Parents with young children often have many questions when searching for the best care options. The first priority is to make sure that your child will be safe at any program you consider. Be sure only to consider daycare or early education programs that are properly licensed by the state of California. The second consideration should be about the benefits your child will receive from the program you choose. The type and quality of programs available for pre-kindergarten aged children can vary considerably. Some programs are nothing more than extended playdates while others provide developmentally appropriate education. Two of the main care options you will find for your young child are daycare and private early education programs. There are some important differences between the two types of programs. Understanding what those differences are will help you make an informed decision about where to enroll your child.
Goals for the children
Daycare centers and private early education programs both provide children with opportunities for socialization. Also, both types of programs can meet the physical needs of the children in attendance. If you want a program that will care for the physical needs of your child and provide opportunities for interaction with other children, then either daycare or a private education program will work. The main goal of most daycare programs is to ensure that the physical and social needs of each child are met. Private early education programs have additional goals of introducing students to the classroom environment and laying a solid educational foundation.
Training of the staff
In the state of California, teachers in any licensed childcare center are required to have a minimum of twelve early childhood education units. The teachers in daycare centers and private early education programs are both required to meet these standards. Private programs typically require that headteachers meet more than the state-required minimums. For example, in Montessori programs teachers and assistants often have Montessori credentials, and many have also completed a post-secondary education program.
Preparation for the future
Both daycare and early childhood education programs can help get students ready to enter kindergarten. Learning to interact with others, walk in a line, listen when the teacher is talking, and clean up after oneself are all skills that are generally taught in daycare and private programs. However, you can find private programs that are much more intentional in the way they prepare students for the future. An intentionally designed early childhood program will not only prepare the student for success in the classroom but also in life. For example, Montessori programs are designed to help students – starting with the youngest group – become independent and lifelong learners. This program is done by providing students with opportunities to engage in hands-on learning in practical life activities, sensorial exploration, art media exploration, pre-reading/pre-math experiences, and language development.
The differences between daycare and private early education will be evident if you make time to observe a class at each. As you consider the different options, think about the short and long-term goals you have for your child. Does daycare or a private early education program align more closely with the goals you have for your child?