Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autumn Angels

The kids helped me scoop out the inside of a pumpkin last week. Alright, I basically did it myself while they watched, but they were there for moral support. ;) They were just too grossed out with the goo. I carved a simple face on each side of the pumpkin, and we roasted and ate the pumpkin seeds from inside. Yum!

We've been continuing our walks, which are just so fun at this time of year, in this neighbourhood. Pacific Avenue is always so great for Halloween decorations!

We bought some little pumpkins so that we could play "Hide the Pumpkin" in the park. 

I posted the photo below on my Facebook page, and everyone kept asking why the girls only have one pumpkin, while Thomas has four. The girls kind of look angry about this too! But really, it's just the way they were placed on the table, and at this point, the girls are so busy eating that they couldn't care less about the pumpkins. And Thomas is counting them. (He is a VERY good counter.) My husband had a funny caption for this photo though: "Two new feminists are born". ;)

Okay, the next segment of this blog is all about pictures. A day of playing in the leaves at High Park. Bliss. :)

Thomas was far more into it than the others, as you can see.

And of course, we love to play Hide the Pumpkin, with our little pumpkins. Leila found one!

We bought two extra pumpkins, and stuck in some Mr. Potato Head-like pieces.

And now there are some shady looking characters hanging out on our balcony.

Pumpkin bowling! You know you want to try it!

Again, bliss. 

Noah, Leila and I made Halloween cookies on the weekend. The daycare kids helped to decorate them the next day. Well, it was more eating and less decorating, as always, but luckily Noah had done most of the work for them already!

There were ghost, pumpkin, bat and cat shapes. Here are just a few of them.

Phew, glad I got all these photos up, because you know I won't have ANY restraint in taking photos tomorrow: Halloween! That will be a long enough, photo-filled blog post in itself! Happy Halloween, everyone!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Unlicensed Daycare does not mean Illegal Daycare

Children. My life has always revolved around helping, supporting and teaching children. I have been a nanny. I have been (and still am) a volunteer big sister through Youth Assisting Youth. I have volunteered full-time at Sick Children's Hospital, working on the Child Life Unit. Later I taught children with severe autism. Then I moved on to teaching Grades 3, 4 and 5 at a private school. I hold a Child and Youth Worker Diploma, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology, and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto. I love to teach, and I love Children.

With all the joy I derive from children, it made sense for me to stay home with my son for as long as I could. Yet I still wanted to work. What better way to fulfill both these desires, I thought, than to open a home daycare? I felt completely confident in my skills, and excited at the prospect of running my own business. It was a new adventure.

I checked into the laws surrounding home daycares, and found the guidelines online from the Ontario Ministry of Education. You can find the guidelines for licensed and unlicensed daycares at
Even though an unlicensed home daycare provider is permitted to care for up to five children, not including his/her own, I started out with just one other child at first. After a few months, I started accepting more children into the daycare as I became more comfortable in my new job.

In the early days, I cared for four one-year-olds, including my son. I have to say that of all the age combinations of children I've had over the years, this was the easiest. Still, when I called an agency about about getting licensed, I was told that I had too many children under a certain age. I asked them to send me all their literature, so that I could educate myself further, and check if there were any areas in my daycare that could be improved, any safety issues I had overlooked, etc. Simply looking through the paperwork was very helpful to me.

Even though I did not qualify for licensing, I still did not feel over my head. I guess this is because the kids were all in the same boat, so to speak: I would load all four of them into our Little Tykes Explorer wagon, and we would head out to various drop-in programs in the neighbourhood. Or we would play out in the yard. Indoor time was even easier since I could manipulate the environment to ensure their safety. So I lost interest in trying to get licensed. I was, after all, completely abiding by the law, and I realized that a license wasn't necessary. It wouldn't have changed much (if anything) about the way I ran my daycare, since I was already following most of the guidelines that an agency would have set out.

