Family life

A daycare dilemma

Tracy may be on the hunt for a new daycare arrangement for Anna and Avery. Is Montessori the answer?

By Tracy Chappell
A daycare dilemma

Wanted: Perfect daycare arrangement for these two lovely ladies

We were almost there. One more school year of daycare and we would have finally been done with it — the double drop-offs, the virus-spreading, the paying for the days we weren’t there, the money. Oh, the money. And we only do it part-time (which, be warned, is pretty much the same cost as full-time).
Anna started at a daycare centre/preschool close to us the same month she turned two. I had a feeling about this place as soon I walked in, especially about the preschool’s main teacher, Mrs. J.  As we have gone through our challenges with Anna, Mrs. J has been right there with us, working with us, working with Anna, understanding her, appreciating every wonderful thing about her and guiding her with firm, but loving care. It’s a small school and Mrs. J incorporates character-building into everything they do, as well as interesting life learning (with studies on extinct animals, how the body works, or an afternoon in the kitchen baking). I have felt very lucky that this school and this woman were in our lives.
While it wasn’t perfect, I’ve been happy that this was the place, and these were the people, who surrounded Anna when she was away from me. The teachers love the kids — that is abundantly clear — and Anna adores them back.
However, a distinct shift took place at the preschool this year, when one of the longtime teachers left. Only one teacher had left in the three years Anna had been there at that time (and that was a mat leave), and it was tough. This was around the time Avery was about to start, but I figured they would replace her and it would all work out. A few months later, another teacher left — a really good one. Then the kids started leaving. The school has two programs, kindergarten (for age four and five) and another group for the two-to-fours. Over the summer, the five SKs left to do camps before they started grade one in the fall. Anna had five other kids her age, but through a series of circumstances (two moved, and one registered for Montessori for her SK year), all but one left the preschool.
So Anna is there with one other SK. They both go to their SK schools for half the day, and spend the other half at the preschool with kids JK age and younger. When I saw how the numbers were working out, I cringed, knowing that Anna needs to be challenged and worried that she wasn’t going enjoy all this time with the younger kids. But then I told myself, it’s only three half-days a week, and do I really want to move her somewhere new at this last leg of daycare?
But the number of younger kids has dropped now too, and it seems like a rotating door of new staff members who haven’t worked out. Avery seems very happy there, and Anna’s doing OK, but I’ve been getting all angst-y about it.
Then, the daycare’s owner was there one day and we were chatting about the kids and I said, jokingly, “You’re not going to close up shop on me, are you?” And she gave me a look. It wasn’t a “don’t worry” look.
“I’m fully committed to finishing out the school year,” she said. I think my eyes grew in size. “I’m trying hard, but the full-day kindergarten is making it tough to fill the spots and I can’t afford to stay open for primarily before-and-after care.”
She said there is nothing definite planned, and she couldn’t say whether the end of the school year would be June or August (they have a “school year” there from September to August), and that the last thing she wants to do is close up, but she has to be realistic.
Damn. So close to the finish line. Our school doesn’t do full-day kindergarten until the year Avery goes into SK, so that leaves us potentially searching out a new daycare arrangement for Avery for next year (and, if my job situation stays the same, we’re looking at just three half-days for her starting September). And Avery is the kind of child who takes a little longer to adjust, and is really benefitting from the centre atmosphere, so I was really hoping we could hang in there and have both my kids “graduate” from this lovely preschool.
I know it’s impossible to predict what might happen in any of our job/life situations, but now I feel I should start to look at some new options, potentially for this summer, and for Avery next year. One idea I’ve been batting around is Montessori. There’s something about the philosophy that I feel might be a great fit for Little A. And if it’s only her in daycare, the higher cost might be easier to manage for one year.
Do you have any experience with Montessori school? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This article was originally published on Nov 11, 2011

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