When we first arrived here, our daughter was 15 months old. Back home (east Germany ) every toddler her age we knew was just about to start going to daycare, so naive as I was, I thought I would just come here, look at a few daycare places and enroll her right away.
Well, reality hit me pretty hard.
First of all, I totally underestimated the cost of childcare here – it is easily 5 times as high as it is in Germany, which means that unless you have a well paid job, there is no point in enrolling your child in daycare, because otherwise there won’t be much left of your paycheck.
And then there are so many different childcare options: nannies (which are quite common for infants/toddlers), family daycares, drop-in daycares, daycare centers, academic based, play based, montessori, and so on….
We looked at lots of different places, and the first thing that we noticed is how much more academic even preschools are here. In Germany you won’t find any daycare/preschool with a curriculum that involves reading/writing/math skills.
We strongly believe that early childhood is one of the only times in life that is not about academic skills, but mostly about playing and exploring and just being a kid, so we had a hard time getting used to the idea how childcare centers are being run here. (just a couple of weeks ago, we had our first teacher-parent conference at our daughter’s daycare and we were shown a drawing and a writing example from Mia – they looked exactely the same, but we didn’t even know our daughter could „write“ to begin with – she ist only 2 ½ years old after all)
In the end we realized, that as long as our daughter is happy there, it doesn’t matter that much, but we did look at differnt montessori daycares, because they were a bit more similar to the preschools/daycares back home and if they hadn’t been that much further away, we would have opted for one of them.
In the end we found the Arboretum Childcare center which is part of the On-Site Child Care Program at Stanford University. It is very close to where we live, but we soon realized that lots of other people wanted the same thing. So we were told to join a waiting list (through the Work life Office at Stanford University) and that it could easily take up to a year to get a spot. But we have also heard from others who came at the right time and only needed to wait a couple of weeks, so it is a matter of luck in the end.
Meanwhile we then needed something to bridge the time until Mia could start at the Arboretum, which actually turned out to be a very good thing for us, because we then found Fio’s Homedaycare. It is a home daycare, run by Fio, who is just amazing with children, and who really helped our daughter with the transition from being with me 24/7 to going to daycare – it only took a month and our daughter asked to go to Fio’s even on the weekend – which almost made us worry about our own parenting skills
In the end I am so glad that she went to a home daycare first, because it is a lot more intimate with less children than the big childcare centers. I can really recommend home daycares (similar to the German „Tagesmutter“), and we will bring our son to Fio’s as soon as he is ready.
Anke from Germany blogging from Palo Alto