Tag Archives: Professionalism

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 Family childcare providers work in isolation and it is really easy to get stuck in an old, outdated routine and never grow.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:



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!

A Matter of Money – Centre or Home

I think one of the greatest things about childcare is that no two programs/facilities are exactly the same – and that is perfect because no two children are the same either. Some children thrive in a centre environment while others need the smaller, more familiar setting that a family childcare home can offer. The same is true for Early Childhood Educators. It is the variety of childcare environments that gives ECE’s the opportunity to choose the one that is the best fit for them to work in.

In my last post I described family childcare as my ‘calling’ – there is no other job I would rather have regardless of the income and this includes centre based childcare. Just because I think family childcare is the best place for me does not mean I think it is the best form of childcare for every ECE.

My daughter was 12 years old when I first opened my childcare home. She was actively involved in all our activities and couldn’t wait to turn 18 and be able to sub for me. After graduating high school she went on to earn her ECE II diploma and went to work in a centre. She made many financial sacrifices to save enough money from her limited income to buy her own home. Most people assumed she was planning to switch to family childcare. However, when asked about it she was adamant – “NO! She would never, EVER work in family childcare.”

She is now an ECE III working full time in a centre specializing in infant care. I am an ECE II operating a licensed family childcare home We’ve shared many stories and had many conversations about the similarities and differences between our respective careers. Our annual incomes before taxes are almost identical – when mine is calculated at its maximum. There are numerous factors that cause family childcare income to fluctuate – some I will mention later in this post. Family childcare expenses will be covered in a separate post.

We also cannot compare our after tax income because there are so many variables such as number of dependents and total family income that affect the amount we pay for taxes. So, for the moment I’m just going to say that our incomes are both about the same at $32,000 annually before taxes.

So, let’s compare hours next. My childcare home is open Mon-Fri from 6:30 am until 5:30 pm so I spend 55 hours per week with the children without any breaks. Working in a centre I wouldn’t work that many hours so, at the same annual income if you were to count only the hours we spend with the children my hourly wage as a family childcare would be much lower than my daughter working in a centre.

However, working in a centre also requires traveling time and expenses to get to and from work. If you count the time from when my daughter leaves her house to go to work until she arrives back home after then her work day is equal to mine too. I consider the ‘no commute time/expense’ a perk of working in family childcare that is an acceptable trade-off for spending more time with the children.

I also spend about 14 additional hours per week cleaning, doing paperwork, planning activities, and meeting with parents etc when the children are not here. Technically these are all unpaid hours and some of these duties would not be required by an ECE in a centre. Some of them are required and the centre ECE has to get them done sometime during their regular workday. There are a lot of things I could probably do when the children are here but I choose to do after hours because it is easier. To a certain extent how much time I spend ‘working’ is my choice and breaking down family childcare income to an hourly wage is impossible.

I feel the additional hours of work a family childcare puts in is an acceptable trade-off for the amount of control we over our program and environment. I’ve toured many childcare centres where just walking through the rooms makes me shudder and I can’t imagine having to work there. There are centres that I think are fabulous and they have philosophies and programming that I believe in – but they also have other staff members. Many family childcare providers quite willingly label ourselves as ‘Does not work well with others’. It is not that we don’t get along with other people but rather that we have difficulty sharing responsibility. We would prefer to just do it all, our way, by ourselves – that’s why we chose family childcare.

However, there are some definite downsides for an ECE working in family childcare – fluctuating income has to top the list. Remember, my maximum annual income was about the same as that of an ECE working in a centre – but not all providers have eight filled spaces all the time so there are many factors that make my income drop below maximum. If you have difficulty setting and sticking to a budget or are relying solely on one income family childcare may not be a good career option.

Many family childcare providers cannot or will not fill their school-age spaces – there is little financial incentive to do this. The additional expenses, supplies and work required for school-age care are so high that many providers find it is not practical even if they live in an area where there is a demand for school-age care. Considering only the five preschool spaces a family childcare provider has – if all the children in care are over two years old then the provider’s income is more than $600 per month lower than maximum. That puts a family childcare provider’s income significantly lower than that of an ECE working in a centre.

Becoming a licensed family childcare provider is often touted as being a great way to work AND stay at home with your own children but I might really disagree with that view. If your family childcare income is your family’s main or only income it definitely does not make sense to choose FCC over working in a centre. Your own children use up childcare spaces lowering your income from both parent fees and operating grant – essentially costing you more than if you worked outside your home and paid to put your children in childcare. An ECE working in a centre would still receive their full salary and if that was their only income they would probably qualify for a subsidy significantly lowering their costs for childcare.

So yes, there are some big differences between working in family childcare vs. working in a childcare centre but it is all about choices. There are pros and cons to both – you just have to decide which trade-offs you are willing to make. My next post is going to deal more specifically with the financial side of family childcare so, stay tuned….

