With elementary schools going remote this fall, FCC Providers are deliberating: should I take on a few school-age kids?
For Providers like Jill Newell in Chelmsford, MA, caring for older kids is nothing new. This fall, Jill plans to enroll a few elementary students. She even hired an extra assistant to help with remote learning.
But on the other side of town, Mary Norman is sticking to only toddlers and infants.
“For me, it’s either one group or the other,” explains Mary. “With my hands full with little ones, I wouldn’t be able to give older kids the attention they need.”
But unlike Jill and Mary, most Providers are still on the fence about school-age kids. In a recent survey, about 50% of Providers said they weren’t sure if it was the right fit for them, but want to learn more.
To fully grasp the reality of having older kids in FCCs this fall, we held a debate for the ages (literally) on Nap Time Zoom. We gained insights from Jill, Mary, and some other Providers stuck somewhere in the middle. Linda Schumacher, NeighborSchools advisor, and early childhood specialist, also joined to share her expert opinion.
We took away six major pros and cons from the discussion and laid them out below. If you’re on the fence about taking on school-age kids this fall, keep reading to find out if they’re fit for you.
Pro: It can increase enrollment
According to Linda Schumacher, if you need help filling spots, taking on school-age kids might be your golden opportunity.
School-age kids could be a good option if you’re a Provider who has lost enrollments due to Covid, or are newly licensed and want to cast a wider net.
Take Sonia Frates, a Provider in Hanover, MA, for example. Sonia just got her license and has an extensive background in elementary education. During the discussion, Sonia says she’s actively considering bringing on kindergarten-level children into her program.
“It’s definitely something worth considering, especially based on my experience,” said Sonia.
Con: School-age kids need constant supervision and attention, too
Even if school-age kids are older, you still need to keep an eye on them and be available to help with schoolwork or tech support. Being attentive to their needs can be difficult if you’re already juggling a few toddlers or infants.
“They’re going to need a lot more than your WiFi password,” Linda joked.
For Mary Norman, this is a big reason why school-age kids won’t work for her. “I love going outside with my kids,” she explained. “If I had to keep an eye on the older kids who are inside on their computers, then I don’t see how I could manage outdoor activities throughout the day.”
Pro: Mixed-age children can learn from each other
It can seem like older and younger kids might not have much in common, but studies have found some benefits to putting kids of different ages together.
Beth Goodwin, a Provider in Fitchburg, MA, finds these benefits attractive.
“I’m on the fence about having school-age kids, she said. “But I like the idea of having an older role model around for the little ones to observe and learn from.”
Linda says the older kids can benefit from being among younger children, too. From her perspective, a perk of having older kids around is you can have them “help” with the little ones.
She suggests including them in planning activities or occasionally reading to younger children. Participating in these activities can teach older kids responsibility and compassion.
Con: It can be challenging to keep older kids’ interest
On the other hand, getting older kids interested in typical early childhood activities isn’t always smooth sailing.
“The older kids just get bored easily,” said Sandra Rhynd, a NeighborSchools Partner in Billerica, MA. “I have a few school-age kids with me this summer. This is the first year I have more than one or two school-age kids — and it can be hard to manage.”
Linda says it depends on the child’s personality. Some older kids love being around little ones, but others can’t be bothered and would prefer to be among kids more their age.
Pro: You can help working families
According to one recent survey, 90% of parents say their child’s virtual or distance learning at home has impacted their work life. And 65% of parents anticipate needing more child care this fall.
As an attempted solution, some are turning to “learning pods.” But these have drawn some controversy over licensing requirements and high prices.
But Family Child Care is both licensed and competitively priced—a happy medium for working families who need care.
Con: You might have to consider some extra costs
We’ve said it before, having the “money talk” with parents is never easy. But if you’re taking on extra expenses to watch school-age kids, you might need to consider it.
“I can’t help but think this is a different pay scale,” said Linda. “By watching school-age kids, you’re not only providing care, but supporting their education.”
For example, Jill Newell hired an extra assistant to help the school-age kids in her program. She says a higher rate or fee might be in the cards this fall to balance out the added expense of having more staff.
Mary Norman says she would be wary of charging parents of school-age kids more. “My heart couldn’t go there,” she says. “At that age, parents aren’t saving up for child care anymore, so how could I expect them to pay more? I would maybe charge them infant rates, but not extra.”
Are school-age kids right for you?
Whether or not school-age kids are right for you ultimately depends on your available spots, capacity, and experience. Depending on your situation, it might be a great opportunity or feel like way too much to take on.
But weighing the pros and cons above, it might be easier to make your decision. Tell us what think—would you be willing to bring in school-age kids this fall?
Let us know by answering the poll below.