Oak Valley Kids
Phone # 443.616.7921
What is “Family Child Care”? Isn’t that just babysitting?
Family child care is formal in-home child care, regulated by the MD State Department of Education. . We're very busy all day with a variety of activities while taking care of basic needs. We have play time and learning time equally. Very often, they are one and the same with valuable lessons learned through our play. For example, familiar, everyday events are used to teach (preparing lunch is used to reinforce math skills, for example).
How does the "child care" work?
The childcare is a home-based business where I am self-employed. I draw a weekly paycheck from the business. Gladly, I do not answer to outside owners, investors or franchisers. I strictly adhere to MSDE regulations, but I make all business and educational decisions, giving me more freedom to meet the individual needs of the children and families in care.
Does Oak Valley Kids focus on a particular age group?
Our primary focus is on the younger children looking for care, those 3 and under. There are many child care and educational opportunities for little ones over 3 years, but because of staff:child ratios or caregiver preference, the options for infants and toddlers are harder to come by. Many providers, centers and home care settings, think that the little ones are "easy" and there's really not much to do with them or teach them. I see these little ones as an clean slate! They want to know and do SO much and the provider just has to be in the right place at the right time to introduce them to a new experience. We can and are licensed to provide care for children of all ages and would never turn a child away, but our setting and materials may not be age appropriate for older children.
Why choose Family Child Care over a Child Care Center?
A child's health and safety is an extremely important, if not the most important, reason to consider Family Child Care. This style of childcare is just as safe, if not safer, than a Child Care Center. As licensed providers, child care centers and family care providers must adhere to the same stringent County, State and Federal guidelines. However, parents acknowledge the fact that the fewer people their little one is exposed to, the less likely that child is become ill. Center-based care may offer separate rooms, but the fact remains that large numbers of people (children, parents, employees...) walk through a center's doors every day. The average center has approximately 90 children. At least one parent drops off each one-- that's about 70 adults, taking account for some siblings. Then there's approximately 25 staff members. That's 185 people a child is exposed to each day!
As a smaller program, I have the benefit of working closely with each child on a daily basis. I see everyone's strengths and challenges. Two children, of the same age, may have vastly different skill sets and need help with different issues. I do not adhere to a corporately written curriculum or developmental expectations dictated exclusively by age. These programs, whether the be instituted in a center or purchased by a caregiver, do not have a particular child in mind. They are written and developed for the masses to fit a standard expectation. I watch each child and get to know him or her. As I learn about these children, I develop a plan with individual in mind. We will all be talking about dinosaurs, but the activities will be personalized for each child or a small group of two, maybe three, who have similar needs. The whole group will never all sit at the table, trace the same letter "M" and stamp or paste monkeys and mice to the paper!
Family day care offers a secure home setting that no center can successfully mimic, although many try. The family atmosphere fosters an overall feeling of safety and security. Homes are not cafeteria style or institutional feeling. Small, intimate groups are less stressful to children. Another important difference is that, in centers, children do not have the same caregiver throughout the day. Generally 2 or 3 shifts are used on a normal business day to cover all 10, 11, 12 or sometimes more operating hours. With Oak Valley Kids, you are assured that I can welcome your child each morning and see them off each afternoon.
You’re not a real “preschool”, so how will my child learn?
Our modern society does not recognize the importance of child-led, self-directed free play in the lives of preschoolers. More of today’s parents think their children need to get involved in formal games, classes, and organized sports. Their young lives are full of playdates, soccer games, ballet lessons and the list goes on. Children are groomed from an early age to be advanced and well-rounded. Many private preschools and learning centers support this by creating student portfolios and conducting assessments periodically to determine and document what a child may or may not know. Our children will experience enough of this pressure to test well and perform once they move to school-age and beyond. Imagine... most of our youngsters will be headed for 12, if not 16 to 20 years of formal classroom education AFTER they turn 5 years old!!
At Oak Valley Kids, we will not push. We will introduce and expose a wide variety of skills, topics, and methods of learning. If a child is ready and receptive, we'll work on colors or number or letters, we will develop his or her knowledge in these areas. However, we will not push.
