Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Getting Ready for Preschool

Chances are that at some point in your nanny career you will be helping parents to choose a preschool. But do you know all the types of preschool programs out there? There are many different philosophies when it comes to early childhood education. Knowing the options can be invaluable to a family as you can help steer them to the program that meets the needs of the child and fits in with their family's beliefs.

Below is an article from the Parenting Press on choosing a preschool. Parenting Press has a free e newsletter and it is excellent. Be sure to sign up at their website Parenting Press Newsletter Signup

*** Getting Ready for Preschool

If you have a toddler and you're thinking ahead to preschool, you'll find helpful tips in Jenifer Wana's "How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child"  (Sourcebooks, 2010). As this mother of two discovered when she sought a preschool for her older child, there was lots that she didn't know about nursery school. "Terms like Montessori, child centered and co-op were foreign to me," Wana writes. "I didn't know...what characteristics defined a high-quality program." 

How complicated can it be, you may be tempted to ask, and for those in small communities, with only one option, the choice is often simple: go, or no go. If you live where there are many preschools, Wana suggests you start with such basics as:

- Cost (tuition plus the expected charitable donation or participation in fund-raising projects) 
- Age to enroll
- Your child's personality
- Your educational goals for the child
- Schedule
- Location
- Parent commitment

A major issue can be schedule: if you need full-time child care, you'll probably eliminate all those part-time nursery schools. If you have a child in another program or school, think carefully about how you're going to get between the two locations for drop-off and pick-up. (The "News for Parents" editor knew that the 15-minute difference in pick-up times for her two children would be tight, but it turned out to be a constant source of tension, because the older child's class did not end on time, and then the kids had to pick up their coats and backpacks and be escorted as a group down stairs to the school door to meet parents, further reducing the time available to get to preschool.) 

Location is a factor for the ordinary (commuting and parking), the occasional (birthday parties and holiday celebrations to which parents are invited) and emergencies (how far away are you when your child becomes ill or is injured in the middle of the day). 

Parent commitment is another important issue if you work full-time during regular business hours. Co-ops usually require parent participation in classrooms on a rotating basis. Parents also often handle finances and fund-raising, classroom maintenance and web site design. 

When it comes to personality, the author poses a valuable question. Do you want a preschool that matches your child's personality or one that challenges the child to adjust to something different? 

"If you have a shy child, will she be uncomfortable in a large, boisterous class or will it challenge her to develop her social skills?" writes Wana.

Ideally, she continues, you'll find a program that suits both the child's current interests and temperament and also encourages the development of other skills. For example, a preschool with lots of free play and some structured activities will give your child the opportunity to pursue his own interests as well as learning to sit still and participate in group activities.

Other considerations:
- Do you want a program in your neighborhood so that your children will meet kids that may become playmates for years to come?
- Are you seeking an emphasis on social and emotional development like sharing, taking turns and making friends?
- Do you want a focus on academics such as math and reading?
- How important is diversity, whether racial, socioeconomic, religious or sexual orientation?
- Are you interested in a foreign language or a religious context? 
- Do you want a mixed-age or same-age classroom? 

Child-centered or teacher-directed?

Wana describes the common teaching philosophies as either child-centered or teacher-directed. Child-centered means kids choose their own activities, and they learn at their own pace, playing by themselves or in small groups. Teacher-directed means structured, with teachers telling children what to do when. Most preschools have some of each in the daily curriculum. The most common preschool philosophy in the U.S. today is "play-based," or "developmentally-appropriate," or "progressive." A child-centered curriculum, it's based on the belief that children learn best through choosing the activities that interest them at the time. Three common child-centered programs are:


Montessori is based on the work of Maria Montessori in the early twentieth century. The focus is academic, but at the child's own pace. Children learn to cook and clean up as well as cursive handwriting and basic math using manipulatives. As Wana explains, a school may call itself Montessori without being affiliated with the Association Montessori Internationale (which she say more often follow Dr. Montessori's teachings closely) or the American Montessori Society. A school may also call itself Montessori without having Montessori-trained teachers. 

Reggio Emilia

Like Montessori, Reggio was developed in Italy. In it, the project-based curriculum is guided by student interests. Parents are also encouraged to participate in curriculum planning and sometimes even in school policy, says Wana. For more information she recommends the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance and the Innovative Teacher Project. 