When Noah was around two, I cared for him and four other children of about the same age. This was an extremely busy time in the daycare. It was exciting, challenging, and definitely a major physical work-out ever day! I felt completely in control of the daycare, and yet with the particular mix of children I had (and their energy levels) I knew that was my limit at that time. I definitely wouldn't have felt comfortable adding another child to the mix, even though, under the Ontario law, it would have been legal for me to do so.

Leila joined our family when Noah was 3 1/2. I took a month off after her birth, and then just took the two older boys back into the daycare for a few months. So I had 3 three-year-olds, and baby Leila. I remember this being a very leisurely time in the daycare, but I guess it was just in comparison to how busy it had been at other times. It was so sweet to see all the boys interacting with and learning from, this helpless little baby. It really was good for them. It was like a new member of the family for everyone. That's what a home daycare becomes: another sort of family. A daycare family.

When Noah began Junior Kindergarten, our schedule changed. We had to go pick him up from school every day at 11:30. The area where we would pick him up was gated. It had a playground and a front yard. But man, when those kindergarten kids got dismissed for the day, the yard was filled with chaos and excitement.

Soon after school started, I realized I did not feel completely comfortable about the safety of the children in my care, in this particular situation. I put out help-wanted ads and quickly found an assistant, just for our two-hour outdoor time. I have had someone to help me for this portion of the day ever since.

I have been running this daycare for five years now. I currently care for children of various ages. Gone are the days when I would have four one-year-olds, or five two-year-olds. It is interesting though, than now that I have this range, I do not feel comfortable caring for more than two children under age two in the daycare. It just becomes trickier with different age ranges and combinations of children. I've learned that through experience.

So, I have provided you with some background, so that you know where I'm coming from. It's time for me to get to the point of this blog entry.

Over the past few years some Canadian daycares have experienced well-publicized tragedies. It is heartbreaking to see a picture of any child that has passed away, on the front page of a newspaper. For me, there is additional horror when I see the headline so often attached. Usually, it is some variation of "Child Dies at Unlicensed Home Daycare". Suddenly, I feel unfairly linked to a horror I had nothing to do with.

I am proud of my job. I enjoy my job. I work extremely hard to provide the best loving care that I can for these children. It is defamatory for anyone to compare my daycare to one in which there were 27 children, 14 dogs, soiled diapers littered around the floor, and feces on the carpet. Really. This is not my daycare. And I am becoming more and more offended, and just plain fed up, that the media constantly pulls on the term "unlicensed", making me one of them. Unlicensed does not equal illegal. Some people are running unlicensed daycares that are illegal. I am not.

I recently met a licensed home daycare provider at the park. At first I was a little envious. Maybe I should look into getting licensed again too? I would probably fit the age quota for kids at this time. I was eager to learn about her experience with becoming, and remaining, licensed. But as we talked and shared our experiences, I realized she was a little envious of me. This is because the agency she is with takes almost half of the pay she gets for each child. This is atrocious. This nice lady knew it too, and she confided in me that she is probably going to switch to providing unlicensed care. She cannot afford to do otherwise.

Is this how much our society values child care? That we would pay people so little to do it? That we would insinuate that all unlicensed daycares are illegal (when they are not)? That to become "legal" (which has become synonymous with licensed), we have to take a large cut of someone's hard-earned pay? I'm not sure if this is another blow to feminism (as most providers are women) as well as a blow to the value we place on the early care of our children, but it has to stop. We need to start respecting the importance of child care, and respect the hard work that many of us ARE doing for children. As daycare providers, we are responsible for little lives. This should never be seen as an easy, and/or unimportant job. I'm sorry, but it is huge.

The Ombudsman for Ontario, Andre Marin, released a report last week criticizing the government for failing to ensure children's safety at unlicensed daycares. And I agree. When four calls are made to complain about a daycare, and no one listens, that should be illegal. When people are running home daycares with far too many children in them, when they are not following ministry guidelines, that is illegal. And it is not just illegal, it is tragic. When children have to die before we begin to value child care more, that is tragic.

