When my daughter was younger, I tried some in-home care providers...that turned out to be less than reliable. They were caring people, but they had lives and personal issues. The worst was showing up to a sitter's home on my way to work and she wasn't there! After a fight with her husband, she just moved out of the house the night before. No call... no warning... nothing.
I found a home-like pre-school that was more reliable, but something else just wasn't quite right. When I picked my daughter up, she was often staring blankly off into the ceiling.
Shortly after separating from my daughter's father, I found Windmill Creek Academy. My daughter has been happy, the teachers are attentive and the owners have worked with me through a difficult divorce.
Having a nourishing environment for your child while you are working is essential. While the 'right' school depends on your needs, here are some of the more subtle cues to help you decide if you have found the best school:
1) The first thing you should listen to is your gut feeling. No science here... but if something doesn't feel right, you should boogy out.
2) When you tour the facility, listen to the teachers. Are they yelling? Constantly correcting the kids? Or encouraging creativity and play? Can they control the room without raising their voice?
3) How are the children using the toys and materials? Toys should be played with, so they aren't going to be in mint condition. However, if the kids are blatantly disrespecting materials by throwing them around, it shows a lack of interest and respect from the teachers.
4) Are children purposely involved in activities or are they gazing off into space? Toddlers need stimulation to grow and learn. If they are not engaged in activities, they aren't learning.
Your responsibility doesn't end as soon as you sign your child in. As a responsible single parent, you have to stay involved.
1) Your child might have special needs or adjustment issues during a divorce or death of a parent. Give your child's teacher updates on their moods, likes or dislikes so they can be prepared.
2) Talk to your teacher(s) at drop-off and pickup. Ask questions about how your child's day went... I learned that my 'pretty princess' often spends most of the day in a dress-up outfit. I know she loves to play at home... It was nice to hear that they allow her play dress-up during the day. Who knows, I may have a dancer or actor on my hands!
3) Sit down and play with your kid once-in-a-while. The end of the day can be exhausting, but the simple act of playing with your child shows them how important they are to you. A little bit of play time is good for the soul too.
4) Offer to help out on events and come to the holiday parties, if you can. It is a great place to meet other parents and support the people that are taking care of you child every day. Participating in a Christmas parade last year was incredible. It was one of those memories that last a lifetime.
One last thing... Teachers take care of the most important person in your life, your child. Show your appreciation with a sincere Thank You!