So, I am moving to a new city (Portland, Oregon)…to a new country, actually (the United States of America), and I need to find a new Day Care for my two-year-old daughter. I am slowly becoming aware of the nightmare of this seemingly simple pursuit. Little did I know that child care in the United States comes at a great cost, both the money out of your pocket and the time and stress of finding availability. Anyone looking for an entrepreneurial cash flow should open a day care in the U.S. You will make bank from desperate parents.
I must keep in mind that I am comparing my U.S. experience to the experience I have had while living in Panama. Panama is a country full of contrasts. Grocery shopping, eating at a nice restaurant, and luxury travel all cost as much or more than you would find in the U.S. Other things, such as day care, cost much, much less. I pay $154 per month for 3 mornings of day care per week. In the U.S., the cost of 3 half days is at least $400 per month. Most places only offer full-day rates, which range from $700-$1200 per month. Wait lists are common and seemingly endless with priorities going to those with siblings already attending. A friend of mine put her unborn baby on a wait list as soon as she found out she was pregnant (7 weeks gestation). She was already #12 on the waiting list for the 3 month window near her due date. She asked how was this possible, since she was finding out about as early as possible. She was told that couples doing fertility treatments such as IVF had already been placed on the waiting list.
Waiting lists aside, I realize that day cares in the U.S. also tout a particular philosophy of learning, whether it be Montessori (constructivist model, student directed learning), Waldorf (humanistic, hands-on creative play), or Reggio Emilia (children control learning, learn through senses). Honestly, it seems that at the young age of two, kids will not realize much of a difference when these philosophies are put into practice. However, I do see the value in having a guide for the school to follow when creating curriculum, activities, and discipline practices.
My daughter’s day care in Panama does not follow any particular philosophy of education, nor does it abide by any student/teacher ratio regulations that are law in the U.S. Currently, there are 19 students age 1.5 – 3 years of age, and two teachers. Assuming my daughter will actually be able to attend one of the day cares in which she is wait-listed in the U.S., the ratio will be 4 or 5 students to one teacher. I know she will thrive in this small group environment, and I am certain she will enjoy the local organic snacks provided by Portland farmers (a common advertisement on Portland day care websites). She will quickly adjust to life as an American and forget the beautiful chaos of being in day care in Panama.