From what I've seen, I generally agree with Andre Marin and with the legislation that is now making its way through the Ontario legislature. We should limit the number of children cared for, in total, including the children of the owner, but not to the extent that is being suggested. We certainly don't want too many children in a daycare, but we also don't want to be so stringent that we make it financially impossible for capable people to run a home daycare effectively. I think caring for six children under six years old, including one's own children, might be a better limit, rather than five, which is what the government is proposing.

And please, yes, have a registry, and a place where people can make complaints! Protect children. That's a no-brainer.

Most of those daycare providers (those of us with nothing to hide) have no problem being overseen. So sure, monitor us. Help us, the people, who run unlicensed home care, to become better at what we do. But don't micromanage. Don't scrutinize. Many of us in the business have become very knowledgeable in this niche. We might just know a bit about the crucial elements inherent in a good daycare.

Furthermore, if it's bad for a daycare to be anything but licensed, then why does unlicensed care even exist? Why not change the laws so that unlicensed home daycares are not permissible at all? (a silly notion, but I'm trying to make a point here)

And for goodness sake, if you really want us all to be licensed, then make it more financially advantageous for us to do so! Don't make us jump through hoops. Don't take away half our pay. Don't take needed, loving and successful child care spots out of the community.

Respect the important work we do. Support us in our effort to provide quality care to our future generation. Let's work together.

#unlicenseddaycare #homedaycare #Bill10 #Childcaremodernizationact #daycare #licenseddaycare #children

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Children: The True Teachers

Lately we have been opting (now and then) to stroll around the block, as opposed to visiting the playground. And let me tell you, these Autumn walks have felt like paradise to this daycare provider! The kids are often just so happy, adorable, and downright angelic. I mean, look, in the photo above, Thomas even has a heavenly beam shining down on him! ;)

It just feels so peaceful, for all of us, I guess, to walk (or ride, as Thomas often does) down High Park Avenue on a beautiful fall day. I am so grateful to be able to enjoy this time with them.

I love my job. There are times when it is so challenging; and every time it is challenging, I am reminded who the real teachers are. It's them. It's the kids. They teach us patience. They teach us that showing them love, in a moment when they are showing us quite the opposite, is far more effective at restoring their happiness (and ultimately ours) than any complicated technique found in a parenting book.

But while I find myself compelled to reflect on what I have learned from these, and other, little teachers over the years, I never want to sound all-knowing. Because raising children, taking care of children, and trying to manage their sometimes eccentric behaviour is, in a term, rocket science.

When I am most effective with children is when I maintain some humility and when I am able to reflect without guilt (guilt can really impede our interactions with children). I am best when I can keep at the forefront of my mind that although many things might be directed towards me, they are really not about me. I am best when I can roll with the unexpected; the chaos. I am best when I can focus on the sweetest and simplest moments (as this blog helps me to do). And lastly, and most importantly, I am best when I can nurture my sense of humour. They REALLY help with this! They are utterly hilarious. :)

I love how these guys, and all children remind us of the joy inherent in the simplest things. (I am so excited to jump in the leaves with them soon!)

Okay, that is all for my deep thought reflection. Now back to business. ;)

Here is Amadea doing our Thanksgiving craft. I had each child place one foot on brown construction paper, and traced around it. I later cut this out; it represented the body of a turkey. I also traced the children's hands on orange, red and yellow construction paper, and cut these out; these made up the feathers. Each child glued his or her hands onto the back of their cut-out foot shape. Then we added googly eyes, an orange triangle for a beak, and little orange legs. I meant to draw in a red squiggle beside the beak to represent the snood, but completely forgot. Anyway, here are the little turkeys' turkeys, decorating our front door!

The Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was Dea's birthday, so Leila and I made her cake on the holiday Monday. Leila had a blast with all the chocolate and Smarties involved!

