My Search for Daycare

Happy Preschoolers
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One of the challenges of being a parent, especially a single parent, is finding good day care for your child so that you can go to work and earn a living. I consider myself to have been quite lucky when my son was a baby. Until he turned three, he was able to stay with my cousin while I was at work. At the time, she was a stay-at-home mom so she was able to babysit. It was great because not only was she a wonderful babysitter, she was also family.

Unfortunately, my cousin wanted to return to work, since her kids were older and at school all day. That meant I had to hunt for daycare. Wanting to be the perfect mom, I read up on early childhood development and the different kinds of preschools so that I would understand what would be best for my son. What I learned was that any push toward academics was unlikely to have lasting effects. Essentially, this was the "everything evens out by third grade" idea. I had no intention of pushing my child. He was doing just fine without pushing, thank you. He had taught himself to read and enjoyed learning, especially through reading. He was happy and confident. What did I need to push for?

However, finding the right fit for my son was much harder than I thought it would be. Every place I called, I learned that there were "classes" for different age groups. And regardless of what a child was or was not doing, he would be placed in the "appropriate" age grouped class.

But I didn't want a "class." I couldn't see my three-year-old son in a class all day, learning typical three-year-old material, his only companions other three-year-olds. He had already started to read and was soaking up information like a dry sponge. He wasn't interested in coloring or pasting or playing with cars and trucks and he definitely didn't need to learn the alphabet.

By this time he had developed a deep interest in the solar system and the universe. I suspected that those topics would not be part of the typical three-year-old preschool class.

I finally found a preschool that did not group children by age. It was a small daycare center that was part of the university where I taught at the time. It was small and was run by the absolute best teacher I have ever encountered. Ever. Seriously. It was the best educational setting my son was in from that moment until he got out of high school. That preschool addressed the needs of the whole child and neither pushed children ahead nor held them back. Instead, it encouraged and nurtured the intellectual, social, and emotional sides of every child who attended. Even the Montessori preschool I contacted couldn't do this, but then I suspect it didn't actually follow the teachings of Maria Montessori. Not all Montessori schools do.

My son absolutely flourished at this daycare/preschool. The children were not forced to sit for hours with only the other children their own age. That allowed my son to gravitate toward the older children with whom he had more in common. Where did we get the idea that children should interact only with other children their own age?

Where did we get the idea that socializing means learning to get along with age mates? I imagine that I'm not the only parent who struggled to find an appropriate preschool for her child because of such ideas. I sincerely do wish I had been the last.

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Read more about my experiences as the parent of a gifted child.

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