Thursday, February 2, 2012

Filling openings in your daycare {Vol. 3 daycare series}

So I had my license.  I also had 3 children of my own.  What I didn't have, now that I was licensed to operate a home daycare was daycare children.  I told everyone I could think of about what I was doing.  One of my friends recommended that I talk to one of the teachers at the school who was expecting, so I did. 

She and her husband contacted me after their baby was born and we had a nice long visit.  As new parents, they had lots of questions for me and, as a new provider, I had lots of questions for them.  We discussed their expectations and mine.  We discussed my approach to child rearing and my availability.  It seemed like a good match.

When the school year began, I started watching their baby, part time.  The arrangement was an hourly one.  He would arrive and leave at different times, had holidays and school breaks, including spring break and summer break. It was a nice easy paced beginning.

I soon realized though, that part time, hourly daycare wasn't going to bring in much income.  I was going to have to find a way to recruit more daycare families.  I spoke with my teacher parent and she informed me that another teacher at the school was expecting.  I thought this would be ideal.  I could provide daycare exclusively for teacher babies.  I quickly wrote a letter to the other teacher and quietly waited for a reply.  Waiting was agony.

I spoke with my sister, who had been a provider for a long time already and she told me I should go with a referral agency.  I looked through my licensing paperwork and found information about doing that.  Apparently there was a meal reimbursement program in our state.  The business that operated this program provided education for meal planning for daycare providers, collected menu's and reimbursed some expenses to providers.  They also operated a referral service for providers participating in their food program.  This seemed like a win-win situation to me.  I decided to give them a call.

I signed up for the menu planning and reporting in order to be on their referral list.  Then I waited for the phone to ring.  This was late September.  I received a couple of phone calls, but no follow ups and no interviews.   This, obviously, was going to take awhile.  By the beginning of November I heard from the other teacher who was expecting.  She was very interested in having me watch her baby.  She would start in January.  I received a couple more calls from people going through the referral agency and finally had a successful interview.  I was a provider caring for 3 infants now.

Over the years, my best luck in finding daycare families has come from referrals from other families I know or families with children I care for.  Currently I am listed with 2 separate referral agencies.  One of them, (the one I prefer) keeps their listings very current, caters to specific family needs and only gives out your information if you have a current opening.  The other one doesn't do nearly as good a job keeping their listings current.  They send out a form for update annually, but they don't really follow through the rest of the year.  The key is to be proactive about your openings.

I would recommend that anyone trying to fill daycare spots share that information with their family and friends first, school and church second, then go through a referral agency.  I always ask where people got my name, so I know where they're coming from.  I would also recommend that you have a list of prepared questions for yourself and prospective daycare families.  Next week I will talk about my list of questions, and what I do to prepare for an interview.



Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sniper on the shelf


We didn't participate in all the "Elf on the Shelf" business over Christmas break.  The number one reason is that my kids are too old for us to be starting a tradition like that, but the number two reason is that I just kind of think it's creepy.  We do have a sort of little spy game that is continuously going on at our house though.  We call it "sniper on the shelf". 

It all started in our house with a little green rubber lizard.  Daddy Y stuck it on top of a picture frame one day to see how long it would take before the kids noticed.  It took a couple of days, but the kids found it and then he moved it.  Somehow the lizard found his way into the passenger side visor on our van one day.  That was great fun for a long time as Awesome NEVER remembered it was there and would startle herself when it fell in her lap on the way to school, almost every day.  Eventually the lizard disappeared altogether.

One day, Daddy Y spotted an army man on the floor and found him to be a suitable substitute.  He stuck him in the chandelier over the dining room table.  Again, it took the kids a couple of days to notice, but they LOVED that and each decided to hide one as well.  Needless to say, at this very moment there are probably no less than 4 snipers hiding in my house, with a daily, nonchalant search for their whereabouts.  This game has been going on for MONTHS.  Too funny!





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....