Category Archives: Opinions

Confession

This year, like every year, I planned multiple summer projects and so far I’ve managed to complete many of them.  There is however one project that is not proceeding as well as I had hoped.  The weather this summer is partly to blame – you see, I planned to work on reorganizing the basement on rainy days when it was too wet to work outside in the yard. There have been many days when it was too hot to work outside in the yard and it might actually be nice to spend some time in the basement but that little voice in my head always whispers ‘You are suppose to wait until it is raining‘ and of course it never does.

In my basement there is a twelve foot section of wall that is filled from floor to ceiling with plastic bins like this storing toys not currently in use;

18-08-bsmt01

Yes, they all have lovely labels describing what each bin contains.  There are also labels on all the art supply storage boxes on shelves and other various spaces throughout the house.  Visitors always comment on how organized I am. LOL

The problem is that some of those bins and boxes don’t actually contain what the label says they do.  In fact, in the basement, beyond the locked door in the area that is off limits to the children there is loose stuff. Much of the loose stuff belongs in one of those labelled bins but it doesn’t fit in it because there is something in that bin that doesn’t belong in there. This is what happens when I plan too many weekend projects and don’t get around to rotating toys until late on Sunday then don’t have time to put things away properly.  ‘I’ll fix it later’ I say.  Well,  this summer I intended to fix it – but it hasn’t rained enough so it is not done yet.

That’s not the confession.  The confession is that – and this may not actually surprise anyone – I think I might be a hoarder.  You see, along with reorganizing and putting things in their proper bins I also planned to purge – yes, I was going to get rid of stuff we don’t use.  Stop laughing! I’m serious. That was, IS my plan.

Every weekend I get a little more done.  Loose stuff and mystery boxes get spread out on the tables;

18-08-bsmt02

Some stuff gets boxed up to donate (it is kept out of sight so I won’t be tempted to take it back).  There are several empty shelves in the basement now;

18-08-bsmt04

There are only a few ‘sorting boxes’ left on the basement floor;

18-08-bsmt03

At one point there was barely any room to walk in the basement but now there is plenty of space, several empty bins, and new labels have been made so everything is accurate.

I’d also like to point out that I think that my ‘problem’ may have been caused by elementary school teachers.  It was my (now an adult) son’s Kindergarten teacher that asked me (and other parents) to collect milk jug lids and that is why I had a container full of hundreds of milk jug lids in the basement.  If you still need them – too late, I don’t have them any more.  I don’t have any shoe boxes either.  All those sleepless nights fretting about how my child was going to fail diorama making because I didn’t buy shoes that came in boxes with lids.  So, I started collecting shoe boxes – and now I just flattened dozens of them and overfilled my recycling bin.

I also have some extra space so I picked up a few more jungle animal toys.  Didn’t really need more – I had some already but now I have families of jungle animals.  I simply have to try and fit the new ones in the bin with the old ones.

I do still have a bin, two boxes and a shelf full of empty food and spice containers – I know I don’t need that many but I haven’t sorted through them to decide which ones are the most useful – remember, my recycling bin was too full.  I still have time.  Summer is not over yet and it might even rain sometime.  Besides, sometimes it is really cold in the winter and I might want to do things inside.  That is usually when I plan to defrost the freezers (which have a thick layer of ice now because last winter I waited too long and Spring arrived). Probably I should catch up on paperwork first though.

I may have other issues besides just hoarding stuff…

Students & Mentors

Throughout my career I have had many opportunities to welcome students and other educators into my home for tours, observations and practicum placements. I have found these visits to be enlightening and I am certain that I learn just as much or more than any of the ‘students’.

Sometimes visitors are here outside of regular working hours simply to see my childcare environment and get ideas for their own programs.  When there are no children present we have plenty of time for discussions and often the visitors will ask why I have things arranged the way they are.  Even as I answer their questions I may also begin to ponder ‘Is this really the best way or could I do it differently?’