Founded by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldolf approach has a strong group orientation and predictable structure and routine. The emphasis is on creativity, the arts, cooperation and working together. Wana says there is no academic focus. To use the Waldorf name, a school must be affiliated with its local Waldorf organization and teachers must be trained through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. 


Sometimes also called traditional, this is a more-structured, teacher-directed preschool focused on kindergarten readiness, with lessons on letter sounds and names and learning to count. Kids also learn such classroom etiquette as raising hands to speak. 

Assessing readiness:

How can you tell if your child is ready for preschool? Most likely, says Wana, if:

- She is content spending time away from you or her other primary caregivers.

- He can play by himself for short periods, can focus on coloring, a puzzle or another task for several minutes and can follow simple directions.

- She can participate in such group activities as story hour and circle time, and she can play cooperatively, understanding the concept of taking turns and sharing (even if she doesn't demonstrate those all the time).

- He can use words to express his needs and desires and ask questions.

- She can handle such basic self-care as washing her own hands and eating by herself. Some preschools require that children be toilet-trained, although occasional accidents are expected. 

Remember, as the author notes, your child does not have to demonstrate all of these when you begin the preschool search or application process; you can be working toward having the child prepared when he or she actually begins. 

Comment on this story: http://www.ParentingPress.com/ezine/oct/efeedback10.html

Monday, October 04, 2010


Nannies Across America united nannies from all over the US to experience something quite special. We came together in groups large and small to learn to do better.

That sounds pretty simple- but being better is no small thing. Any individual who has accomplished great things in their life will tell you the drive to do better is what can propel you to heights you never imagined. It is what separates a person out from the pack. To keep learning, to keep searching for new techniques and new ideas, to constantly want to improve are the hallmarks of doing better. The desire to do better has motivated new innovations, propelled great thoughts, moved mountains. Do better, pretty simple right.

We tell our kids all the time, you can do better. We know that it is the effort and the striving towards perfection that determines character and that by practicing and learning great things can be accomplished. Don't just get it done. Do better.

It is this desire that I hope you will take into the nanny profession and share. We can always do better. There is always more to learn. Things are always changing. We can find new ways to work together and support each other. Kids deserve better from us every day.

I know that there are days when I go to work and just keep going. There are days when my frustration is high and my motivation is low. That is when I look to my nanny community to remind me that I must do better. That I am working in a profession that demands it.

I am proud that more than 400 nannies participated in Nannies Across America. They gave of their free time to learn, to support, to laugh, to motivate, to educate and to remind themselves that they can always do better.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

You know you're a nanny when.....

You know you're a nanny when......

...you have a fairly authoritative, slightly scary "nanny voice" and it can stop everyone around you in their tracks

...you grab into your bag for a pen and pull out a crayon, a half eaten bag of goldfish and some tissues

...you heart soars when a child accomplishes something practiced often but never conquered until now

....you forget the name of the last movie you saw but you can recite every word of the "Cat in the Hat" and can sing all 15 verses with motions to the "Wheels on the Bus"

...you are willing to give up your weekends to go to ballet recitals, baseball games and art shows

...you have never gotten the tax deduction for "your" kids

...you are kid magnet where ever you go

...you love your job especially because of the perks like hugs, days at the pool, naptime and home made valentines

...you have several outfits and perhaps even a car that smells slightly of baby formula, play dough and juice

...you have days when you are a pirate, a ballerina, a dog and an explorer

...you are proud of what you do- even if that means all you did today was get a two year old to take a bite of broccoli

...you have mistakenly asked your friend if she had to use the "potty"

...you are faster than a crawling infant and can leap tall towers of toys in a single bound

...you want to inspire the future of the world one child at a time

You know you're a nanny when the ripples of your daily work extend out for generations. 

How do you finish the sentence- You know I am a nanny because......

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

What agencies can offer....

A while back I posted a conversation someone had with a brick and mortar nanny agency and expressed my frustration with these kinds of agencies. I need to be more specific however, and say that SOME agencies can be like this. MANY traditional agencies are quite the opposite!

A traditional brick and mortar agency can be very helpful for both the family and the nanny. But it has to be a quality agency.

