Moving from a Childminder to a Nursery

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In the new year, I was fortunate enough to start a new job that I love. With the new job came some pretty big moves for our family too, one of those being Olivia moving from a childminder to a nursery.

Olivia started going to a childminder in September 2017, when I started studying for my BPTC in London. I was commuting 4 days a week from Aldershot, while my husband was working through the week too. She was only 16 months old then, and this was her first formal childcare setting as I’d had a year of maternity leave while I finished my undergrad, and then the summer waiting for my BPTC to start.

She started off with a maximum of 28 hours a week, though because of Jamie’s job it was flexible which worked well with our childminder.

Come April 2018, she had a lot more hours in tandem with Jamie’s deployment, and in June it went to full time with the childminder when I started working in Reading.

Olivia was really settled with her childminder and had lots of friends. The childminder worked in a group with 2 other childminders, so although the setting Olivia went to was small, with only 3 children, she was constantly with a group of more children and engaged in lots of activities.

So what are the Pros and Cons of using a childminder as opposed to a nursery?

Childminder

+ The approach is really personal. Your childminder only has a handful of children compared to those at a nursery, and they get to know you and your child really well.

+ It’s a lot more flexible. If you have a part-time space, you may be able to add extra hours on as and when they’re needed.

+ Childminders usually have a wider age range of children in their setting.

+ They will normally take your children to local baby/toddler groups to socialise with other children and widen their own friendship groups and experiences.

+ Depending on the spaces they have, you can end up with your child having one-to-one time with the childminder, although this might not be the case everywhere.

+ The costs are usually much lower than nurseries!

+ Must be Ofsted registered.

– The one-to-one time can be a bit boring for your child, but they wouldn’t normally be on their own in the setting if the childminder’s spaces are full.

– You are at the mercy of when your childminder wants time off! If you work throughout half term, you may have to find cover, but hopefully you would be informed of their planned holidays well in advance.

– Your childminder might not accept government funding schemes such as tax-free childcare or childcare vouchers – it’s best to check! I was fortunate that mine did.

Nursery

+ The setting really prepares children for school as it is much more formal than a childminder.

+ There are a lot more children! Your child can learn to socialise with a class size full of kids, preparing them well for school class sizes.

+ You have the option of either term time or full time places.

+ There is no risk of your childminder being sick and having no back up childcare, as nurseries are staffed by a group of people rather than just one.

+ Your child is usually assigned a key worker, who they will have one-to-one or small group time with during the days that they are at nursery.

+ The children can get involved in school-like activities, such as sponsorships and show and tell.

+ Nurseries sometimes offer hot cooked meals on site, a much better option than a packed lunch!

+ Nurseries should always accept government funding schemes.

+ Must be Ofsted registered.

– Depending on the nursery, they may charge more or not accept younger children (under 1 year or under 6 months), so if you want to go back to work sooner rather than later, they might not be the best option.

– Nurseries do tend to be more expensive to cover staff and building costs.

I honestly can’t praise the childcare Olivia had from her childminder enough, and was really sad to have to move her, but with the new job I began working in a new location, down in Portsmouth, and on full-time hours it would have been impossible to try and keep her in the same place because drop offs and pick ups simply weren’t feasible. Plus with Jamie on ceremonial duties and due to go away again later this year, there were no guarantees that even he would have been around to collect her!

I was of course filled with anxiety and trepidation on her behalf at the thought of her moving to a nursery, worrying whether she would make new friends or not… But my little munchkin settled so well, which is a massive relief!

So, what are my tips for coping with this move, as a parent, and for helping your child prepare for it?

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, go and see the new setting before your child goes for their first day. It’s a good opportunity for you to see the layout, what their routine will be, and who will be working with them.
  2. Ask questions – as many as possible, so that you feel 100% comfortable with the setting.
  3. Check the Ofsted report. Even if somewhere has a grade of Outstanding, it’s important to look at when the grade was given, as Ofsted inspections can be once every 3 years. The reports tell you a lot about the setting regardless of the grade, including parents’ comments.
  4. Take advantage of “settling-in sessions” to ease your little one into the new setting.
  5. And finally, try to prepare your child for the change by talking about it. This can be difficult if your child is still quite young, but I spoke to Olivia for about a month about going to a new playgroup and seeing lots of little boys and girls, and making new friends.

Have you made a similar change with your child? Has anything else helped you to make the transition?

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Schooling in the UK and Denmark…

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This is a topic that has always fascinated me…
The UK, for all of its strict, formalised education system, isn’t doing as well as it should be. In fact, the UK’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results demonstrate that we have fallen behind to 26 other countries in Maths, and to 21 other countries in Reading. The UK fell out of the top 20 for Reading back in 2006.
By contrast, Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Norway and Denmark consistently achieve high results. As of 2013, Finland was the only non-Asian country among the top-5s in any of the categories!
PISA test results from 2016
So what is it that makes them so different?

