Monday, March 31, 2008

Looking for Perfection. Finding Functionality: The Search for Childcare

Childcare is one of the most wrenching decisions that working parents make. It never quite meets your needs, it's always way more than you want to pay and around Cambridge, it's too much work on top of that. The programs themselves are usually high quality with wonderful caring teachers. But the financial and time commitment it takes to keep these programs running are quite daunting. Every preschool withing a 1/2 mile radius of my house is a parent co-op that requires parent help (2-4 hours per week) and lately that all this work seems to do very little to offset the costs when you compare these programs with a for-profit center.

So, we've been grappling with all this as my son ages out of his current preschool, but will not be eligible for kindergarten due to his September birthday. After much soul searching and discussion and ludicrous amounts of angst we've finally made our decisions about what to do with the kids for next Fall when Eric begins his "gap year" as a 5 year old who is too young for kindergarten.

Both kids were offered spots at a fabulous private cooperative school. At first we were really excited about it. But it seemed a little sketchy that they were pushing us to sign the contract without giving us the 08/09 tuition rates. It turned out that they were raising their prices by over 1k per kid and the parent help commitment was really daunting. But given their (relatively) low rates, it seemed like a fair trade. But once I saw the new rates, I just couldn't stomach it. I wonder if this cooperative model is becoming outdated as wealthy families with a non-working parent who can handle 4-5 hours of work at a school per week become rarer. I suppose in Cambridge there's lot of families who have this kind of money and time. But most people I know have one or the other.

So, today we visited Somerville's wonderful free preschool and decided the logistical hassles of getting him there and back were worth it. They were very willing to work with us on my son's dietary issues. I think he'll have a good time there and it's pretty much the equivalent to the kindergarten experience I think he's ready for. It's technically preK, but it's a similar level curriculum to the 1970's kindergarten experience that I remember.

My daughter is currently in a very enriching, flexible and inexpensive family daycare and she is fine to stay there another year until she is ready for preschool. I spoke to the provider today and she was thrilled to have us for another year. Then we'll have our beloved nanny fill in the gaps.

This whole decision making process has been way more gut wrenching than I expected. The logistics of each decision (getting the kids there and back) were not nearly as simple as I wanted them to be. We'll be driving Eric to his new school every day, and driving to pick him up. But if we send him to the grammar school that I think we'll choose for 2009, we should probably get used to that. This is NOT how I was hoping to live my urban lifestyle --driving every day and fighting with traffic to take my kids to school. But there's two other families on my street that already, or will send their kids there (to the school that we'll probably pick for kindergarten), so we're planning on doing a lot of carpooling when the time come.

But in general, now that we've finally made these decisions, the albatross that has been hanging around my neck for the last couple of months has flown away...


Blogger Downpuppy said...

Well, you finally had one piece of luck better than ours: In our Capuano year, all the people we wanted to carpool with lacked cars.

Sorting hat says Healy.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Sorting Hat says Healy?

What's that, some kind of code?


9:19 PM  
Blogger Downpuppy said...

Its my guess at the grammar school you'll choose.

You could walk to the Kennedy or Argenziano. Only the Healy & Brown are worth travelling to, and most people dont think of the Brown.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Oh... That's what you meant. Suddenly I hae no idea how I missed that.

We're going to look at all 4. My kids are so different, I have to make sure if it works for the Boy, it will work for the Girl. But, my neighbors will likely be traveling to Choice. We have other friends (not in the neighborhood) that are going to brown this fall. And I've heard really good things about it.

I think Argenzano will be good in the long run of Wendy Jehlen gets her school off the ground, but the Street says, it's not great.

4:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home