Preschool options: Peace or Grace?

I wrote this post in June, as I was trying to figure out our preschool options. Yet, since it’s Teagan’s first week at preschool, it feels very timely to share.

I choose to balance the best of both worlds, and enroll Teagan at Peace Learning Center on Mondays/Tuesdays and Grace Preschool on Wednesday-Friday. She was thrilled to back at Peace (no tears like last fall!). She had a fantastic first two days at Grace. She seems delighted to have different friends, teachers, and classroom environments. I was surprised that she had memorized the new Grace song after just two days! So, I think we’ve found an ideal balance for us both:

I’m once again at that place of weighing my child care options. In my ten years of mamahood, child care always been the most critical question. I’ve written before about Eco-Healthy Child Care, Child Care & Illness, and paying a “Second Mortgage” aka Child Care, so this is just another phase…for me.

I’m not at the fretful new Mama stage, unsure of what to expect (I was a mess when I had a week to first care for Kieran at four months old), but I don’t take the question lightly. A child’s formative years are essential. I feel like there are three important questions you need to ask at each stage/transition (my answers have been different for each child too):

  1. Where will my child thrive? Teagan is very social and needs time with friends. (She begged to go to preschool during the summer when we were home!)
  2. How much care do I need support my career and keep my life in balance? I feel like five hours a day is my bare minimum. Any extra time really ends up getting spent going to yoga, lunches with hubby or taking care of household needs.
  3. What’s the cost/benefit/balance both in the short and long term? Since the fall, I’ve basically been paying for full time child care, even though I’m not earning a real income. While the time has allowed me to invest in my businesses, the lower rate for fewer hours could pay off.

I only ever “stayed home” with Kieran from when he was a year to 18 months (I wasn’t planning this, but was between city jobs). Yet, once my kids were past about the age of 18 months, I felt like I couldn’t give them all of their social needs and they really needed regular social interaction with other kids (even if it was parallel play).

If I’m honest, I’ve always been too committed to my own career/growth to be able to focus 100% on my children, in a traditional stay-at-home role. I’ve wanted, and almost needed, space to myself. Plus, thankfully, my kids are all very social and have always loved going to child care/school. During the summer we get bored with each other, and they need everything scheduled to feel like they know what’s in store (that’s why moving last year was so hard, with so much out of my control and living in limbo).

I’ve always worked a significant chunk of time just to pay for childcare, and with Teagan, I’ve spent far more on childcare than I’ve actually earned (I’ve only been able to afford this because of the passive income we get from owning a post office). I still feel like most of that time/care has been worth my while, and is an investment in my own professional growth, even though I haven’t earned it yet.

Yes, I do pay for care so that I can go to yoga classes, Rotary meetings, coffee with friends and lunches with people I want to network with. Being able to afford child care has been part of my “Yippie Chick” lifestyle. I don’t want to apologize for it.

As I’ve toiled with this question so many times before, it comes down to how much time I need to myself and how productive I can be with that time.

We’ve had our youngest daughter, Teagan at Peace Learning Center since this past fall. When we moved to Astoria it was one of the first things I researched. Overall, we’ve been very happy with Peace Learning Center (See my Google Local Guide Review).

Now back to my decision at hand…With my older kids ending school, and needing to care for them full time and travel quite a bit over the summer, it only made sense for us to withdraw Teagan for the summer.

So, that leaves me questioning what to do come fall. Since she’s turning three soon, Teagan will be old enough to attend Grace Episcopal Preschool at our family’s church. It’s a Montessori-based program taught by two women who have been teaching together for thirty years. They have a fantastic reputation and it’s a beautiful play space.

The only hitch is that they only offer child care from 8:30 to 11:30. Barely three hours.

Between nanny care and now Peace, I’ve grown used to having care almost all day and I’m just not sure whether I can get everything I need done in three short hours. My “work day” this past year has been from 7:30-8:30 to about 3:30. The big question is whether Teagan will continue napping, giving me up to five hours of time to work daily. Like this post, I can still write on most evenings after the kids are in bed (on nights when I’m not too exhausted myself). Plus, I think I’ll learn from her and enjoy our time spent on household projects and creative play.

In the end, it feels like I would regret not sending Teagan to Grace. Plus, now that Teagan is growing up, there are lots of tasks that we can actually do together and she’s much more apt to play by herself with some attention interspersed. Plus, she is such sweet company.

Peace,

Darcy

teagan-cronin-peace-learning-center-june-2016

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