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Where did the ‘care’ go from child care?

Child Care vs. Early Learning Education; this has been on my mind for awhile, especially with all the talk about essential workers lately. What is the difference? How do they fit together? Do they fit together?

This internal fight began years ago. When I graduated first from Child Care Services (which is what Early Childhood Education was called 32 years ago), I began working in a daycare. I really struggled with the idea that what I was dong was not important. I felt that what I was doing was little more than… dare I say it… babysitting. I was caring for other peoples children while they were at work. I looked around and thought I need to work in a nursery school program to be valued (or for me to see value in what I was doing). It has school in the title and so they must be doing more important work in those programs…. they must be ‘teaching’. I had this feeling that the ‘care’ was not valuable but teaching was. I needed to teach!

Many years have passed since those days and I must admit I do fall back into that fear every once in awhile when I am faced with those days when the outside opinions seep in through social media and I am being faced with public opinion that what I am doing is not valuable; we are just caring for children until they go to school to be taught by real teachers.

I was listening to an older podcast session on  That Early Childhood Nerd Podcast yesterday. Heather Bernt-Santy was interviewing Carol Garboden Murray; Caring is Honourable with Carol Murray and I started thinking again about how important care is to the work we do as Early Childhood “Educators”.

One of my kinder-kids in my program was telling me last week that he learns when he goes to kindergarten (but not when he is here). I will admit that hit right to the core. Now I bet you are wondering how I reacted. I had to take a deep breath and step back in my brain. I felt I needed to defend his time with me. If a five year old felt like this, how many adults feel it too but just don’t say it?

Maybe it is a good thing that he doesn’t see all the learning he does here… I work hard at making this a play based program. If he thinks all he does is play, is that not my goal? I can go on at length about all the learning and growing he has done since he (and all the others) began my program. I can talk about developmental domains, the importance of environments, risky play, loose parts, etc… but does any of this matter if I am not caring or care about the children? So how does this fit in with my internal turmoil?

Reflection has been a real lifeline for me during the times when I get to feeling like care and connections with children are not valued. I can tell you how and what children are learning because of my education and experience AND I can also tell you about each individual child because of the time spent caring and connecting with each one. I know children need to feel safe and cared for before they will be able to really let go and engage freely in the environment and opportunities to learn. This is why CARE is so important in what we do!

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