Our society has become so obsessed with children getting ahead that childhood is being left behind. Now, a child is expected to enter Kindergarten with knowledge that was taught (numbers, letters, etc...) in Kindergarten just 25 years ago. Children in elementary school are learning math concepts that many of us learned in high school. Research shows that many, many children are not ready. Developmentally, children have not changed. Society's expectations have.
More and more of the same research suggests that free play may be actually healthier than the scheduled, structured activities and highly organized learning situations. These elements fit well into our, the parents, over-scheduled lives and eductional expectations, but there is limited benefit to the children. According to scholars like Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget, play is the 'primary occupation' of a child because they learn SO MUCH from simple play.
In a nutshell, play provides children:
* An arena to test ideas about their world and modify those ideas as they go along.
*A way to work out emotional conflicts in creative ways.
* A miniature world where they can learn about social interactions and interpersonal relationships.
Be assured, Oak Valley Kids will give your child a well-rounded experience without the pressure. Not having formal “lessons” does NOT mean that we don't "do" our ABC’s &123’s when a child is ready. We simply sneak them into our activities when the kids aren't looking. We will tailor the way that we teach and explain so that the ideas and concepts have meaning to the child. When appropriate education and play are successfully blended, children learn their through relevant and real-world experience, rather than rote memorization. The late Magda Gerber, a world-renown infant specialist, coined the term “edu-carer” for those professionals who recognize and respect the unique relationship between teaching and nurturing.
***In the case of a special child, one that struggles more or far exceeds the abilities of his or her peers, an experienced and educated caregiver that closely works and plays with a child doesn't need assessments, reviews or testing to see the specific issues and bring them to a parent's attention.***
Do the children watch television or use the computer?
Yes, they do. The TV is in no way on all day, but certain programs on TV (mainly PBS or Discovery Channels, when appropriate) and DVD's will be used to highlight or reinforce themes we are discussing. For example, the BBC's MUZZY program is used to introduce conversational Spanish.
Our children are growing and learning in a connected age of technology. Both public and private schools see the value of these tools. With judicious and appropriate use, television and computers have a relevant place in the preschool child's environment.
How often are the children outside?
As much as possible!! We go out several times a day, using the outdoors for reading time, gross motor play, anything! Our lot is fairly large and there is a balance of climbing structures, Dramatic play areas, 2 sandboxes, open spaces, and our gardening areas. We have a full, all organic garden where the children grow a varity of fruits and vegetables. They also have a full row of blueberry and raspberry bushes. For days when we need a good walk, we have a full size, 6-seat "Bye-Bye Buggy" so that all of the children can get a-strolling!
What does "child-led learning" really mean? Isn't that going to be a lot of "doing nothing?"
Not at all! Exactly the opposite!
We do things and explore themes the children WANT to know more about or themes that they enjoy and we can look into further. Following a pre-packaged curriculum does absolutely no good if the children find it uninteresting. Using a scheduled plan written by an "expert" in an office 2000 miles away leaves little to the imagination. If we're discussing the weather and the children are distracted by an insect crawling on the outside of the window, I LOVE that we have the freedom and flexibility to scrap all plans and spend the rest of the day going outside to find the bug, watch the bug, see where it was going, where it came from and find more bugs!! Maybe we can get online and research that bug and find all sorts of other bugs! I am there to help and guide, not teach "lessons."
I want to make sure what we are doing fits the children, we will see and do a variety of things... lots and LOTS of exposure to ideas, topics, NEW THINGS in the world of a toddler. We'll see what "sticks." Every group, every child is different.
Why doesn't OVK use a published curriculum?
I've spent years going over and "test driving" many of the available curriculum sets. We've sampled center based, family child-care oriented and homeschooling products. None have lived up to what we want. OVK strives to provide an organic learning experience based on the children and their imaginations. By playing with and testing and manipulating the things at hand or reading ANY book off of the shelf, we want the children to ask questions that are relevant to them in that moment. We do not want to mimic the preschool "theme" experience, where concepts, ideas or "things" are just taught for a day, a week or a month and then forgotten.