“Teachers in Finland are given a great deal of responsibility and are allowed unfettered flexibility in what and how they teach. Performance isn’t observed and graded.”– The Guardian

The same can be said for the school system in Denmark, with no compulsory testing until the child reaches the age of 15.
In Denmark, children do not go to school until 6 years old, and complete their compulsory education at 15 years old. Compared to the UK, that is 5 years fewer in compulsory formal education. Children begin school aged 4, and since the recent (or now, not-so-recent) reforms to our education system, they cannot leave formal education, employment or vocational training until they reach the age of 18.
This has its own criticisms, most valid being that this practice only serves to reduce the government’s unemployment figures post-16, however, is our approach to education fundamentally wrong?
The highest achieving countries in the PISA league tables are, unsurprisingly, China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan, however, South Korea has also been found to have the unhappiest students, whereas Indonesia (though at the lower end of the table and a relative 6 years behind those at the top) boasted the happiest students in 2013.
Is the secret to a good education a happier education?
Clare’s children will be attending school in Denmark, however she and her other family members attended school in the UK. Clare knows the differences in education and the whole system first-hand, with Denmark being a far more equity-based education system than the UK and similar to Finland’s education system in many ways.
Denmark in 2016 ranked more highly than the UK at Maths, making it into the top 12 of participating countries, so perhaps the UK could learn a thing or two from the Danish education system?
Thank you Clare for sharing this informative post with us!
 
Schooling in the UK and Denmark
1.     Tell us a bit about yourself and your family
I’m 31 years old from Runcorn, England and my husband is 26. He is Danish, and we met online at the end of 2012. I am a student, doing a Bachelor of Education and he is a mechanic. We have 1 boy and 1 girl. Jakob is 4 years old and Skye is 2 years old. We live in the south of the mainland part of Denmark, close to the German border.
      2.     How did you come to live in Denmark and how old were your children when you moved there?
I moved to Denmark in August 2013 and we now have 2 children. I found out that I was pregnant while getting ready to move here. I was working my last shift at Warrington Hospital when I got the positive test. When I moved here, I was 6 weeks’ pregnant.
      3.     How different is the school system in Denmark to the UK? Have you made any school applications yet?

There are a lot of differences between the school system in the UK and Denmark…
School in Denmark starts in the August after a child turns 6 years old when they start in grade 0 (reception class) and they stay in school until 9th grade (age 15). After that they can choose to stay on for 10th grade or go to ‘gymnasium’, which is a similar idea to sixth form in the UK.School days are shorter for younger children, starting at 25 hours a week for the youngest and going up to 35 hours a week for the older students.

School is separated into subject classes from the first year at school, so each class will have a different teacher for each subject.The basic subjects in school are Danish, Maths, English (as a foreign language), Nature and Technology, Sport and Social Studies for 0 – 6th  grade. German is taught from 3rdgrade, then instead of Nature and Technology, from 7th grade, they include Science, Geography, History and some optional subjects that vary depending on the school. These are things like Art, Music, Drama, Home Economics, Woodwork, other languages etc.

Applying to school is very different, the child is registered with a social security number as soon as they are born, instead of waiting until they are 16 to receive their National Insurance number in the UK. They are automatically given a place at the closest school to their address and there is no need to apply. You can get this changed to a different school, all you have to do is speak to them at the education department in the local council building.
4.     Are your children aware of when they are starting school?
My son knows that he will start school after he turns 6 and knows which school he will be going to. My daughter doesn’t understand yet, but she will be told about it when she is older.
5.     What has your experience of the school system in the UK been like compared to the system your children will experience in Denmark?
I prefer the schooling system in Denmark. There is a lot less stress on the children. The motto of the Danish school system is “learn through play” and they do not have any important tests or exams to worry about until their final year at school when they are 15 years old.
The Danish schools have a lot of focus on group work and team building and I have seen how well classes can work together on anything from presentations to experiments to workbooks. Also, it is illegal to separate children based on their abilities, so there are no classes full of only the smartest students. Instead, teachers are trained to incorporate mixed learning levels into the work and classes are quite varied in skill levels.
Photo by Ian on Unsplash
Children call their teachers by their first names which helps them to feel more secure and comfortable when talking to them. There are no school uniforms here but the “bullying culture” isn’t really present here so, no, children don’t get bullied for what clothes they are wearing.All added together, it makes a school, a more relaxing and comforting place to be and children learn better because of this. This leads to a very high level of children going on to higher education and there is a very low percentage of people that don’t go onto the next level after they leave school.

6.     Do you think you will keep your children in Denmark until secondary school age (11+)?
We have no plan to leave Denmark. I am hoping to get dual nationality soon and we would like the children to complete school in Denmark.