A high quality agency will really screen all the nannies they present to families. They will do background checks and reference checks before sending the nanny out to families as an option. A high quality agency will spend time with the family, usually over the phone, and ask lots of questions to get a good idea of what the family is looking for and then MATCH nanny candidates to those needs and preferences. SO much of what makes a successful nanny/family relationship works is chemistry so it won't be a precise match in one recommendation, but it will save everyone time knowing a laid back nanny won't be presented to a stricter type A family.

Agencies are a bonus to nannies as they can advocate for you. They can help you get a contract into the hands of the family and then you can negotiate and settle things. Good agencies offer you support. They give you contacts of other nannies in the area, offer group dinner and training opportunities. They often have newsletters with valuable information and ideas. Agency owners have experience and can guide you in how to deal with families.

While searching online allows you to access loads of families- many of these families on the popular sites are looking for custodial care and not true nanny care. They need babysitters and not full time nannies. We all know the difference and the pay and benefits will reflect this.

Sadly, there are fewer good agencies out there than one would think. But it you find one- stick with them! TELL EVERYONE! They are an important part of our industry.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


You know we talk alot about modeling as a powerful tool for shaping children's behavior. We are careful to use good manners, to pick up after ourselves and to treat others with respect. Okay, we TRY to do these things without yelling idiot at the crazy drivers and dumping our purse and stuff on the table at the end of the day. But it got me to thinking... do we use modeling as much as we could?

When was the last time you read a book for yourself while your child could see you do it? We all want kids to grow up to be good readers. Heck, I would be happy if my 10 year old reluctant reader picked up a book right now! I remind myself that it is important that kids see that I ENJOY reading and that reading is something you do not only when you are in school- it is a lifelong thing.

When was the last time you looked something up? When you don't know a word or are confused about a news story, do you let your kids see you research something for your own knowledge? It is good for kids to see that you are not just a teacher but you are a learner too! And that you enjoy finding the answers.

Do you follow your passions? Take time to practice something that you are trying to master? Do you let the kids see you pursue things? And you can't fool kids- you can't turn it into a lesson because they will know you are only doing it for their benefit.

It is hard to remember but modeling is a powerful tool. Kids will become their caregivers in many ways- which includes the good and the bad. Make sure to show the kids thru actions, how you live your best life.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Babysitter VS Nanny

What is the difference really?
Now don't go getting all crazy on me. I KNOW there is a difference. But try to think like an outsider for just a minute. What is the difference when you explain it to strangers?

A nanny is there more hours? A nanny provides educational and developmental activities? A nanny loves her charges? A nanny will do the laundry, dishes and help out with the home?

Face it- some babysitters do this. And these days some babysitters have the formal education that many nannies do not. Babysitters, in these days of economic pressures, are not just the teenager down the street. They are often college students, teachers, and even nannies who want to make some extra cash.

For me it all boils down to intention. Actually, I have to credit Lora Brawley for the word, but it sums up what I was thinking so I think it counts!! Intention is what separates the sitters from the nannies.

When I go to a home to be a nanny- my intention is to care for the whole child. I am planning a well rounded day, providing curriculum, caring for the home and family and the health and safety of the child as well. I intend to be whatever that child needs in order to grow and develop into a productive and happy adult. I plan and come prepared for the day both mentally and physically. I make lists, work out a schedule and communicate with all involved.

When I go to a home to be a babysitter- I make sure that no one goes to the hospital. I make sure everyone is fed and that the rules of the home are not broken. I keep the kids relatively happy and make sure that the kids are not watching Jerry Springer before bedtime. I am basically a cross between a vending machine, policeman and a hall monitor. I don't make a plan (although I may bring some art supplies if I am feeling "crafty") and I don't really prepare other than making sure that the family has cable tv and internet for when the little tykes finally go to bed. Sure I could do more- and I might if I like the kids and if I am in the mood- but the intention is not there.

It is in the intention.

But what do you think?

Friday, April 09, 2010

True Story- MUST READ!!