The visitors who come for ‘observations’ have the most difficulty and sometimes it is downright hilarious.  Usually they’ve been instructed to ‘observe’ the children and/or me but not ‘interfere or interact’ with us. LOL The second they entered the room they became the children’s favourite toy.  “Who are you? What are you writing? Can I have your pen/some paper? I drew a flower. I have Darth Vader on my shirt. Do you like light sabers? We aren’t supposed to hit with toys. I’m hungry, did you bring a snack? …. It doesn’t end and honestly I doubt anything they observe would resemble a ‘normal’ day.

My favourite visitors are the Early Childhood Education students here for their practicum placement.  They come for longer periods of time – usually six full days.  They are expected to join in and even plan activities.  They get to know us and we get to know them.  All of the practicum students that have come here were part of the Red River College Workplace program which means they already have experience working in licensed childcare facilities.  Usually these students have only had experience working in centres but have expressed an interest in learning more about family child care as a possible career choice in the future.

They already understand child development and guidance.  Many are well acquainted with licensing regulations, policies and procedures – at least in the centres in which they work.  Some have already worked in childcare for many, many years as childcare assistants.  Really there is little or nothing I could teach them about doing their current job.  However, they are here to learn about family childcare and for most of them that is something new – and very different from what they currently do.

The first comment I hear when these practicum students arrive is almost always ‘I can’t believe how quiet it is’.  Yes, even though I may not always find it ‘quiet’ here, in comparison to working in a centre it is very quiet.  Sometimes I even find it too quiet – especially when I have a particularly independent group or there are some children absent.  There are days that I am tempted to initiate new activities simply because I am bored – I have to stop and consider if the children would actually benefit from my activity or if I would be interrupting a wonderful child-led experience in order for me to feel more productive.

Of course the play space also excites many of the students – especially the use of environmental guidance so I/they don’t have to  constantly provide direct guidance.  I love that the students recognize this.  🙂 They also note how easily the children choose, engage, and clean-up activities with little or no assistance from me.  We often share stories about behaviour issues we’ve experienced at our respective programs and how changes to the environment have/could address them.  I think that the ability to control the environment is what draws many centre staff to family childcare – they see issues at their workplaces, have ideas that could help but for whatever reason are not permitted to implement them.

However, I don’t feel that these practicum students ever experience ‘real’ family childcare when they are here.

Firstly, they are only here for eight hour days, not the eleven I normally spend with the children each day.  The college also expects that I will give them  breaks – many of the students choose to forego their break and leave earlier instead.  There was one who never wanted to leave and often stayed longer than required but still not my full day.  One insisted on taking her lunch break at lunch time – the busiest part of my day – instead of joining the children and I for lunch.  She spent an hour sitting in her car and returned when I had the kitchen clean and all the children settled in for their naps.  In my opinion there were several factors that made me doubt she was suited for ANY position in childcare.

Secondly, these students are never alone here or in their regular workplace.  Certainly there are times when I busy myself elsewhere and observe the student engaging with the children independently but they are not truly  ‘alone’.  There is nothing I can do to allow the students to experience what it is like to be the only one responsible for doing everything all day, every day.  As much as they may think that they would love to be their own boss, that freedom comes with a whole lot more responsibility and time commitment than their current jobs.

Then there is all the other stuff – the evening and weekend stuff when the children are gone.  The cleaning, the paperwork, contacting prospective parents, meetings, interviews and more – the students see none of that.  Are they prepared for the challenge to their work/life balance when they work from home – and what about their families?  The ‘family‘ portion of family child care is a HUGE factor and many providers who choose FCC specifically to stay at home with their own children also discover they prefer working in a centre and can’t wait to ‘get their house back’.

I have had a couple students who claim to understand how much time is required for FCC but then remark that they aren’t actually planning to work in their ‘real’ home because they ‘won’t do that to their family’.  They want to rent/buy a second house or use some other space away from their true home.  We sit down and review some regulations and do some financial calculations for FCC income vs expenses for a separate space. Even if the regulations allowed it, financially this is not a viable option.

