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Monday, 19 December 2011

Grades in daycare? Seriously?

Klara loves going to her daycare. Her best  friends Pieter and Robin are there, and she is happy to be and play with the other children. I remember when we first came to see the daycare we chose for her so I could write my MA thesis. It was recommended to us by a friend of ours, and it also was conveniently located opposite of our house. While I was worried to leave my (then) one and only child with strangers, I also thought that a daycare for 2 days a week could actually be beneficial for both of us. Klara, on the other hand, saw the children in the group, and there was a smile on her face from one end of the room to the other. The daycare made a good impression on me. It was tidy, the children played happily with each other, there was no crying and no problems.

Klara started going to one of the 2 baby groups they had there for 2 days a week. At first, I came to nurse her, and picked her up earlier. Gradually, I left her there for the whole day, and weaned her off. She was so happy to play with the other children, and didn’t want to go home. We also added another day. Soon she was big enough to be bored with the baby group, and joined the toddler group shortly after her second birthday.

And this is where I start to be somewhat upset about this daycare. For the toddlers, they had a rather rigid schedule where everyone did everything at the same time. The children ate together, slept together, played outside together. And maybe, such a schedule is not a bad thing at all. But at home, we encourage Klara to basically choose her own activities as far as possible. She sleeps when she’s tired, she eats when she’s hungry. We are not extremely organised people, so we can’t expect to suddenly become someone we’re not.

But it seems that this caused problems at daycare. First, I need my sleep, and I need it in large quantities. So, wherever I can, I sleep. Since Klara goes to bed between 8 and 9pm, she sleeps so I can get my sleep, too. This, however, often results in our being late for daycare. I have often been told off for this. The nurses say it’s  preparation for school, so the children get used to a schedule. Also, I was told that children should go to sleep between 7 and 8. The thing is that my husband comes home from work at 8pm, and it sort of is more important to me that Klara gets some time with her father than to get her to sleep at a certain time.

Same thing with my arriving late. I don’t work, and sleep really is important to me. So I get my sleep whenever I can, especially now that I have a baby who often wakes once or twice during the night and wants to drink. OK, so it disrupts their schedule and Klara can’t play before she gets to eat with the children. Seriously, this is not my problem. We pay for the daycare so so we could work or have some time for ourselves. The fact that they have some kind of schedule doesn’t really interest me, it’s their thing, not something we do at home.

And preparation for school? I am not interested in getting my children “ready” for school, either. In fact, if I could, I’d skip school altogether so they’ll be spared the bad experiences I had. And I bet many parents feel the same way as I do. I don’t know who invented the gap between doing something “for fun” (a.k.a. playing) and doing something because it is expected (a.k.a. “learning”). Children learn all the time. They learn through play, and through having fun. I am teaching Klara letters and numbers, and she thinks it’s as much fun as playing with her doll. It doesn’t matter to her. And children really will get enough time of schedules, classes, and whatnots so they don’t have to start early. Same thing with missing daycare parties: Klara didn’t go her Sinterclaas party, and will not go to her Christmas party. She will, however go with her parents to see her extended family or go on vacation to see something really interesting.

Today, something happened that upset me even more, and was the actual trigger for this blog post. As I was about to leave, one of the nannies approached me and gave me a sheet of paper. On it were listed various activities, like sleeping, eating, playing, socialising, speaking, etc. Under every activity there was an evaluation from 1 (the best) and 6 (the worst) and a short description of the child’s achievements.

At first, I didn’t see anything bad with it. After all, they wrote down observations of Klara, and they actually got a lots of things right as their evaluation was consistent with what I had discovered about her. But then I told this to my husband. I tried to explain what happened today, and I said: “Oh well, it’s an evaluation, and it has some sort of grades on it”. I said it. Those numbers were “grades”.

While I think it’s not such a bad idea to listen to the nannies and hear what they discovered about my child, such a grading system is something different. Seriously, Klara got a 3 because I bring her in late, and she likes to cling to me when I want to leave. Also a 3 for not using the toilet all the time (although they said she is interested in using the potty, and tries really hard), and a 3 for not speaking in clear, structured sentences. Seriously, people, she is 2 years old! She talks in 3-word sentences, and in 3 languages. She can tell me that her diaper is dirty, and to go to the potty, and sometimes even pee into it. For my understanding of what a 2-year old should be able to do, this is actually very good. I am proud of my girl. She’s doing great!

But the daycare doesn’t think so. Klara’s group contains children between 2 and 4 years old. Most of them are Dutch. And all children are evaluated with the same form, regardless of their age and cultural background. So, Klara is evaluated together with Dutch children and many of them are older than her. It’s ridiculous. It’s like grading somebody who just learned a language together with a native speaker. It’s not fair. I wouldn’t be so upset if the forms took age and background into account. But they don’t and so Klara’s achievements don’t look as impressive anymore but it’s not my point. I don’t want her achievements to “look” great, I want her to get a fair evaluation.

Luckily, as I now know, not all daycares do this.  I hope the next one won’t.  

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  1. Oh, I know how you feel, although I haven't had a similar experience with daycare, but I sometimes get frustrated with consultatiebureau about some of their complaints too. Not that they would grade my children, but for example one of the things they really liked complaining at one point was my daughter's speaking. Like in your family, our daughter is brought up with three languages, yet the consultatiebureau evaluates her not based on this, but based on an average of a Dutch child who is brought up with one language. I have reminded them a few times my daughter is also learning other languages besides Dutch, but they pretty much shrug their shoulders about this. Then again, I have never been seriously worried about her language skills myself, since I know children who learn multiple languages tend to start a little later and go through phases when they are enforcing one language in particular and so on. And now that she is four years old, she speaks two languages very well (and the third one understands quite good). She can explain complicated things with both Dutch and Finnish and I couldn't be more proud. :)

    Anyhow, I only wanted to say try ignoring their evaluating charts and methods. They don't know your situation or your child better than you. Trust yourself (like I know you do) and perhaps find a playgroup with less strict schedule. ;)

  2. Well you are moving soon. But in the meantime, I would have a serious talk with them. Pick your 1-2 main issues (keeping to a schedule, the evaluations, etc). I had some problems adjusting from one place to another when we moved and I was amazed at how seriously they took my concerns. We made some changes, and once I knew how much they wanted to compromise with me, I felt 100 times better. I could tell they really cared and we just misunderstood each other a little, and I've enjoyed taking my daughter there ever since. In the end, everyone wants the best for you and Klara.

  3. Dear Ladies, thank you for your supportive comments and advice. And while I am grateful they report Klara's behaviour and accomplishments back to me, they could pick a better way to do it. Also, you are right about multilingual children being evaluated using the same instruments as Dutch children even if it's not fair to them. I have written a blog post on that and will post it in the next few weeks.


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