Warning: What you are about to hear is a transcription of an actual conversation. It is shocking and sad. Please use caution when reading that you do not become TOO outraged. 
Me: Hello JOE. This is Susie Nanny. As you know, I run the local Nanny Support Group.
JOE: Yes, how are you? Me: Good, I am calling because we have been asked to coordinate a conference here in Cooltown, USA. I sent you a email regarding the details last night and well, I wanted to see if I could come in to discuss it w/ you further...
JOE: (Cuts me off) Well, Susie... we don't support events as these. In the last 21 years that we have been in business we have been approached on several occasions and our answer is always no. We don't want to me impartial to anyone, so we have decided to not help anyone.
Me: Ok, I understand if you cannot help us financially, but would you at least be willing to share the information of the event with your Nannies?
JOE: Again, we don't help anyone. And no I wouldn't be willing to pass the info along. Because my nannies are already well trained and if I didn't feel that they were, I wouldn't hire them to belong to my agency.
Me: Well, JOE... The NANC is a Nationally recognized agency and lots of exposure would be included for your agency. But the main thing here is that there aren't a lot of resources for Nannies in our community to receive ongoing training for low cost or FREE and that is why we are putting on this event. Don't you believe in continuing education for your Nannies?
JOE: (Laughs) Yes, that's called "on the job training".
Me: (shakes head) Ok, JOE... Thank you for your time and you have a wonderful day.
Now the names have been changed (wish I didn’t have to do that!)  but this really happened to a very dedicated nanny support group leader who is working to put on a mini conference for nannies. The mini conferences, called Nannypalooza, are events that cost no more than $25 and offer at least 2 workshops and some networking for nannies in a local community. Please note, that even though she was asking for $$ for the event, she would have been happy with an email blast to the agencies nanny database. But even that is denied. I am glad that this owner feels that his nannies are well trained- he must have a roster of hundreds of Mary Poppins- nannies that know everything and need to learn nothing! 
Sadly, I am not shocked at the way this agency owner reacted. Even though the website of this large, multi city agency offers “(the) highest quality in home child care services from day of birth on upwards.” I have seen this attitude from many agencies before, although not often so candidly shared. I think it is interesting that this owner believes that once placed nannies can use their charges as “on the job training” and wonder what parents would think of that comment and laugh. In fact, I wonder what their clients would think if they knew this agency wouldn’t even let the nannies know that there would be low cost workshops were offered. 
It is short sighted. What this owner does not realize is that well trained and supported nannies are easier to place, stay longer in positions, can demand higher salaries, and ARE BETTER CAREGIVERS!! Nannies are intensely loyal and will refer good agencies that support them not only to other nannies, but to the countless parents at the park who say “where can I find a great nanny like you?” And think of the client loyalty you would foster if you are sending this information to parents to relay to their nannies. 
This is the reason there are bad feelings about brick and mortar agencies. And the truth is that they are not all like this, but the bad apples have spoiled some of the bunch. More and more parents are flocking to online sites to do their nanny search. The agencies that survive will be the ones that support nannies, support families and really put their money and their time where their mouth is. The online sites such as 4nannies.com, enannysource.com, nannyclassifieds.com are quick to offer help every year for our conferences as well as supporting countless support groups all across the country.
Supporting continuing education for nannies is essential. It is the right thing to do and will come back to you in many ways. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Social Media and the Nanny

Should a nanny be updating her facebook status while on the job? Should a mom worry about this?

So on this mom's chat board there is some chatter from a mom who is friends with her nanny on facebook. The mom logged on and found that the nanny updated her status during her work hours. She also noted that it was not particularly in a time when the child was at school or taking a nap. She wanted to know if she should be concerned.

What do you think??
Personally, I think that an update to facebook here and there is not the end of the world. Many people update via cell phone or other device so it doesn't even mean that the nanny was spending time on the computer. Nannies are with children all day and often crave the interaction of a "coworker" so some interaction on sites like twitter and facebook can help fill the void.

That being said, there may be a problem if the nanny is posting things all day long. A nannies first responsibility is to the children he or she cares for. Spending some time on the computer while a child naps seems reasonable, constantly checking facebook all day while the kids play by themselves is not.