Family childcare homes are not centres – they cannot be run the same nor can they be compared to centres.  Not all ECE’s with experience in centres are equipped for working in homes and many FCC Providers would not survive working in centres.  Still, there is a lot we have in common and there is a lot we can learn from each other.

My experiences with mentoring practicum students has been enlightening.  I have observed how the behavior of the children in my care, in my environment, changes with the addition of another caregiver.  I’ve been able to reflect on whether it something I do or the student does that influences the behaviours.  I’m also certain that even though there are days when I could use an extra set of hands to get everything done, I am still much happier working alone.  That’s not the case for everyone – some ECE’s need the larger groups and daily interaction with colleagues and family childcare may not be the best fit for them.

 

Year End 2017

It is December 31st and I have not written a post yet this month.  *sigh*  When I first started blogging (seven and a half years ago) I intended to write every day.   I soon realized that once or twice a week was sufficient.  Lately it has been only once or twice each month.  I really want to write more. I plan to write more. When I’m working out at the gym, outside hiking, or enjoying a hot steamy shower I create fantastic posts in my mind.  Sit down at the computer and….nope, got nothing now. Today I am adamant – I will write something to end the year.

I hosted our family Christmas dinner for nine on Christmas Eve.  The schedule was perfect – I had one full day for prep and cleaning before dinner day.  Stores were open so I didn’t fret about ‘what if I forgot something’. Of course I didn’t actually need to run out and get anything – that only happen’s when the stores are closed.  I made three vegetable dishes, two potato dishes, turkey, gravy, and a HUGE batch of stuffing.  Everyone loves stuffing so I make a separate roaster full of stuffing – used seven loaves of bread!

There were also the little extra snacky things like pickles and cheese and cranberry sauce etc that don’t require cooking.  I had done all my baking in the weeks before Christmas so dessert was covered (even now we still have dainties waiting to be eaten).  The whole dinner was completely stress free.  I had plenty of helpers available for the last minute ‘get everything on the table while it is hot’ rush and then everyone got to eat. 🙂

I ran three full loads through the dishwasher that day and washed four sink-fulls of bulky items but the kitchen was clean by 9 pm.  All the leftovers were packed up and frozen for future meals.  There was nothing left to do on Christmas day except sit and relax.  I suppose I could have written this post then, but I didn’t.  The other thing I didn’t do was take ANY Christmas dinner photos.

So instead, I’ll include this one of the team that pulled our sleigh on MCCA’s Dashing Through the Snow event earlier this month;

17-12-YE01

I had a great time playing outdoors with other amazing ECE’s  that day but didn’t manage to write a blog post about it either.

So now, as 2017 nears its end, I’ll begin making some plans for what I want to do in 2018. I’m not one for making ‘resolutions’ but maybe, if I reorganized my office space I’d be more inclined to sit at my desk and be productive…

My Dream

In Manitoba a licensed family childcare provider can care for a maximum of eight children under 12 years of age.  Of those eight children, no more than five may be under six – the other three must be in grade one or older.  I love having a mixed age group and the opportunity to build a relationship with the children in my care from infancy through school-age.

Over the twenty years I have been providing childcare in my home I have known many amazing school-age children who have thrived in this setting.  Some struggled with peer relationships in their school environment but enjoyed being the ‘leader’ here – idolized by the younger children.  Some embraced responsibility and enjoyed helping the little ones.  Some were wildly creative and independent and of course there were also some who resented being with ‘babies’.

I’ve watched older children gain confidence and build their self-esteem by mentoring the younger children.  I’ve seen younger children develop skills they learned from watching and copying the older children play. I’ve also had some older children that taught the little ones things/words that I wish they hadn’t. *sigh*

I’ve noticed something else – the cost of providing food, craft supplies, activities and equipment for school-age children often exceeds the income I receive for their care.  I find that the school schedule is disruptive – breaking up what could be longer periods of engagement in learning activities for the preschoolers.  So, for several years now I haven’t made an effort to fill empty school-age spaces.

