Choosing a Daycare/Pre-School? Don't Look Too Far

Family Matters on 07.18.11
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Image Credit: Sarah Fernandez

When we are choosing a daycare/pre-school for our children, there are so many things that we consider such as teacher to child ratio, personality of teachers, academic offerings, and the atmosphere of the facility itself. While I know that the pre-school competition can be fierce (and more so in some parts of the country such as New York City), I'm of the theory that the kids who are going to be successful are going to be successful regardless of whether yoga and French are a part of their daily routine at pre-school. I love the idea of my kids taking those classes, but they aren't going to drive my pre-school choice over other factors. The top two things that we used to make our decision were if our kids were comfortable and happy at the school and the proximity of it to our house, and last week I was reminded how much easier the latter makes my life.

There is no question that our children need to be happy with the place that we are sending them every day. When it was time to decide where my son would go to pre-school, I had a 25-minute commute, but the company I worked for was struggling and I wasn't sure how long that would last or where I would go next. Despite the fact that there was a pre-school right next to my work as well as many others in the community we lived in, we decided that it was better to choose one of the three within a mile of our house. This way we could guarantee that my husband or I wouldn't end up driving in the opposite direction of our work for drop offs, particularly since we already struggle to get out of the house in the morning and to work on time.

It turned out that my next job move would result in me working from home which certainly helped validate that decision. But last week I couldn't have been happier with the choice. When my car battery died one day last week, I was able to pop my daughter (my son is now old enough that he has moved on to a camp about two miles away) in the stroller and walk her to school without having to wait for my husband to get back to jump the car. While it may have taken me an extra 20 minutes, my day wasn't off to a great start but it was a much more minor setback than it would have been if I had had to be stranded at home with a toddler and unable to get my work done and meet my deadlines. Obviously, not everyone works from home, but with technology nowadays, a lot of us can function from home with a computer and phone for a while when we need to.

The following day, I headed off to drop my daughter at school, and when I got there I realized I didn't have my purse (thank you mommy brain). Again, it could have been a major setback if I had driven 15 minutes to drop her off and realized it then, but luckily I only had to do a quick trip up the road to grab it before heading off to do what I needed.

Not unlike many daycares and pre-schools, ours is closed on major holidays and public school vacations. Every time my kids are home as a result, my friends who have children at schools that aren't closed during this time are always quick to suggest that I move my kids to their children's school, but it is easily ten minutes away versus the two minutes we commute to school now. Ten minutes may not sound like much, but when my daughter is only in school for four hours, losing 20 to 30 minutes of that time commuting is a big deal for me.

I realize that we're lucky to have three quality pre-schools near our home and that is not the case for everyone, and I think that if I commuted 45 minutes to work I'd probably be more likely to have them in a school closer to my work so that I could spend more time with them-even it meant that time was in the car, but I think it's important for parents to put location closer to the top of the list of their pre-school qualifiers than to try to be at the so-called "best" school. Our morning routines are already hectic, and I can only imagine how high the stress level would escalate if we were fighting against the clock much more. As a result we get a less stressful (although rarely completely smooth) start to our day which is good for everyone, maybe even better than those extra academics at the "best" schools.

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