Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mommy Y's typical daycare day {Vol 5.}

Our day typically begins around 8 a.m. with music and dancing!  I try to have a selection of music already playing before they even walk in the door.  This sets the tone for the day and helps the kids to know it's time to get to work and say goodbye to Mom and Dad.

While the kiddo's are dancing up a storm, I get their plates for breakfast.  We typically have free play between 9 and 10 a.m. This is also when the children are invited to do a project or activity together, if they choose. No one is required to participate. We do things like books, puzzles, coloring, painting, play-dough, dancing, and exercise. It is unusual to have everyone participate for very long, but there are many other activities for them to enjoy individually. I alternate toys at least monthly (if not weekly) so that we have some variety. It is also during this time that we have “potty time” for those who are potty training and regular diaper checks and changes for those who are not.

We usually go outside between 10 and 10:30, weather allowing and enjoy the outdoors. We are never at a loss for things to do outside; it is our favorite time of day!  We have climbing toys, balls, push cars and plenty of running room.

Between 10:30 and 11 we are back inside, checking diapers again, and asking about potty time. I also usually put on a video, television show or music during this time so that I may work on preparing lunch. They have worked up quite an appetite by this time though, and while some are distracted, others are usually underfoot discussing the menu, bibs, plates and chairs. This is also our favorite time of day.

Once lunch is finished, usually around 12:30, I clean up the lunch mess while the daycare kiddo's put away the toys.    Then we start the potty/diaper routine again and we get out our nap mats. Some days work out better than others, but we are typically napping by 1, depending on how the potty event went.

By 3 and usually not later than 3:30, we are awake and back on the potty - or getting another diaper check/change. By 4 it's time for a snack! We can’t wait for the snack, because that means in a minute we will (weather permitting) go back outside!

Then we start talking about you. We work as best we can on picking up toys because Mommy and Daddy are coming, plus if we do a good job and get it done it means more outside time - yea!!!

Finally, it’s 5 and we’re done for the day. We’ll start again tomorrow!

Next week I'll be talking about our homeschool routine on Monday.  Next Thursday, I'll talk a little about how I combine the two!  Can you feel the excitement building?!?  Sigh.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Homeschool set-up {Volume 5 Homeschool Series}

Linking up at the Hip Homeschool Hop today!

How is your homeschool set up?  Do you have a space that is only for homeschooling?  Do you have a shared space that serves multiple purposes?  We tried a couple of different approaches to setting up our homeschool environment. 

We put desks in their bedrooms, to allow them a quiet space for study.  We felt like they would need the private escape option with daycare in the house four days a week.  I think I can count the number of times they have used these desks for homeschooling (for 1 1/2 years mind you!) on one hand.

Next we set up an area in the kitchen for homeschooling.  It is part of the area the daycare kids can access.  My dining room/living room/kitchen are in a loop.  The kitchen space is somewhat set apart from the daycare area with walls and it can easily be closed off using gates.  The problem was that unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of elbow room.  In addition to that, the daycare kids would simply stand at the gate and talk to them and stare them down almost all day long.  What you can't have is always so much more interesting than what you can!  The kitchen idea obviously wasn't working out.

Finally I gave in and moved it into the dining room.  They use opposite sides of my dining room table and have plenty of room to spread out.  Their books and computers are easily accessible and there is a chalk board for brainstorming or hashing out math problems if they like.  There's just something magical about a chalk board when it comes to learning!  Of course it's one L-shaped room that is the dining room/living room combination.  The living room is where the daycare primarily hangs out.  I think it's a nice, happy, friendly, functional space for Cosmo and Amazing.   I have a huge gate that I can use to separate the rooms if we need too, but so far, so good!  The daycare kiddo's don't seem to bother them as much when they're not hiding in the kitchen.  Go figure. 

The big drawback is, of course, that its my dining room table.  We eat there3-4 times a day.  Every time we want to eat at the table, we have to clear the table.  That part is a little obnoxious... that AND the fact that Cosmo and Amazing rearrange the dining room chairs EVERY day.  Musical chairs to start the day is kind of annoying, but I guess my philosophy is "whatever it takes".  They don't even use my dining room chairs.  Amazing likes to sit on the giant yellow ball shown on the left, and Cosmo has an old desk chair with wheels that he likes to use.  Not exactly traditional seating.  They are in constant motion.  I actually had to call them back to the table to get this picture.  Good thing I'm mostly ok with my clutter issues.  These kids will only need me for a short while and they are my priority.  Here is what the dining room/classroom looks like:

Yes, it's a mess, but we're using the space AND it's functional.  Love it.