Summer was the exception.  I loved having all the ‘big kids’ here for the summer – working in the garden, going on adventures, making incredible creations, sharing fantastic stories – without the rigid school schedule.  It was wonderful to have all this time with the older children instead of just the fleeting moments before/after school when everything was so hectic and there wasn’t really any time to do anything.

Yet, when I only enrolled school-age children for the summer I was finding that the first month was spent getting everyone acquainted with each other, learning routines etc. Then, just when we were starting to develop relationships, summer was over and they were gone. The ‘freedom’ of summer wasn’t quite the same with ‘new’ school-age children instead of ones we already knew.  So, for the first time ever – I didn’t fill any of my school-age spaces  this summer – and I’m loving it.

The school-age table has been empty;

17-08-SA01

The little ones are engaging in more age-appropriate dramatic play.  They are demonstrating their creativity instead of copying someone else. I haven’t heard ‘I’m bored’ once this summer, nor have I had to spend hours shopping for tons of additional food and supplies.

I’ve also been imagining what the little ones and I could do with that extra space I have set aside for bigger children and all the supplies they need but the little ones don’t.  I’ve started to think that it would be really, really nice if the province would let me exchange those three empty school-age spaces for one more preschool space.

Group childcare homes have two licensed providers and up to 12 infant/preschool children – that’s a 1:6 ratio.  I have five preschool spaces and although three of those five could be infants I rarely have more than one or two – sometimes even none. If they stay with me until they start school each one year of infant care will need four years of preschool care.  Hence, I’d have to kick out preschoolers if I wanted to keep those infant spaces full – I would never do that.  One more preschool space would help.

Big dream – I know.

 

 

What If….

What if you had a baby – a baby that was so ‘perfect’ that other parents were jealous.  A baby that was never demanding, slept through the night, was content to sit and watch the world around him but also enjoyed playing and snuggling.  A baby that was so very easy to love all the time.

What if he became a toddler with ‘quirks’ – I know, all toddlers have quirks but what if his were so abundant and so noticeable that even strangers made comments.  Yet, those quirks were so familiar – you had them too when you were little, and people made comments then too.  You understood those quirks, in fact you could anticipate and prepare for them.

What if he had sensory issues that made some places/activities impossible without meltdowns – sometimes so severe that he curled in a ball and shut down completely.  He was done for the day now, might as well just put him to bed and try again tomorrow.

What if your preschooler was so quiet and withdrawn that people wondered if he ever talked – he did, he had a fabulous sense of humor and wonderful conversations when he was in familiar settings with people he knew.

What if your child took ‘slow to warm up’ to a whole new level – taking days, weeks, or even months to adapt to a change or try something new.

What if you secretly worried about what would happen to him when he went to school.  There would be so many things there that you knew would be very, very hard for him.  You considered homeschooling where he could feel comfortable and’safe’.  Yet you decided it was important that he learn to move beyond his comfort zone and going to school was an important step.

What if school proved to be both good and bad – he had some terrific friends who were happy to have him around but there were others that tormented him unrelentingly.  Yet, he never complained – quietly independent he doesn’t like to complain or ask for help.

What if he was amazingly kind and gentle wanting nothing more than to have everyone get along, never arguing, always trying to help.  Never late. Never needing reminders to clean his room or do his chores. Never asking anyone to do anything for him.

What if some school years were better than others – depending on the teacher.  Some were understanding and accommodating while others insisted he comply to their strict regime  immediately without hesitation.  Yet all made the same comment “He is so smart, but when he has a problem he can’t solve alone he just panics, quits and walks away without telling anyone why or asking for help.”

What if school counselors and Psychologists said  we don’t know how to help him and referred him to Psychiatry who said “Anxiety and OCD – maybe medication would help’.  But it didn’t – what works is to let him ‘watch’ until he feels comfortable enough to ‘try’ – understanding that some things are still impossible at least on some days.

What if he came so close to finally graduating high school and then crashed and you don’t really know why because he won’t/can’t tell you.  Instead he spent a year alone in his room.