Like many situations facing nannies and employers this one is best solved individually. As a parent consider these questions-

  • Are my kids in school or napping for parts of the day? This is a good time for the nanny to have a break and use the computer. 
  • Is my nanny posting things about my family? This is cause for concern unless you are ok with it. 
  • Am I ok with the nanny multi tasking? Watching the kids on the playground while texting a quick update? Tweeting while pushing a stroller? 
  • Does the amount of time spent on social media seem to be excessive? There is a big difference between an occasional update and an addiction. 
  • Am I happy with the quality of care my nanny provides? If things are going well and you are happy then great, but if you have other concerns and this is one more red flag there may be bigger issues. 
Nannies ask yourselves these questions- 
  • Am I respecting the privacy of the family? Are you posting complaints about your job or personal information?
  • Are you sure that while you are using social media that the kids are still priority number one? 
  • Are you posting things you would not want your employer to see or posting often enough you don't want your employer to know? 
It seems to me the bottom line is that these things can be great if used wisely and when all parties are in agreement. Just yesterday a twitter friend of mine shared a great link to a baby owl's nest web cam to share with the kids. A great resource!! But if you as a parent are concerned, talk to your nanny. Share your concerns and ask your nanny some questions. Work together to make sure that everyone is happy with your family's policies. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hiring an Unemployed nanny can save parents money!

News from Breedlove and Associates
HIRE Act Signed Into Law
Good News for Many of Your Families and Nannies!
Yesterday President Obama signed into law a new job creation act entitled Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE Act).  The HIRE Act will reduce the cost for your families who hire a qualified worker(s) after February 3, 2010 (a qualified worker is defined as anyone who has worked 40 hours or less in the 60 days preceding employment).
Those families who hire a qualified worker(s) will be entitled to an exemption on the employer portion of the Social Security tax.  The 6.2% exemption applies to all wages paid in 2010 between the dates of March 19 and December 31.
Note: Employers will still be required to pay Medicare (1.45%) as well as Unemployment and any other applicable state taxes, but the HIRE Act will reduce the employer’s payroll tax obligation by more than 60%.
Logistically, families will need to get their new employee to sign an affidavit stating that he/she has been unemployed or underemployed per the HIRE Act qualifications.  Families will then be required to report the New Hire and deduct the Employer Social Security Tax from their estimated federal payments throughout the rest of the year.  Obviously, those families who join our service can rest assured that we will take care of all these details on their behalf.
If you have any questions about the new law, please contact us.  In the meantime, we’ll be updating our Payroll Calculator at www.breedlove-online.com in the coming days.  As always, we also stand ready to provide each of your families with a complimentary, no-obligation consultation to discuss this and other tax, legal and budgeting issues that may affect them.
For assistance and support, please contact (888) 273-3356 or clientservice@breedlove-online.com

Friday, February 19, 2010

Privacy and the Laptops- A Cautionary Tale

In school we read 1984 and learned about Big Brother. But local high school kids learned that Big Brother is always watching first hand. My local school district, Lower Merion in PA, has made international news as it was called out with a class action lawsuit for "spying" on students. 

Lower Merion received a grant so that all the students in the school could have a laptop computer. This would allow students to access the schools resources and work on projects, papers, etc. 24/7. The laptops belong to the school but the student has possession for the year. But one student was called to the vice principals office in Nov. to be reprimanded for questionable behavior that was caught in a still captured from his webcam. No students or parents were informed that the school has the power to remotely activate these webcams and monitor what they see. It was only when this student was called to the office for his behavior at home that people found out these cameras could be turned on remotely by the school. 

Now don't get me wrong, there are many issues with cyber privacy that we as parents, nannies, and individuals must wrestle with. I check the emails, downloads, text messages etc.. of my 13 year old charge. I want to know that she is safe. But I am entrusted by her parents to do this. And I tell her I am doing it. Of course a tech savvy kid could then erase things she didn't want me to see so I always wonder if it would be better not to tell. 

The school certainly has the right to make sure that the laptops are being used appropriately. But does that mean they have the right to turn these cameras on without student's knowledge or consent? And does the administration of a school have the right to punish or even address behavior of a student in their own home? No one is saying what the "questionable" behavior was that was caught on tape. It could be drug use. Would that make this ok? 

No. In my opinion, we have to draw the line somewhere with this issue of privacy vs. safety for our kids. But it is a fine line and we must define it carefully. What do you think? 

- Sue Downey