Next week I'll talk a little about our routine... or lack thereof...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

20 questions for parents and providers {Vol 4 Daycare series}

 As a daycare provider you need to be prepared to answer questions.  Often times parents are new and come without very many questions at all.  This is when I refer to this list.  I like to have "common questions I've been asked" prepared for prospective families so that I know they will be walking away from our experience with some good information to think over.
Here are some questions that parents ask (should ask) daycare providers:

  1. Are you a licensed daycare provider? Can I see your license?
  2. How long have you been a daycare provider?
  3. Do you have any children of your own?
  4. What kind of training have you received?
  5. What made you decide to be a daycare provider?
  6. What are your hours of availability?
  7. What do you charge?
  8. What is your vacation/holiday/sick day policy?
  9. Do you have any pets?
  10. Does anyone in your household smoke?
  11. Who will be interacting with my child?
  12. What do you provide for the child (i.e. meals, diapers...)
  13. Do you have a routine for the kids?
  14. Do you ever leave the house with the children?
  15. What is your discipline policy?
  16. Do you have an emergency plan for fire/tornado/etc...?
  17. Do you have any references?
  18. Do you participate in a meal program?
  19. How do you feel about potty training?
  20. Where will the children be during the day during playtime, meal time and nap time?
It is only fair though to have some questions of your own answered as well, so that you can also have a good idea of what you're getting into.  Here are some questions to ask parents:

  1. How old is your child?
  2. Is this your first child? If not, where does this child fall sequentially?
  3. Is this his/her first daycare experience?
  4. Is this your first daycare experience?
  5. If not, what is their/your prior daycare experience?
  6. Why have you chosen to put your child in daycare?
  7. What is your job?
  8. How long have you been working at this job?
  9. How would you describe your child’s personality?
  10. Does your child have a routine?
  11. How much experience does your child have with other caregivers?
  12. Aside from alternate care, what do you expect your child to receive from his/her daycare experience?
  13. How long have you been employed in your present job?
  14. What kind of hours do you anticipate needing care?
  15. Will you be able to keep your pick-up/drop-off routine consistent?
  16. Does your child have any allergies?
  17. What types of foods is your child eating?
  18. Who will be the primary person picking up and dropping off?
  19. What kinds of things is your child doing now?
  20. Does your child have any special needs?
I am certain that there are lots of other good questions to ask and often times answers to these questions generate more questions.  Just know that you need to be prepared for their questions and you have the right (and obligation!) to have and ask questions of your own.

Next Thursday I'm going to talk a little bit about what is involved in a typical daycare day, in my daycare at least...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Homeschooling Momma's {Vol. 4 homeschool series}

Linking up with the Hip Homeschool Mom's Today!

So I've talked about why I'm homeschooling, Daddy Y's initial hesitation to homeschool and our rocky start, now I'm going to talk a little bit about the momma's.  I think this has to be the most wonderful group of momma's on the planet.  If you think about homeschooling and the work that's involved, the dedication it takes and the love that's required in order to homeschool your children, then you realize that it takes a special kind of person to do it.  These are parents who, for one reason or another, decided to take on the challenge and make it work.  If you're going to be a homeschooler, you're going to need a few of these momma's around.

Something interesting I've learned about homeschoolers is that we are very independent people.  We feel the need to take on the responsibility for our children's education and we actively pursue it.  It is true though that independent as we are, we need each other.  Homeschooling can be a lonely and overwhelming prospect without the care and concern of your fellow homeschoolers.  We may not be homeschooling for the same reason, we may not be using the same curriculum.  Odds are, we are very different from each other.  What we have in common though is our kids.  Finding a few homeschooling momma's to talk to can be just the edge you need to be successful.

I found out just how important having homeschooling friends was at our first "park day" with our first homeschooling group.  The kids and I went in wide eyed and expectant.  I was hoping to find companionship for my kids.  We'd almost instantly lost contact with our school friends the minute the year was over.   For myself, I was hoping to find support and a listening ear.  I wanted to know that the feelings I was having and problems I was encountering were not unique.  I needed to know that other people shared my issues and concerns.  I found exactly what we needed.

