I absolutely agonised over the decision of when and where to start Christian at day care and at one point I was convinced I’d home-school him #firsttimemum
I was beyond nervous about Christian being in someone else’s care and whether he would be well attended to. I also didn’t want to miss out on anything. I absolutely cherish witnessing the boys learn something new; you can literally see in their eyes when something clicks and it’s one of my greatest pleasures and victories as a parent. Up until that point I knew how and where he’d learnt everything he knew because I was either the one to teach him or there to share in it.
It is completely understandable that lots of parents need to work outside of the home and their children therefore need to go to some kind of childcare from when they’re very young. I recognise that it is a luxury that I’m able to work from home and because of that I’m able to be with my children and work around their schedules for the most part.
I really struggled with the idea of sending Christian to any kind of care when the time came. I wanted him to stay with me forever. Safe and sound, coddle and comforted by the person he needed and trusted most in the world.
My best friend, Dom is uber experienced in the childcare industry and one of the first pieces of advice she gave me was that the best time to send him is when he can speak well enough to let me know when something isn’t right. That was a great test, easy to assess and so very, very true. I needed to know, for his safety and my own piece of mind that he could tell me if something was making him sad or angry and could communicate well enough to tell me about his day in general.
Christian ended up starting child care when he was just shy of 3 and a half years old. I couldn’t bear to let him go but recognised that he was ready to make his own little friends and explore the world. We found a long day care very close to our house which was perfectly suited for his transition from the home. It was a very small centre. There were no more than 25 children on any day. Completely void of any fancy equipment or expensive products and felt like an extension of home. He’s done well there for the past year. He made friends and I knew he spent the majority of the day playing happily with his buddies but as he approached his 4th birthday we noticed a change in his interests and concentration. He was ready for more of a challenge.
I wasn’t aware of this before we started our journey but the difference between a day care and a preschool is that preschool typically caters to children the year before they start primary school. They employ qualified teachers (opposed to childcare workers) and their focus is to prepare children to enter the next phase of their education by using tools to encourage their independence as well as provide them with enough learning so that they’re able to hit the ground running once kindy comes around.
I started the hunt for a preschool and was told that community based centres are best. These centres are not-for-profit and because the desire for profit is non-existent, the focus is on the children and their education without distraction. We were lucky enough to be offered a place (they prioritise based on age) and Christian started this week. It’s early days but I couldn’t be more impressed with the quality of the teachers that Christian is lucky enough to have and I know that the structure of the day is exactly what he needs.
Everybody’s needs and circumstances are different and what works for some may not work for others. For me, I would probably still be swirling around my own worries if it hadn’t been for some level-headed advice from a good friend in the know. Time will tell if all of this has been the right choice and there’s so much information out there that the list of considerations can seem endless. Having some useful parameters for which to assess the centres was invaluable but, in the end I equate choosing a childcare to choosing a house. It’s a feeling you get when you walk in the place. You just know when it’s the right one for you.