Schools here do not have the secondary school age, they simply have “folkeskole” which goes right through from grades 0-9.
7.     What kind of school/pre-school provision is there for under-6s in Denmark? Is it normal to have children at a nursery-like setting for childcare?
Children can attend a nursery setting from 6 months old. They are separated into two parts, 0-3 years (nursery) and 3-6 years (kindergarten). Smaller daycare settings are also very popular here, where someone is licenced and paid by the council to run a small daycare with 3-4 children in their own home. This is usually only 0-3 years old though. These small daycares also have the option to take children before 6 months old if needed, but it is unusual for children to start before they are about 9-10 months old anyway.
All childcare is subsidised by the council and the price you pay is based on how much you earn. The maximum amount you would pay, if you earned over the highest wage, is 2700 Danish krowns, or about £315 per month. This would give access to childcare up to 48 hours per week.
8.     Do you find that parents’ attitudes are different in Denmark from those in the UK?
I think it varies depending on the parent. But in general, I think that the school system allows for a difference in attitude.
In Denmark, homework is unusual, so parents feel less stressed and less strict when it comes to school work.
It is difficult to judge parents’ attitudes when the system is so different. I think for a parent from the UK or America, the Danish school system would require quite a big adjustment in attitude, a few examples being:

  • Young children sleeping outside at naptime. They each have a large pram with a duvet and rain cover and children sleep a lot better outside. Weather doesn’t change anything, and children sleep outside in snow and ice. Only being brought inside during extreme weather, thunderstorms etc.
  • Campfires. It is quite normal for a kindergarten to have a firepit where they will (with adult supervision) make a campfire and sit around and sing or cook.
  • Day trips. They regularly take trips out to the lake, the forest, the playground etc. These are normal trips that don’t require signed consent from the parents for each trip. Consent is given for trips when they start at a nursery, but it is only needed once.
9.     What are you most looking forward to with your children’s schooling in Denmark?
I am looking forward to seeing them start their language classes most. They are both already fluent in both English and Danish so they will not have any problems with their English lessons, but they will start to learn German as well and it is so good to see how important language learning is.
From my own experience, learning French in school in the UK, there is no real importance to the learning, the main goal of language learning (and most other school subjects as well) is to learn what is needed to pass an exam. However, here in Denmark, there is a large focus on learning and connecting the learning to real life.Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Clare! This is so interesting. Good luck to you and your family in Denmark over the years to come!Have you ever been educated abroad? What was your experience like?

Mum guilt: I can’t live with or without you

Definitely not a tribute to U2’s famous classic, but definitely how I feel about this whole parenting thing sometimes… okay, more often than not.

I recently started university again full-time, and it’s incredibly full on. I barely have time to think about anything that’s not law-related. Except, when I’m there, everything I think about is baby-related.

Our recent settling in sessions with the childminder have been great, Olivia has enjoyed them and is always happy as anything when we pick her up, but it doesn’t make the guilt of leaving her any easier.

The guilt eats at you all day.  Some days since re-starting my education I have only seen her for 20 minutes in the morning, and it’s been Daddy picking her up from the childminder because I have so much work to do and can’t afford the distraction of coming home to try and study. As disciplined as I am and as good at time-management as I am, my baby is a distraction. Normally in a good way, in that I just want to spend as much time cuddling her as possible to make up for the time I’ve missed with her.

BUT

The screaming fits are a worse distraction. Far worse.

Does anyone else have a 16 month old who already is the worst behaved little screaming diva? Come on, she’s not 2 yet, those terrible twos should be at least 8 months away!

For the most part, her screaming is a normal part of our daily life now, and it’s something you become somewhat immune/deaf to. Or maybe she’s just reached a pitch that only dogs can hear (if so, I apologise to my neighbours and half of my street).

But it’s one of those awful situations where you’ve missed them so much, you come home and no angelic little sweetheart is waiting for you. Oh no, it’s your darling devil child coming to play, kicking and screeching and really making you wish you’d stayed at work/uni longer, whatever the case may be.

Then you see them snoring away peacefully, and back comes the guilt. Why didn’t I just hug her when she was crying and what am I doing wrong for her to scream like this? The truth is you didn’t hug her because she’d been screaming at you and started kicking/scratching/smacking you and that’s not okay, you had a short fuse because your brain is fried and what your child is doing should be classed as some sort of inhumane treatment, right? And secondly, you’re not doing anything wrong. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a game she plays to make me feel guilty as hell. They know what they’re doing, don’t be fooled!

So, I’m no longer a stay at home mum – to be honest, I was never home all of the time anyway. She would always have the odd day here or there without me, but never as often as this right now. It’s a huge adjustment for the both of us. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the guilt may always be there in the back of my mind even when it no longer bothers me.

For now though, every day is a struggle to be away from her and keep my sanity or to be with her and keep my sanity. And so, babies, this is our dilemma. Please understand and spare us mummies and daddies one night of respite, let us sleep it off and start afresh tomorrow.

Perhaps all parents are destined to be insane, just a little bit…

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