How do you find a local homeschooling group?  That's an excellent question!  First of all, take a look around.  Do you see other mom's and kids at the library, park or grocery store, in the middle of the afternoon?  There is a good chance that they homeschool.  Honestly, just talk to everyone you know about the fact that you're homeschooling.  You will be surprised by the number of homeschoolers there are out there and this homeschooling trend is really taking off.

The first people we met were also enrolled in a virtual school program.  Someone in that school had established a group tied to the school.  A couple more of the people I have met have been introduced to me after I told people that we homeschool.  These people in turn  hooked me up with other homeschooling groups.  I currently have friends participating in 5 different homeschooling groups.  None of the groups is exactly a perfect fit, but the friends I've met are fantastic and what a wonderful support system and resource they are!

Homeschooling friends are invaluable.  Go out and get some!  Next week I'll be talking about our homeschooling set up.

Mommy Y's Daycare plan for the week of February 6, 2012

Good Monday morning to you!  We're here and ready to start our week.  Like I have previously told you, I am all about enabling the kids to find their own knowledge through play.  I rarely say "this is what we're going to do", but rather, "what would you like to do today?" 

This morning 2 of my beautiful little daycare children are here, the one year old and the two year old.  They've asked me to get out the dishes (their favorite thing to play with!), our Little Tykes door and some lovely brick sized cardboard blocks.  They enjoy building a wall around the door and playing house. 

While they are entertaining themselves with these things, I am going to make some salt dough for them to play with.  This week I will make red and white.  With Valentines day coming next week, we'll be talking about that quite a bit.  I am making the play dough for two reasons.  First of all, it's a great manipulative.   We'll talk about red and white and eventually pink as the two combine while we're playing with it.  We'll make balls and worms and squish the dough between our fingers.  The second reason I am making play dough is to try to help the two year old with some of her texture issues.  She doesn't enjoy food.  Period.  She is very strong willed and will touch, much less eat, very few things.  I am hoping that if we begin some regular free play time with the play dough that it will help to lessen some of her sensitivities.  I will bring their dishes to the table and let them make some pretend food and put it in their toy dishes.

Here is the recipe for the Salt Dough I'm making:

  • 1 C flour
  • 1/2 c salt
  • 2 t cream of tartar
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 C water

Dump all ingredients together into a pan.  Stir the mixture over low heat constantly until it becomes thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Once cooled, knead in desired food coloring.  Glitter makes a fun addition too!

Another thing we'll be doing this week, is making a valentines day banner to hang up.  I anticipate the 3 year old being here tomorrow, so this is a project that all of the daycare children will be able to participate in.  I'm cutting large triangles out of white paper and tomorrow we'll be finger painting them with red finger paint.  Once they've dried, I'll staple them to a string to hang on the wall.  I have a banner that Amazing made last year using scrap booking paper, construction paper and valentine's day themed stickers.  I plan on removing a few of the triangles from last year and adding in a few new ones.  This is a project that I saved in a folder marked Valentines day specifically to re-use this year.

Tuesday we'll be making hand print hearts for mom's and dad's for Valentine's day next week. Goodness we love making these types of projects.  I'll try to post pic's of this project Tuesday evening, so that you'll have plenty of time to see the projects and make them for Valentine's day too.

Wednesday we'll be decorating sugar cookies for a snack, using red and white icing (again, eventually pink).  I'll be making the Crisco Sugar Cookie recipe and cutting out hearts for them to decorate.  I find the best way to do this is to give them each their own bowl and spoon for icing and their own small container of sprinkles.  I like to re-use my empty sprinkle containers specifically for this purpose.

Thursday, our last day for the week, will probably involve more play dough time and a trip to the library.  It would be nice if the weather would cooperate so we can walk there, but I guess we'll see what happens.  We love going to the library.  They have window seats for reading, puzzles and trains to play with and you just can't beat the excitement of getting out of the house.

As usual, we will also be listening to music.  Our favorite right now is B-I-N-G-O on disc 3 of the 123 Favorite Kids Songs CD.  We'll be reading a Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham, again, working on trying to get the 2 year old to try new foods and we'll be getting out the fruits and vegetables puzzles.  As to the rest of our activities... because they are kid directed, this is all I can give you right now.  I'll give you a recap of the fun things we did this week on Thursday!  Have a great week!

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:

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


  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.