A Matter of Money – Motivation

I have often been reluctant to join in the fight to demand higher wages for ECE’s – not because I don’t value what we do but rather, because I love my job. I think that my reluctance to complain about wages stems from contentment – for me it doesn’t feel much like work. The money is not what motivates me to be a licensed family childcare provider.

Before I opened my childcare home I volunteered in nursery and kindergarten classrooms and ran a recreation program for the children in the housing development where we lived – basically I was ‘working’ for free. Being able to earn an income by doing something I truly enjoyed was an added bonus. In all honesty, if I won a lottery I would still be a family childcare provider – but I would be able to offer the program of my dreams.

Yes, I know ECE’s earn far less than workers in other fields with a similar amount of education but compared to the years my family spent on social assistance this feels pretty comfortable. Yet, without the additional income that my husband earns as a school bus driver I know we would have difficulty paying the bills on my income alone. There are many things we would like to do but don’t do because we lack the funds to do them.

According to the descriptions over at PsychCentral, for me family  childcare is not a job, or even just a career – it is a calling.I’ve been called ‘altruistic’ – I had to go look up the meaning of that because it wasn’t a word I’ve ever used – and would definitely never use to describe myself. Actually, I would probably have to say that sometimes I feel selfish for enjoying my job. Yes, there are some aspects of being a family childcare provider that even I don’t relish. There are some days when I’ve had enough and I just want the day to end, but would more money change that? I don’t think so.

So, let’s say I couldn’t be a family childcare provider and had to choose a different job – I would expect more money because I would not enjoy my job as much. In fact, there are some jobs that no amount of money would make me want to do the work. Some jobs that would require such an enormous amount of effort to just show up that even a huge salary would not make it worthwhile. Yet, other people do those jobs so something must motivate them – and maybe it is the money – maybe not.

So, since we’ve already established that I might not the best spokesperson for the ‘Early Childhood Educators need more money’ argument, let’s talk about why I started writing this. When I hear ECE’s constantly lamenting about how hard their job is, how unfair it is that other people get paid more to do less work, making lists of everything they don’t get paid enough to do, my first thought isn’t “You deserve more money”. My first thought is “Maybe you need to find another job.”

Bracing for backlash.

Yes, I do think that ECE’s are underpaid – remember, my ECE wage comparison was social assistance benefits – it took me three years working as a family childcare provider before my income surpassed the need for an income supplement. I do think that the job we do is extremely valuable and that higher wages would help childcare programs attract and keep qualified staff. But – we are trained to speak positively to the children so why speak so negatively about your career?

Tell me what would make it better. How would more money positively affect the job you do? What would a higher wage for you mean to your program, the children in your care and their families. What would you do with more money? Please, don’t attack those who are on your side and doing their best to make a little go a long way.

The Great Divide

This post is intended to provide a little background for another post that I have been working on – a post which will probably become a whole series of posts because I’m having trouble organizing all I want to say into one post.  A series of posts I’m going to call ‘A Matter of Money’.  But first…

Many, many years ago when I first began the process to become a licensed family childcare provider there was a significant divide between home based childcare and centre based childcare.  There was a separate Family Day Care Association which amalgamated with with the Manitoba Childcare Association shortly after I opened my childcare home.

I was never part of the Family Day Care Association but early in my career I met many providers who had been.  There were many family childcare providers who resented the loss of their close-knit little association.  They felt they were now little fish in a big pond where the big fish didn’t understand them and had no interest in listening to what they had to say.

There were some who felt the line between home based childcare and centre based childcare should never be erased.  They would have preferred to have had that line drawn with a thick, black permanent marker. I have met line drawers from both sides of the line.


As a newly licensed provider I was lucky to have a large, active family childcare networking group in my area.  These veteran providers offered vast amounts of knowledge and support that made diving into the big pond a whole lot easier.

In the beginning we struggled to gain acceptance.  Most of the workshops and events we attended were so specific to centre based childcare that there was often little that was pertinent to our environments.  Occasionally there were workshops offered explicitly for family childcare providers but, although the information was useful, being offered separate from centre based groups often simply strengthened the divide.

Many family childcare providers would only attend events if they knew others that were going and we could all sit together.  At one time or other we had all experienced some sort of discrimination from centre based ECE’s – sometimes being dismissed as mere annoyances – much like the little sister of the teenager who is forced to let them hangout.

At this point I have to say that since those early days things have improved immensely.  I have many really good friends who work in centres and value the work we do in family childcare.  The important thing is understanding the differences.  We each have our own unique set of challenges and benefits.  Centre based childcare and family childcare are not the same thing – and neither one is ultimately better than the other.

We do, or at least should, have the same goal – providing the best possible opportunities for all children to reach their full potential.  Our fight should be for the children and not against each other.

