The Daycare, Preschool Dilemma
Child care: what’s a parent to do?
Is the daycare center down the block the place for you or should you choose the preschool at your church? Is the center licensed or is it registered, and what’s the difference between the two anyway? What, if any, curriculum do they use? What ages do they take and do they offer extended hours?
Is it any wonder that parents are confused? The world of child care contains a dizzying array of choices, philosophies, rules and regulations.
According to the Child Trends Databank, in 2005 61% of children from birth through age six (not in kindergarten) spent time in non-parental child care, with 36% of that number being in center-based programs. Let’s start by looking at the similarities and differences between daycare and preschool.
Both daycare and preschool can be licensed by the state, and both offer quality activities designed to stimulate a child’s development. Daycare is viewed as more custodial, while preschool is considered more academic. Some providers are both a preschool and a daycare, while some are just strictly one or the other.
A preschool is specifically designed for children between the ages of 2 through 5 or 6 for a limited number of hours per day. The day is designed around a curriculum (such as Montessori or a religious theme). Preschool usually follows the public school calendar, closing for holiday breaks with reduced hours in the summer.
A daycare offers structured activities, even a curriculum, but has extended hours to accommodate working parents. Typically the hours are from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. They do not close during the public school vacations, only taking off a few days during the year.
In Indiana, there are three state-approved designations: Licensed Child Care Center, Licensed Child Care Home, and an Unlicensed Registered Child Care Ministry. Each must complete a number of requirements including paperwork, training, zoning, inspections and health and safety standards. Go to the www.in.gov website for more information.
Additionally, licensed centers are often further broken into three categories based on their ownership: franchises (e.g. Goddard), corporate-owned (e.g. KinderCare) and privately-owned (e.g. The Little Lamb).
One local organization, which is an example of a preschool/daycare and a registered child care ministry, is Outlook Christian Preschool in Geist. Director Sandy Johnson asserts that the regulations covering a registered ministry are stringent. “We do have inspections by the state of Indiana, the Board of Health and the fire marshal,” she says.
Extremely popular with their clients, Outlook uses the biblical Abeka curriculum for all their classes and only takes ages of 3, 4 and kindergarten. They offer extended hours for working parents from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m..
Peter Rabbit Nursery School in the Carmel area is a licensed nursery school. They take children from the age of 2 1/2 through 6 and operate from the hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They follow the major school holidays. Director Rachel Cohen points out they also operate Peter Rabbit Learning Center, which is a state-licensed preschool in Carmel offering extended care hours for children from the ages of 6 weeks to 12 years of age. Both facilities test their students and offer individualized, developmental learning.
Most parents have heard of The Goddard School, and Rosita Hittle and Frank Alcala owners of the Lawrence and Fishers schools respectively, emphasize that this licensed child care center is a school. Central to the program is their FLEX Learning Curriculum. They also have an array of enrichment activities from teaching sign language to babies to art history. Goddard cares for children from the ages of 6 weeks through age 12 and is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both Hittle and Alcala believe preschool is important for the socialization, preparation for school, and confidence it instills in the kids.
As parents compare programs, they need to decide what is important for their family. Teffenie Davies will be opening the Kiddie Academy, a licensed child care center, in Fishers in November. Her curriculum is built around Life Essentials with an emphasis on character building and service activities. “So often we forget that part of life is giving back,” she says. Their state-of-the-art building will have a webcam in every room so that parents can log in and check on their child at anytime. She will care for infants through school-aged children from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
One example of a licensed child care center with a biblical curriculum is The Little Lamb in Carmel. Director Amy Vanbruggen oversees this privately-owned program, which uses the Abeka curriculum. They are open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and care for children between the ages of 6 weeks through age 10 in their before and after school program. She emphasizes the teacher-child relationship. “The most important thing for a child is the teacher in the classroom,” she says.
When putting this all together, keep a few other things in mind: price, scheduling and availability. With some child care costs can can rival college tuition, so figure out what you can afford and compare. Also, check to see if the center can accommodate your schedule, whether it is full time, part-time, full days or half-days. Finally, realize most places have waiting lists, especially for infants and toddlers. Alcala says that it can take up to 15 months for a placement to open up in an infant room and recommends holding a place for your child as soon as you know you are expecting.
Above all, every single provider had one last piece of advice for parents looking for child care: visit the place and trust your instincts.
The Goddard School:
Rosita Hittle (Lawrence) 317-826-7522
Frank and Tammy Alcala (Fishers) 317-842-6888
Peter Rabbit: Rachel Cohen 317-844-0751
Outlook Christian Preschool: Sandy Johnson 317-335-6823
Kiddie Academy: Teffenie Davies 317-596-1300
The Little Lamb: Amy Vanbruggen 317-848-3580