Daycare - Toronto and suburbs
When I went to look for daycare in Toronto, I was often told that the waiting list is about 2 years long (for an 18 month old to get in). So, I would recommend registering at a number of daycares before having a child, in some cases I was told that people register when they first start trying to get pregnant.
When I looked for daycares in the suburbs west of Toronto, I called about 18-20. I am still receiving phone calls from daycares, not even that I would be at the top of the list, but that they are checking who is still actively on the list. From the 18-20 daycares in my area that I called, I was very lucky and a spot suddenly freed-up in about 2 months, I happened to be available when they called and take the spot right away. I did not receive another phone call that there is actually a spot available at one of the daycares until about six months later and none since. The other option is home care and placements are more readily available there, but one has to trust the care giver that she will not run her errands and clean her house while taking care of your child. We did try this option while waiting for a daycare spot and did like the care giver, as did our child, but were concerned that all day is spent with much younger children and that our child may need interaction with someone her age and age-appropriate learning experience.
On the other hand, the current daycare center my child attends seems very stressful for the children. Often the little toddlers are in the hallway, all crying, while being rounded-up by an overwhelmed worker, to go to the yard. This stresses the older kids coming in, who then go from happy to distressed, crying and not wanting to separate from the parents. It seems disorganized and I am not particularly happy with the daycare, but given the shortage of daycare spaces, what choice does one have. At least in the suburbs the daycare playgrounds are not at a busy intersection. It made mi cringe every time I though of my child playing during the day steps from cars on two sides of the daycare play yard. There should be a law setting a minimum distance of a playground from a busy road. During traffic, i.e. most of the day in Toronto, the streets were full of bumper to bumper traffic. And this was supposed to be one of the "better" daycares in Toronto. It was actually about a third more expensive than most daycares, with special attention to languages and education, which was fine, but we chose it only because we couldn't find a space anywhere else (ok, we did find one, but the yard was pure concrete and there were graffiti on the wall).
Costs: in suburbs daycare costs about $41-$45 per day. I never got a call from the $41/day, I assume those spots are extremely hard to come by. In Toronto it used to be about $55/day or more, but lately I am being told that the prices are more in the range of $60-$75/day. Not sure how accurate that is.
Grade School options – Public or private
Private costs about $1,100 per month plus after-school care, which totals about $1,700. From my experience with the private system, there is a wide range in the quality of education these schools provide. I find it difficult to rate them, since the information obtained in an interview is of little use. Best is to look around, if most pre-teens wear their skirts extremely short, one can make a judgement about the focus of the students and of the school. Did they participate in science competitions? The odd student doesn't count (credit parents in that case), good portion of a science class should be involved. The education is not "easier", as suggested by some public school proponents, by no means. For the most part the children do extremely well on the provincial tests, mainly because they do get more attention and better resources. Retrospective look at individuals I know who have gone through the public vs. the private system, the private system alumni seem to have done very well in life and not necessarily because their parents are well off. There is usually much more involvement by the staff in training the children to be responsible, goal-oriented individuals and to complete their work, which are important skills in life. The schools themselves were usually well organized.
The other option is catholic or public, which are pretty much the same thing, except for the religious component. We chose public due to finances and we will wait and see what our experience with the public system will be.
Registration went smoothly enough. The only drawback is that you fall within a catchment area of a school and that is your only choice, regardless of the quality of education within that school.
The bus information was supposed to be available on August 25th, but the bus website, which was supposed to list the bus routes was still blank on the 26th. The lists which were supposed to be posted at the school, of course, were not there when I passed by the next morning. The school office informed me that they “aim” for the date, but things often don’t happen until much later.
After-school care. That is still an open issue, a week before the school starts and the person responsible is "on training" until two days before the first day of school, so I will have to wait an see if anyone gets back to me at some point. If you wonder why I still don't have after-school, it took since about March to sort out where our child will go. From my previous experience, the after-care is usually full and parents aren’t given any other option but to either hire someone or to work part-time in order to be home early when the child is dropped off. The school ends at 3:45pm. In Toronto, a friend of mine had her daughter attend a school far from their house just because no school in their area had after-care spaces (how she got her daughter into a school not in their catchment area, I don’t know). It took from junior kindergarten until Grade 2 before she reached the top of the list (3 years) and even then she only got in partly due to luck. Another friend waited from senior kindergarten until Grade 4, having to hire a High School student to watch her daughter.
For more about our school experience see: http://outofthebigcity.blogspot.com/2010/09/first-day-adventures.html
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