From the Director's Desk By Angela Kapp
Midwest Child Development Center receives phone calls, emails and walk-in visits from perspective families on a daily basis. It's very exciting and our perspective parents have been asking all the right questions! There are many choices for families today when it comes to child care and early education. Family/in-home providers, Head Start, local School Readiness programs/Pre-K, chain/franchise centers, parent co-op programs, faith-based programs, Montessori schools, nanny or relative care and private child care centers like ours are just some of the many options for parents. So how do parents know what program is right for them? Let's review some the program options and their features.
Family Home Care
Family Child Care or In-home providers may be licenced or unlicensed depending the provider's relationship to the children and number of children the provider is caring for. In-home providers may provide a very nurturing, homelike atmosphere and have smaller groups of children than larger daycare centers. They are typically less expensive than most other childcare options. Parents will need to have a backup if the provider or their children get sick and they may close several times a year for holidays and vacations. Many in-home providers may not have formal schooling in early childhood education. They may have more or less flexible pickup and drop-off times than a center depending on the provider.
Most preschool programs are designed to provide a half-day or alternating day schedule for parents who wish to give their child educational and social experiences in a formal setting. These programs may have different teaching philosophies or curriculum models, such as Waldorf, Montessori or High Scope. Some preschool programs may provide snacks or extended day options. Most preschool programs only run through the typical school year, September through May.
Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by providing education, family support , health and nutrition services and resources to families. Head Start agencies will have varying program options depending on the county in which families live. Options may include Home-based programs in which a Home Visitor visits the home weekly, part-day or part-year center based options, and full-day or full-year center-based options. In order to qualify for Head Start you must meet income guidelines and not all programs provide transportation.
School District Programs (School Readiness/Pre-K)
Public school preschool options may vary by school district. They typically give priority enrollment to low-income children, children who are learning English or children with special needs. For example, in St. Paul the school district offers their Pre-Kindergarten Program to children who are 4 years old by September 1. The children attend 2-1/2 hour long classes five days a week. Parents who need full time care might have to arrange transportation and additional care options.
These centers are usually easily recognized in your neighborhood. They may vary in size depending on their location and in Minnesota they are all licensed by the Department of Human Services Licensing Division. These centers typically provide full-time care for children ages 6 weeks to school age depending on the location. Infant and School Age care may be harder to access, but transportation to and from school is an additional feature they may provide. They typically follow the same policies, procedures and curriculum in all their locations and children stay with other children in their age group. The quality of care can vary in these programs based on the director's management of the program and the company's focus. These centers are not typically licensed to provide sick care and some children may get sick more often in a large group setting. Prices may vary greatly depending on the location of the center and most centers will accept child care assistance. Some centers may charge additional activity fees and may not supply infant formula, diapers or wipes.
Parent Co-Op programs are programs ran primarily by the parents. They usually hire a trained teacher and/or a administrator and require each parent to participate in the program in some way, such as teaching in the classroom, providing resources or administrative services, and cleaning and preparing meals. The tuition is usually lower in these types of programs compared to other center-based care, but they are harder to find.
Faith-based programs vary in their size and locations and meet a variety of faith-based needs. Some programs may operate in a church sharing space with the Sunday School program or Sinagog and other programs may be located in their own space. The tuition, faith, hours, age ranges and program options will all vary depending on the program
Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society. Although a range of practices exists under the name "Montessori", the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential: Mixed age classrooms, student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options, uninterrupted blocks of work time, a "discovery" model, where students learn concepts from working with materials rather than by direct instruction and specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators. In addition, many Montessori schools design their programs with reference to Montessori’s model of human development from her published works, and use pedagogy, lessons, and materials introduced in teacher training derived from courses presented by Montessori during her lifetime.
Private Center-based (for profit and nonprofit)
There are many child care and education programs that fall into this category. Midwest Child Development centers are in this category. We are a privately owned for-profit program. There are other centers that are non-profit and for-profit that may associate themselves with other agencies, organizations or churches or they may be independently owned. There may be several centers owned by the same organization and they may vary in size, curriculum philosophy and ages served. They are all licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services Licensing Division, but not all programs choose to get accredited by NAEYC (The National Association for the Education of Young Children), Parent Aware or NECPA (National Early Childhood Program Accreditation). The benefits for parents in choosing one of these programs may be the convenient location, affordable tuition rates, or the ability to be flexible with schedules. Not all owners or administrators have experience or education in both financial management and early childhood so this may determine a program's success and a program's quality.
Parents who are looking for care have many options available to them. They may have to choose a program based on affordability and location, but there are other "must have" indicators of quality parents should look for regardless of the type of program. We will discuss what to look for in a program in our next post. Until then, if you would like more information about the types of programs available in your area or you would like assistance in finding quality care and education for your child, you can contact Think Small, our local resource and referral agency at http://www.thinksmall.org/ or 651-641-0332 Monday through Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m