What if you tried to find someone to help but most said “He’s an adult now you can’t talk for him he has to call us himself” but you know that is never going to happen.  So you give him more responsibilities at home where he is comfortable and he is so wonderfully reliable, and helpful and amazing – you wish others could see it.

What if you finally find someone who says ‘Yes, we’ll try’ and it takes years of appointments and referrals and waiting lists and more referrals and throughout it all he is still quietly persistent – doing what is asked to the best of his abilities without complaining.

What if then they quit – they say “We can’t find a placement for him.”  They specialize in connecting workers with jobs and they give up without any further referrals and you’re back at square one and you don’t know what to do.

What if somewhere there is an employer or training program in Winnipeg that is willing to give him a chance.  If you know of one can you please let me know.  cheryl@cccare.ca

 

 

The ‘Un’ Factor

‘Un’ is a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns.  In the field of family childcare we often use the words ‘unlicensed’, ‘unregulated’, ‘untrained’ yet for many government officials and people outside the field of childcare those ‘un’ words are not viewed as negative – simply a choice that parents should be allowed to make regarding the care of their children.

There are regulations governing the manufacturing of items like cribs, strollers, carseats, and toys etc so parents know they are safe.  There are regulations regarding the production, packaging, and labeling of food products to ensure they meet predetermined standards so people know what they are buying. Why do government officials and the general public think that parents should be able to choose unlicensed, untrained childcare but need regulations to assist them to safely feed, house, and transport their own children?

What other career field allows some businesses to operate unlicensed and/or untrained when others providing the same service are licensed?  What is the incentive for any business to be licensed if they can legally operate without any oversight?  Without any licensing/training requirements?  What if, like in childcare, they could actually make more money if they were not licensed/trained than if they were licensed/trained?

Let’s use truck drivers as an example.  The majority of adults have a class 5 driver’s license and have experience driving their own or a friend’s vehicle.  What if there were no restrictions on what size of vehicle you could drive and anyone could just decide “Hey, I’m going to buy a big truck and start a business delivering things for other people.”

Why, is an experienced driver with their own vehicle not allowed to start up a trucking business without additional training or license? Why don’t people argue “It’s his truck, he can do what he wants with it.  If other people are OK with letting him transport their stuff why not let him/them.  He’s never had an accident and doesn’t need a little piece of paper to prove he’s a good driver.”

What if that same driver or another class 5 driver then decided “A bus isn’t much different than a big truck.  If I had a bus I could earn money driving people around.”  What if you’d seen that driver on the street with his bus full of happy passengers and decided to take a ride on his bus.  Then imagine that one day there was an issue – something was wrong with the bus or the driver.  What if it is too late to get off the bus before the accident happened?

Some argue that licensing all childcare facilities and requiring training for all childcare workers doesn’t ensure quality – but it helps.  Just like trained bus/truck drivers in licensed companies will still have accidents there are standards and checks in place to limit them.  Why don’t we hear arguments that training/licensing truck drivers doesn’t prevent accidents so let’s save some money and not bother requiring them to be licensed?

Do we need more incentives for family childcare providers to become licensed or do we need to eliminated the option for them to operate unlicensed childcare homes?  Currently only licensed providers can accept government subsidized families but private paying families usually pay higher rates than the maximum subsidized rate so that isn’t an incentive to be licensed.

What about training?  Currently family childcare providers with Early Childhood Educator II/III training can receive slightly higher subsidized rates than untrained providers but those rates are still lower than the private rates most unlicensed/untrained providers charge so why bother?  Just think of all the tax dollars we could save if we had trained and untrained police officers  – both had the same duties but the city could pay the untrained ones less – but either trained or untrained officers could go work privately for more money without a gun permit or any other type of license.

In an effort to increase the number of licensed childcare spaces, the provincial government is considering lessening the requirements and ‘red tape’ needed to open licensed childcare homes.  Why, when there was a shortage of family doctors was it never suggested that we lower the requirements to become a doctor?  I don’t think lowering FCC licensing requirements will increase the number of licensed childcare spaces and I’m absolutely positive it won’t improve quality.