We want the color blue, the number 5, an airplane, a dinosaur, an octopus AND a loaf of bread to ALL be welcome as we paddle a muffin tin across the ocean and deliver a basket of legos to a baby doll dressed as The Wizard of Oz because THAT is exactly what the children want to do today...
In thay play we will insert discussions about how blue can be mixed with yellow to make the same shade of green that was used to paint the dinosaur. And, did you notice that we picked up the blue airplane out of the set? There were six, but since we've taken one out of the box, now there are only 5. And look, can you count how many legs there are on this octopus? Could you help count how many slices are in our loaf of bread? Wow, they both have 8! And no, the slices of bread might not go into the muffin pan. Can you tell me why not? You're right, the slices are too big and there are too many. The bread didn't fit but look at how you've sorted all of the legos by colors and put each color in it's own section of the muffin tin! That was a great idea! Now it will be very easy to get them over the water to Emerald City... Look, here's the wizard in his Emerald Green suit!! Hey, we talked about green a little while ago. Do you remember which colors we can mix together to make green? That's RIGHT!! Blue and Yellow! Oh, you want to paint a picture of the Wizard for Daddy? Of course we have those colors...
You can't plan a day like that....
Are you accredited?
Child Care accreditation is done through several agencies. NAEYC, the standard-bearer for early childhood education, does not accredit programs that serve less than ten children. However, I am a NAEYC (National Association for Education of Young Children) association member and have adapted many of their general policies to my program. I am a member of NAFCC (National Association for Family Child Care) and have begun the accreditation process.
Do we really need a formal contract?
The MSDE Office of Child Care requires a contract for all licensed child care situations. All money exchanges and transfers of important/valuable goods require a clear understanding of the transaction. Just getting a car serviced requires a service agreement! It is simply good business sense to spell out the obligations and responsibilities on both sides of the agreement, especially when we're dealing with the most important "valuables" in parents' lives!!
Can parents stop in whenever they’d like?
To visit your own child while he or she is in care, SURE! However, I do not hold prospective parent interviews or in-depth parent conferences during care hours. I cannot give the children my undivided attention if I'm in conversation with another adult.
Do you have or use a webcam so I can see my child during the day?
I seriously considered it, but confidentiality and security are just too important to me. With a webcam, parents can log in, but they would log in during the day, usually from the office. I would trust my parents completely, but maybe not the woman who shares dad's cube. She may be able to see everything that goes on in my daycare. What if someone in mom's office is a registered sex offender? They could easily find ways to retrieve the access information. The possibilities are endless, even if the site is secure, there is no guarantee the passwords or access information is as secure.
I have my cell phone on me at all times. Parents are free to call or text at any time they want. I give continual updates through calls or messages and I send photos and videos throughout the day.
Is occasional care available?
Drop-in care is limited to currently enrolled Part-Time children who need an extra day or previously enrolled children who need back up care.
What happens when you are off or sick?
Unless completely unavoidable, I plan my paid personal time (usually limited to 4 days annually) on Fridays and/or Mondays and I always inform parents my intentions well in advance, a minimum of 30 days. In the event I should become too sick to work or need emergency time off for more than a few hours, I will notify you ASAP, so you can put your back-up plan in motion.
Note: All of my parents are required to have a back-up plan at all times, such as another provider, a neighbor or family member. Fees will be adjusted for my emergency time.
Why isn’t your back-up provider responsible for this time?
I have substitutes for temporary situations but I don't keep an outside back-up person to "cover" the child care. The choice of a caregiver should be made by the parents. I can refer you to other local childcare providers but ultimately, all arrangements are your decision and responsibility.
Do you charge for the days children are absent?
Yes, I have reserve a space in the childcare for your child. I have dedicated resources to your child that cannot be recouped and I have fulfilled my obligations set forth in our contract.
So why does Family Child Care cost so much? What expenses could you have being at home?
There is so much more to childcare than meets the eye. Please rest assured I am setting the best price I possibly can.
Here's a partial peek at what affects your costs...