Tada! Ahhhh.....Take a break, have a beverage, and admire all that hard work, Lei-Lei! ;)

We were not permitted to give Amadea her card and present until Noah was back from school. Here, Noah is reading her birthday card to her. (She adores Noah, by the way.)

Hmmmm....what to do next? I think Dea needs a little help opening her gift. No worries there. The beasts were more than ready to mean the kids were kind enough to help her get the paper off.

We got her a baby and a stroller, since that is what I see her playing with the most at the daycare. (She always does lap after lap around the kitchen, walking her baby.)

She was delighted.

I don't quite remember what Thomas was doing to make her laugh so much, but boy, was she happy!

Happy birthday, Amadea. You're two!

When her mother brought her in to our daycare that morning, she asked Dea, "How old are you?" (They had obviously been rehearsing this.) Dea replied with "Two old", rather than "Two years old." I decided that that would be a good way to respond to the kids in the future, when they ask how old I am. "Too old." :)

She had trouble blowing out the candles. It's funny, almost all of the kids in my care (including my own), at an early age, would make an "F" sound when attempting to blow out the candles. This is what Dea was doing. We called in Noah for back-up. As you can see if you look to the left of the picture, Thomas is also eager to help!

Yum yum! It was so nice to have her friends celebrate with her! I think she had a special day.

You WISH your hair could do tricks like this. That is all.

So in addition to visiting the Annette Street Library drop-in program (shown in my last blog), we have also been visiting the Early Literacy Centre drop-in program at Indian Road Public School. Here, Dea and Tom are splashing around at the water table.

Thomas and Leila later went grocery shopping together. Interestingly enough, they get their groceries from their very own kitchen!

It only made sense to then load the groceries from their home onto the conveyor belt at the grocery store. Adorable!

Another adorable sight: babies pushing babies on swings.

What a big boy Thomas is becoming! He now sits on the big boy swing! He likes very slight pushes at this point, but nonetheless, it is quite the milestone!

And here they enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch, while their babies nap.

This is another photo taken on one of our walks. Not the best shot of Leila, but Amadea just makes my soul sing here. She's such a happy girl!

Again....hello little sunshine!!!!

And here are two friends just hanging out. It takes a while for us to get around the block because they like to sit on every planter bed edge!

Halloween decorations have been popping up more and more. So fun to see!

The kids love trying on my shoes, and my husband Dan's shoes. (I often hear Dan muttering to himself that he can't find his other shoe for work in the morning. This would be why.) I love the randomness of this photo. Notice Leila in the closet, in the background. Such a mess. Such chaos. So hilarious to see it presented in a photo like this. Gets me laughing all over again. :)

Did you know how exciting EVERY item in a store really is?! These children reminded me of this when we took a trip to Dollarama one day.

 Thomas tried this mask on in isle 1, and it stayed on until we had explored every inch of the store. It was just so cute, how he would innocently say something to me, and I would turn to look at him, and see this.

 So, while we were all in the same isle, I was standing with Leila, about 10 feet from Amadea and Thomas. I was focusing on the products in front of me, and trying to decide what to buy. I could hear Amadea killing herself laughing, playing with Thomas, and I could see them in my periphery. Finally I picked out an item, and Leila and I walked over to the two monkeys. I finally discovered what was so hilarious to Dea. I had heard her repeating, "Ampoo!" but now I had the visual to go along with it. She was taking all the mouthwash bottles off the shelf, and as she placed them on the floor, she would declare, "Ampoo!" And each time Thomas confirmed for her, "shampoo" (c'mon shampoo and mouthwash are pretty close), she would break out in hysterics and reach for the next bottle.

So Thomas was Dea's henchman. And once Leila saw all the fun they were having, her impressionable young mind just had to join in the shenanigans.


If you are drinking a nice warm cup of coffee, please swallow before you view the picture below.

You're welcome. I think this wins the prize for the most random photo I've ever taken, though I'm sure there are some pretty strong contenders.

Enjoy those crazy moments, folks! :) Til next time!