Childcare Choices

With the federal election fast approaching childcare has been getting some attention as an election issue. The Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada has asked that we Take the Pledge to Vote Childcare. They provide information about where all the parties stand so voters can make informed decisions.

I usually prefer to stay out of politics and just use my blog to highlight my adventures with the children in my licensed family childcare home but this is an important issue and so I wanted to share some stories of the people I have met throughout my years in childcare. These are not all the choices available – just some of the home based options that I have experienced over the years as a parent before I became a licensed childcare provider and throughout my childcare career.

There is a young mom speaking in broken English – she is very excited because today is her last ‘Intro to Family Childcare’ class and she will soon be on her way to becoming a licensed childcare provider. She has developed her business plan and is looking forward to becoming a productive citizen in this amazing country she now calls home. Realizing her dream of opening her own business will also provide quality childcare to others in her community so they can attend school and go to work.

There was the young man who went to college and earned his Early Childhood Educator Diploma. He worked in a childcare center for several years – his female colleagues valued having a male role model in their facility. His employers, the children he cares for and their families all speak very highly of him. He and his wife have their first child and he decides to open a licensed family childcare home so he can stay at home with his child and still continue to work in the job he loves. Even with his excellent references and the high demand for childcare he has difficulty filling spaces. Many parents are reluctant to place their children in his care because a man staying home to care for children is not the norm.

Another provider in an upscale neighbourhood lives in a beautiful 3000 square foot home most of which is off limits to the children she cares for. She has a dedicated childcare space in her basement. She offers a very structured academic program geared toward older preschool and school-age children. She is very selective about which children she will enroll. When she does have a vacancy she screens through many applicants to find a child that will fit in to her program well.

A couple living in the inner city are both licensed family childcare providers. Together they care for children 24/7 and accommodate parents who work various shifts.

Now, at this point I’d like to say that I’ve met some absolutely excellent unlicensed childcare providers who are operating within legal numbers. An unlicensed childcare home is not regulated in any way other than ratio/max number of children in care – no more than four children under 12 years of age of which no more than two are under two years of age including the providers own children.

Some offer wonderful environments and fantastic programming but are simply uninterested or unwilling to put in the effort required to become licensed. If they are only providing care for preschool children the one extra child (four for unlicensed, five for licensed) isn’t much of an incentive. Especially once you take into consideration that many unlicensed providers charge higher fees than those licensed providers whose fees are set by the province.

Most unlicensed providers and the parents who enroll their children in these programs are unaware that these programs require additional commercial insurance – without it their standard homeowners insurance is void if they operate a home based business licensed or not. Business insurance is required for licensed providers yet even with this separate insurance some providers still have issues with getting basic homeowners insurance.

Let’s now consider some of the illegal unlicensed childcare providers I’ve come across over the years

The young mom on mat leave after the birth of her second child. She also cares for two children of a friend of hers to help out just until she goes back to work. With a total of only four children including her own she is within legal childcare numbers – but she’s not reporting her income to EI.

In the parking lot of a middle class neighbourhood an older woman loads 14 kindergarten and school-age children into the side door of her minivan. It is raining and she doesn’t want them all to walk today – she’s a good driver and she’s only going a short distance so not using seatbelts is OK. She is not licensed to care for these children and most of the parents are aware of this but there is no before/after school program in this school, all these parents need to work and she only charges $5/day. The children will probably just watch TV for the hour or so until their parents get home.

The wonderful mother of three preschool children. She also has three other unrelated infants in her care. Infant care is very hard to find so these parents are thrilled to have found her. Everyone here is aware that this unlicensed facility has over the legal number of children allowed but the parents have no concerns regarding the quality of care their little ones are receiving. Hopefully there will never be an issue. This type of over numbers, unlicensed reflects on the character, values and integrity of those who chose it. It also paves the way for more unlicensed providers.

Ultimately I think I’d like to see ALL childcare facilities be required to be licensed. That might eliminate some of the confusion parents face regarding choosing childcare. All restaurants require licenses and inspections – it doesn’t matter if they are part of a large chain, a small family owned/run business or a mobile truck/cart – good or bad they have a license and rules they must follow in order to keep it. Why is childcare not given the same value – are the children not important?

I know, licensing is a Provincial issue – not a Federal election concern but just for a moment let’s think about that. In my little neighbourhood there are at least four unlicensed childcare providers for every licensed provider. Most of these unlicensed providers are operating within legal numbers but few are reporting their income.

Let’s just say these numbers are the same in all the neighbourhoods across the Province. For this supposition we’ll also assume all these licensed & unlicensed providers averaged are making the same amount of money that I do. Say none of the unlicensed providers are reporting income and paying taxes. Now, pretend all those unlicensed providers across the Province suddenly became licensed and started paying the same taxes that I do. The total new tax revenue from Manitoba would be about…….


Now imagine what that number could do if it was put back in to a universal childcare system.