Monday, January 12, 2009

It Starts This Young

We're considering switching day care centers. Rolo's current day care is, well, fine. I mean, yeah, they dipped him in bleach, and they've done a few other things that haven't thrilled me, but that comes the territory in day care. The teachers genuinely love the kids. Rolo loves his teachers. If he was to stay in this day care for the next year or two, he'd probably be just fine. No worse for wear.

And yet.

The reality is that the teachers, while loving, are glorified baby sitters. I'm realizing what I want in a day care for an infant and what I want for a toddler are two different things. Teachers with early childhood education degrees might start to matter now. For the most part, Rolo sits in a room all day. Yeah, there might be songs and some art work, but I can't say I'm overly convinced that there's a whole lot of interaction and learning going on.

Does that matter? Now, at not even 18 months old? I don't think getting him into the "best" day care or preschool is the first step towards Harvard. When is "fine" fine and when should you want better for your child?

So I started to hear about another day care--actually, no, it's a preschool. They start taking kids at 18 months old. Anyway, I passed by it a few times months and months ago and since then, a buzz has started. The mother of one of Rolo's "friends" at his current day care told me about it and that she was going to enroll her son there. Weeks later, another mother approached me to tell me she was switching as well. Then, while speaking to a colleague from work, it came up that his son attends this new preschool too.

I got the information, spoke to the owner on the phone. Sounded great. Is considerably more expensive, but I went to look at it anyway. It's radically different than Rolo's current situation. There are pros and cons. The kids rotate through rooms throughout the day that focus on art, music, library, learning and gym. They actually have access to a gym so that the kids can run around even when the weather is too bad to take them to a park. Teachers are either early childhood specialists or have degrees in a specialty, like art or music. They all seem nice and caring. These are all the pros. The cons are the price, that it's new and therefore they are still "tweaking" their systems, they don't offer daily reports and it doesn't offer the kind of routine Rolo is used to--for example, it's not like Rolo would have just one teacher like he has now, the teachers rotate through different groups of kids. So from a "continuity of care" aspect, it's not like you can go to one person and get an idea of how your kid is doing. I don't know that they emphasize practical knowledge like, say, how to use utensils. Also, it's a little hippy-dippy (flooring made of recycled material! they compost waste!). Not sure if that's a pro or con.

I left feeling torn. Realizing that educationally, this place is way better. But, it's not as structured. And frankly, while I think he would grow to like it, Rolo is going to lose his shit if we switch him. Transition isn't always easy for him. Then again, maybe Rolo would adapt better to change in a different environment, one that wasn't as structured.

I had another realization after I left, one that sort of slapped me across the face. At our current day care, Rolo is decidedly in the racial minority. Will be even more so once his two friends switch over. All of the teachers at the entire day care, with the exception of 2, are African American. This new preschool? All the teachers I met are white. It's a majority of white kids too. An interesting example of socio-economic segregation. The white kids go to the more expensive, more educationally-driven school, taught by the higher-degreed teachers. This is a preschool, people. The realization was both stunning and obvious.

You know, I wasn't ready to deal with this yet.

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