We’ve had a good run.
My almost three-year-old has been attending the same in-home daycare since he was two months old. A few weeks ago, I found out that our daycare provider (let’s call her “Anne”) will be moving in less than two months to an undisclosed location in the country. All I know is that this new location will no longer allow for the quick fifteen-minute commute that my husband and I have become so accustomed to. So after the initial shock wore off, we had to consider our options.
It’s been two and a half years of a mostly routine schedule of dropping our son off and picking him up at Anne’s home nestled in a neighborhood of modest 1,200 square foot homes with large front porches and creaking porch swings. That’s two and a half years of hectic mornings trying to get our toddler ready each weekday so we can get to work on time; never mind the uncombed hair, the unwiped nose, or the unfinished breakfast (because someone would rather watch cartoons or run through the house without any regard for obstacles like doors or walls). That’s also two and a half years of being at the mercy of Anne’s schedule.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve liked having our son in a home environment with no more than four other kids at any given time. We’ve been grateful that the neighborhood was convenient to both of our jobs. When we made the decision to place our son there, we weren’t too picky. In fact, it was the first and only daycare we visited. We were just ecstatic to find a daycare provider that was convenient, relatively inexpensive, and reputable, according to family members who had also placed their children with Anne. However, there have definitely been some challenges to overcome. I’m sure this varies from place to place, but the in-home daycare we selected did not have any clearly set, written rules or schedule. All we knew was that it opened at 7:00 a.m. with pick-up no later than 5:30 p.m.
For the most part, things worked out. However, in time we started to get tired of the occasional half-day closings on short notice or the sudden change to a “preferred” 4:30 p.m. pick-up time. So by the time Anne dropped the news about moving, my husband and I were already considering moving our son to a commercial daycare. After all, in a couple of years, our son would have to transition to a Pre-K environment where he would benefit from a more structured day in a school setting. What’s wrong with starting him a little early? And at this point we no longer had a choice.
Sure, we could have checked for other in-home daycares to save money, but instead we grasped at the opportunity to research commercial daycares. Our hope was that a structured setting would be more beneficial for our son and for us. To start, we searched for daycares that would be convenient to work and home, then we set up a tour at each facility. Only having about a month to place our son in a new daycare, we knew we would have to make a quick decision. We hoped there would be openings in at least two facilities so there would have choices, rather than the successful candidate being handed to us with zero evaluation necessary. Luckily, we found three facilities that had openings and toured them all in the same week.
It turns out that our decision was not too difficult after touring each daycare. Meeting the staff and touring the buildings and grounds, with our child in attendance, was a must. Based on our experiences, the list below should help guide you during the decision-making process:
Building and Grounds
Distance from work and home
Cleanliness and overall condition
Friendliness/responsiveness of staff
Attentiveness of staff
Credentials of staff
Education (STEM focused?)
Types of technology used
After-school programs with transportation
Drop-off and pick-up times
Payment due dates (monthly or weekly)
Credits offered for missed weeks/months?
Supplies provided by daycare
Cancellation of contract
This list can be useful when comparing daycares, whether in-home or commercial. For us, the daycare we selected had many of the benefits listed above that would be most advantageous for our family. It also came down to the one that just “felt right”. Lucky for us, this also happened to be the daycare our son had the hardest time leaving! We thought that particular daycare would be difficult to swing financially, but when we compared it to the other two daycares we toured, we found it to be the best value and overall the least expensive due to its monthly payment plan.
Each family is going to base their decision on a number of factors, and each family will give each of these factors a different weight depending on their circumstances. In the end, it is a personal decision, as it could have a profound effect on your child’s future path.
I’m hopeful our son will thrive in this new environment with more social interaction, more exciting subjects to learn, and more opportunities to grow. I can’t wait to meet the person he will become!
Laura Dearhart is a procurement professional currently living with her husband, three-year-old son, and thirteen-year-old stepson in Richmond, Virginia. She considers her hometown Reston, Virginia, but loves visiting the Shenandoah Valley where she lived for ten years after attending college in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She received her B.S. in Anthropology with a minor in Geology from James Madison University in 1999. She earned an M.A. in Anthropology with a concentration in Museum Training from George Washington University in 2003. She loves horror movies, anything written by Stephen King, hiking, craft beer, and traveling. Her last trip overseas involved a self-driving adventure in Ireland with her husband. She looks forward to more adventures with her husband and their two boys.
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