What part of licensing do they think is unnecessary?   Criminal record/child abuse registry checks? First aid training or a 40 hour course? Behaviour management, nutrition, safety and supervision policies? Adequate equipment? Developmentally appropriate activities? Documentation and record keeping?

I don’t think any part of the licensing process is difficult or unnecessary.  If fact, I’d like to see more.  I’d like to see MANDATORY licensing for ALL childcare homes.  Greater incentives for trained providers (possibly higher ratios).  MANDATORY annual professional development and more.  I’m thinking about the best interests of the children, not just convenience and the cost for quality and safety.

 

licensing-manual

Licensing Manual

Professional Development

The 2016 Manitoba Child Care conference was held May 26th – 28th and as usual I attended all three days.  Three full days of workshops always leaves me with information overload so I give myself a little break before I go review my notes to remind myself of all the points I found noteworthy.   This year’s theme was ‘Be Inspired, Be Incredible’ and the workshops I attended were truly inspiring especially Teacher Tom!

I’ve attended various workshops and conferences annually throughout my childcare career.  I’ve written about some of them here, here, here and here.  Occasionally I have met ECE’s who appear to be there against their will – completely apathetic and unwilling to participate.  It always makes me wonder why they chose childcare as a career if they have no desire to learn – how can they expect to inspire the children they care for?

I can’t imagine not being interested in expanding your interests – to have no curiosity – to be stagnant.  I’ve attended some workshops that turned out to be much different than I had anticipated/hoped yet I have still found at least some tidbit of useful information.  If it turns out that the workshop presenter and I have completely different views/goals I would still consider it a learning opportunity – even if it is only to reinforce my own beliefs.

I am disappointed that there are rarely more than a few family childcare providers in attendance at conferences.  I’ve heard the excuses ‘It is too expensive’ (It’s a write-off), ‘I can’t afford to close for two days’ (Attend an evening or Saturday workshop),  ‘There is nothing that interests me’ (really?!?!), ‘I already know all that stuff’ (so go lead a workshop – be the expert of your group – mentor others!),’I don’t know anyone else who is going’ (Great! Make some new friends).  In fact, I think that last one is really important – possibly the most important reason you should be going. Family childcare providers work in isolation and it is really easy to get stuck in an old, outdated routine and never grow.

Certainly we can develop wonderful relationships with the families we have enrolled but that can’t provide the type of benefit we get from interacting with peers. Besides – we get food at conferences – food we don’t need to cook ourselves!  I love food that someone else cooks – except fishy things, I don’t like seafood.  One of the reasons I joined a gym is so I never have to turn down food when someone offers it to me.  Ooops, sorry, I got a little off topic for a moment…

The Province of Manitoba Best Practices Licensing Manual for Family and Group Childcare Homes recommends:

16-06-PD01

 

Networking with colleagues is extremely important whether through conferences, committees, courses or some other type of training.  Although useful at times I don’t think looking for new ideas on Pinterest or interacting with peers on social media sites counts as professional development. Personally I believe professional development should be a regulation, a requirement for licensing not just a best practice.

So, here are a few points from my notes from this year’s MCCA conference;

  • Attitude matters, 100 positive people + 1 negative person = 101 negative people.
  • Quality is only as strong as your most marginal performer.
  • Cooperation is hardwired, competition is taught.
  • Formal instruction prepares people to work in factories.
  • Education is not the filling of an empty vessel – it is the ignition of the flame.
  • If it is not interesting to you it is not interesting to them either.
  • Play is what children do when adults stop telling them what they should do.
  • Young children are the most creative problem solvers in the world.
  • The role of the teacher is to prepare the environment for the children to play.

To be honest most of these points are not new knowledge for me but the conversations I was involved in surrounding these points were extremely enlightening and that is why I go to conferences. Counting down the days until my next conference – The Manitoba Nature Summit is just three months away – so excited!