By: Judy Lyden
The pros and cons of offering childcare at all, home, out of the home, in schools, centers, public or private is a discussion that has gone on forever.
There are the infant up pros, the preschool only, the homeschoolers, and now the retro who think childcare at any cost hurts kids. Criticism throughout the whole childcare discussion never ceases, but strangely neither do funds to complete more studies.
Millions of dollars are poured into childcare all over the world, and the result is still a giant confused mess that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other field of business. In our own city, the grants have been huge, and the result is still the same old failing structure, the same old unsolvable problems, the same old people teaching new people little or nothing.
Even the new guy on the block, a columnist writing about the childcare grants said, “Nobody knows anything about childcare.” It’s remarkable to me that million dollar studies can be done at the expense of tax dollars that continue to reveal the following: That the idea of early childhood education is good for children, that the people who do early childhood education are under educated, not trained and therefore not good for children, that what we need is more money poured into a childcare system that continues to reek criticism year after year.
It seems vaguely scamish to me. More money? To do what? Invest in a problem that never seems to be able to be solved no matter what? Recently, a great pride was taken in a new multi million dollar plan to create a test list of criteria that would determine if childcare is good.
It won’t be out for several months. They have to find the funds to pay the experts to come up with criteria that would count and discount what we don’t know about childcare. In a recent study from University of California Berkeley and Stanford University, researchers found that preschool attendance has negative effects on the social and emotional development of children, effects that were most strongly seen in children from better-off-families.
The National Institute for Child Health and Human Development's newly issued report arrived at virtually the same results and found that long hours in daycare and preschool slow a child's social development.
Three years ago, all the studies said the exact opposite. It seems the whole of childcare is a great big playground for dummies, so let me race to the sand box and see if I can’t level out the sand castles.
As a mother for 35 years, and a grandmother for 15, and a childcare provider for over a quarter of a century - one who is considered pretty child-centered by my friends – I have to say that childcare is a very individual thing because every child is an individual, so the first mistake the experts are making is to lump anyone anywhere or to make general statements especially based on money.
It’s also a mistake to assume anything like centers are better than homes, or all non degreed childcare providers are terrible, and tax dollars will make it all better.
I’ll stake my whole reputation on the fact that the number one sign of good childcare ANYWHERE is as simple as the golden rule. “Would I like that care if I were a child?” The first question parents need to ask BEFORE leaving a child anyplace is: Would I like to spend time here with my child? If the answer is no – run – and take your child.
If yes, the next question is: why? Parents always have the best insights because they are looking out for their child. Next set of questions regard the child. Who is the child? Before his name, his talents, or his personal treasures, he is first a life, a human life, an important human life with all the prospects and components of any other human life. A religious person would say he’s an innocent who requires our best care.
Good childcare is not dependent on degrees, money, prestige, or the right clientele. Good childcare is however dependent on the word care. Every child who leaves his own home should be cared for as if he is still at home. It’s really simple to say, but it seems nearly impossible to do and tax dollars aren’t helping.
How do parents know they are choosing the best possible place? What is it like after the fact? Does a child love to attend his childcare place? Does he cry when he has to go home?