I was feeling a little like sending my kids to school was a bit of a cop out.  I began really looking closely at what was going on with my kids in school.

During the 2009/10 school year I began to notice some trends with my kids that were very upsetting to me.  My little Amazing was crying about going to school EVERY morning.   Yes, at age 7 she was crying about going to school EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.  There were 29 kids in her class, no assistant, and Amazing claimed that when they got in trouble they "had to do preschool work".   Needless to say, this was very upsetting and concerning to me.  Cosmo, on the other was screaming at me EVERY night about homework.  This was also upsetting.  I really thought that with him though, it was a matter of not getting enough exercise in school and chalked it up to him being "a boy that age".   Everyone I spoke with had a son who did the same thing.  Awesome was dealing with her own kinds of stress.  Primarily social, or as I like to call it, social garbage.  I had reached a breaking point and was seriously considering homeschooling. 

During the fall we had parent teacher conferences.  Daddy Y and I went to go speak with Amazing's teacher.  I expressed my concerns and asked how she was doing in class.  I was shown her test scores.  Of course, she scored off the charts in everything, which I already knew, without the test.  I expressed concern over her being in the class, as she was 4 days past the age cut off and so was the oldest in her class.  I was informed that she was exactly where she needed to be.  I asked about how she behaved in the classroom.  I was informed that she was quiet and well behaved and never asked any questions.  "She's a wonderful student".  Now I know that normally, this kind of a parent teacher conference would have made a parent proud, and I was. Really, it wasn't until a few days later that the conversation we had at this conference began to sink in.  That was when I got upset.

I began to realize that she was the model student.  She's bright, happy, well behaved and sweet.  She gets along with her classmates, quietly does all of her work without assistance and never gets in trouble.  Who wouldn't want this child in their classroom?  She was miserable because she was spending her days doing busy work.  Other children may very well have needed the work that was assigned, but Amazing was not one of them.  She needed more.  She needed challenges and acknowledgement.  She was bored.

This got me to thinking more about Cosmo and his situation.  He is very easy going.  He had a wonderful conference as well.  We had no real questions.  The teacher had no real questions.  He was an A student, got along with everyone and rarely got in trouble (he is a boy...)  Our problem was in the evening, after school.  If there was homework, and there always was, he was upset.  He'd spent the day doing school work and felt he should have evenings for play.  Grownups go to work and then come home to be finished.  He felt when he was finished with school he should be able to come home and be done.

Awesome, well, she was just going through normal 13 year old social adjustments.  She was a girl, and her friends were girls, and girls were, well, girls.  What could I do?  She would start high school the next year and it would all fly by very quickly after that.

The wheels were definitely turning. I was becoming more and more aware of a feeling that I needed to homeschool Amazing.  I had decided in my heart that it was the right thing for her.  No 7 year old should hate school.  Her education would be challenging at best if she decided she hated learning in first grade.  I needed to resolve this problem and help her to hold on to her love of learning.  I was going to homeschool 2nd grade for Amazing.

In my heart I knew I was going to homeschool Amazing and Cosmo.   My biggest challenge now though, was going to be getting Daddy Y to see my side of the matter.  He was not okay with the idea at all, YET....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Free range daycare provider


I've always considered myself a bit of a free range daycare provider.   My approach to daycare is to provide a loving, home-like, relaxed and open environment for children to explore and be their own people.  I provide a safe environment with boundaries and allow them to develop their own games and adventures.  While I do play music often, I primarily offer books, toys and craft supplies for them to interpret in their own way.  If I see a specific game developing between the 2 and 3 year old, I will offer more toys, rearrange furniture or compliment their play with more imagination suggestions.  We never have circle time and rarely have set projects (aside from the occasional too good to resist hand and finger print projects)  I rarely start the day off with an agenda and I don't consider my daycare to be a preschool.  Learning here occurs as part of natural development and not as a result of introducing concepts and themes and projects.

I start off the day every morning by asking the children how they are today as they come in the door.  I compliment them on something (hair, clothing, smile, manners) and then I ask "what are we going to do today?" and "what toys would you like me to get out?".  I do have a few things set out on Monday, but the toys available shift all week long.   They jump from coloring, to puzzles, to books, to cooking, to cars, to ball games and baby dolls.  They imagine they're in races, in houses, out shopping, cooking in restaurants.  They sing and dance.  They scribble and trace.  They play hide and seek.  All the while I ask questions and they ask questions.  We have discussions.  Have you ever had a discussion with a 3 year old, or better yet a 1 or 2 year old?  They are just like you, only smaller.  They have a world of knowledge and experience to offer and are dying for you to share your world of knowledge and experience with them.  They crave a listening face and love to be understood.

I've never once asked myself "will these children be ready for school".  I've never once worried that they might struggle or be left behind.  These children are learning to think and interact.   Through interaction and observation they are learning words, colors, numbers and shapes.  They sing and dance and are physically active.  They are very bright, every one of them.  I only hope that when they go to school their independent learning qualities will be encouraged and embraced.  I hope that school is ready for them.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The year of "clarity"

Linking up with these great blogs today!
One Word 365 and Bohemian Bowmans and By Word of Mouth
The past two years I have chosen a "word for the year".  The first year, I did it out of frustration and irritation.  It was the year of "no".  I was over committed with daycare and volunteering to help at school.  Every time someone asked for help with something I felt obligated to say yes.  I was overextended and unhappy.  I had little time to enjoy my family and my family, with all of their commitments, had little time to enjoy anything either.  This was the year that I quit being a scout leader, stopped helping coach basketball (or ANY other sports) gave up helping out in the classroom and decided to homeschool my kids. It was the year that I actively enforced boundaries that I had laid out for daycare parents.  It was the year I stopped being taken advantage of.  The first few "No's" I uttered to people in response to their requests actually made me feel physically sick.   By the end of 2010 though, I had gotten the hang of it.  I consider "The Year of No" to have been a huge success. 

I decided that 2011 would be the year of joy.   After a very stressful year of "no" it was time to embrace all the positive things that had come from this change.  It was time to live with joy.  It sounded simple enough, but there is so much static that gets in the way and makes true joy difficult to find.  I think that the year of "joy" is still a work in progress.  I don't want to carry that term over into 2012 though.  I want a new word to help me enter into this new year. 

I've decided that 2012 will be the year of "clarity".  Some synonyms for the word clarity are; comprehensibility, focus and translucence.  It's time to find a little clarity.  So for 2012, the "year of clarity", I will simplify our home, my work, our schooling.  I will work to bring focus to our household and eliminate all of the disruptions that come on a daily basis.  I will find simple ways to bring clarity into our home.

So, cheers to a year of clarity!  This week I plan to outline the ways I would like to see more clarity.  The word definitely sums up what I feel I need.  Now I need to define what that means to me.

By Word of Mouth Blogging
By Word of Mouth