As parents, we tend to focus much attention on our children’s schooling to ensure their “success”. We attend parent-teacher conferences, monitor report cards, help with homework, email teachers with concerns, employ consequences to children not making the grade, attend school functions, spend hundreds of dollars on supplies etc. We believe that in doing all of these things that our children will grow to be responsible, “successful” adults. Whatever that means to a given family.
Childcare, however, we tend to gloss over as a part of the day that offers nothing more than an escape to what truly matters…school. We invest little into knowing about after school programs and summer camp childcare staff. We don’t view them as important enough to buy a teacher appreciation gift for. We don’t know their names. We don’t know what they truly do day-to-day. We don’t know a particular childcare program’s philosophies or care how those philosophies could impact their child’s lives. We do not know how meaningful strong social programming can impact a child’s school day, or his/her life, in general. We generally accept whatever program is in front of our eyes without ever really knowing it. Or finding out if there is something out there that may be better and offer the level of attention, interaction and creativity our children require. Yet, families invest thousands of dollars per year on childcare tuition, if nothing more than to have a place for their child to go. The school districts that house corporate programs do not know the answers to these questions either, nor do they care. Which always serves as a perplexing reality.
So why do we not care as much about childcare? Some children attend childcare programs 20 hours per week, and 40 hours per week during the summer months. That is 155 8-hour days per year, or 33% of a child’s year spent in school-age childcare. Yet, we barely concern ourselves with what quality and caliber of the people leading our children during this time. Or, what interactions are taking place, what our children are doing during those hours to better prepare them to be socially responsible adults, how it impacts their school day, how it impacts their behavior, how it contributes to their creativity and imagination, how it affects their relationships with peers and adults, and ultimately how it impacts the adult they will become.
Perhaps it is time to begin looking more deeply into what type of program is serving our children. What do they stand for? Are their childcare program beliefs practiced regularly? How? Is your child impacted in a positive way from having participated in his/her childcare program? How do you know? Are you sending them to a particular program simply to send them? Do you evaluate options? Do you know your providers? Do you want to know them? Why or why not? Do you see evidence of what your child accomplishes during his childcare time? Does he like it? Why or why not? Does your school district have an explanation as to why they house a particular childcare program? Do you ask or even care?
Only in realizing and accepting that our children are deeply impacted by their daily experiences in childcare can we begin to start asking bigger questions about the quality of that programming. In doing that, we will be taking a big step toward appreciating that this time is significant in your child’s life and worth as much attention as is given to the regular school day experience.
This article was written by Founder Tom Styles with TSL Adventures in Albany, NY. Tom has a passion for education and the overall learning process that children experience. He, along with his dedicated team of professional educators and staff members, provide first-class, creative and socially-engaging childcare programs throughout the Capital Region.