As I mentioned here, our routine has changed recently. Henry is doing a few hours a week at asilo nido AKA Italian day care for ages 0-3. (Nido means nest.) After age 3, kids go to public scuola materna. A friend here is doing the process for her child. It involves multiple passwords and secret handshakes and sounds more difficult than college applications. Luckily, Henry’s asilo covers up to 5 years so we shouldn’t have to change in a few months.
Why did we decide to do this? Two main reasons. Number one is for the interaction with other kids. Henry does get to see friends at least one or two times a week and he has his brother, but we wanted to up the ante. Henry has been practically tackling other kids at the playground because he wants playmates. OK, message received.
Second, we wanted to give him a shot at some Italian. I was previously skeptical, but that kid really is a little sponge. He’s not getting much of an opportunity to advance his foreign language skills around me. This way he will at least have a fighting chance. (Some of his teachers speak English; we didn’t throw him completely in the deep end.)
Although this was not a primary reason, we did want to give me a breather as well. The jury is still out on whether this is really a break. Getting out of the house in time for school can be a pain. Henry is only doing two hours at a time. Granted, this is two hours more than before, but it isn’t a ton of time away. And I still have Mac. But getting out of the house is growing easier, and I’m able to do some things with Mac that I haven’t attempted with both kids. The idea is that eventually Mac will do a few hours at day care as well, and then I will have no idea what to do with myself. (“FREEDOM,” William Wallace styles.)
We certainly did not decide to do this for the free helping of illness we’ve all enjoyed. Once Henry started, I think we were all sick for about a month. Thankfully, that has evened out (furiously knocking on wood), but I’m holding my breath until the next outbreak.
Henry has been going for about two months. Sometimes I’m frustrated, but I think it is a positive development overall. Henry has a new bestie named Isabella. He has started looking forward to school. Here are some things that have thrown me for a loop as we’ve been figuring this out.
1) You can park your baby
What Henry is doing is called baby parking. I’m not translating. That is what they call it. Baby parking. This means you just drop your kid and pay by the hour.
Crazy, right? Technically, it isn’t as willy nilly as it seems. They do ask for you to have a general schedule. But still. Hourly coverage when you need it.
I can’t see how this would fly in most places because of required teacher to student ratios. If you don’t know how many kids are showing, how do you know how many teachers need to show up? I think the answer is either a relaxed or nonexistent ratio law here. Henry’s asilo claims they have a 1 to 5 ratio. I’m skeptical. Obviously, I feel comfortable or I wouldn’t have Henry there, but I don’t think it is 1 to 5 every minute of the day.
This works out great for us. I only pay for the hours I use. I came into it thinking I would do 1-2 days a week. They suggested 4-5 because they think a child thrives more with regularity. We compromised on 3. But if I don’t feel like taking him, I don’t. Yesterday, it poured rain all morning. I didn’t feel like walking around in the rain. We didn’t go. No cost to me.
I prepaid for a bunch of hours and they gave me a sort of punch card. I mark down as the hours are used. They claim they are also tracking, but I’d be surprised. Again, I trust them with my kid, but I don’t think it is the most organized operation.
Speaking of paying for hours, day care seems so CHEAP here. The hourly rate is 9 euro. 8 euro if you prepay for 50 hours. 7 euro if you prepay for 100 hours. You can guess what we did.
But the full-time rate also seems super cheap. Looking at this day care and other local ones, full time care is in the $400 – 700/month ballpark. That is 1/3 to 1/2 what we paid in DC. And Henry’s day care has an organic chef on-site, something ours did NOT have back home. So this could be considered pricey in other parts of the US, but it is a steal compared to DC prices.
3) Stairs, the bane of my existence
After about a month, Henry’s asilo moved to a new location. Everyone raved about the new place. Bigger! Better courtyard! So much light! And the building is lovely, but we went from a scenario where I could walk my stroller in and park it under a covered pavilion to STAIRS. Not just a few stairs. A lot of stairs.
These are no-way-around these stairs. You get buzzed in off the street, and there is a little landing. Then you have 8 stairs to get down to get inside. I end up cramming my stroller to the side of the landing beside some other strollers. Unloading both kids. Schlepping down the stairs. Repeat in reverse for pickup. It’s a huge pain.
The stairs mystify me. More than 90% of the patrons here walk and drop their kids by stroller. How are people not up in arms? A friend tells me that most places have stairs. Just because of the older buildings. All the day cares have it so no one complains. They are just used to it and deal with it. The vast majority of people I see also seem to be dropping only one kid. I’m sure that helps. Me with the spaghetti noodle arms though, I’m not making it up and down the stairs with a the double stroller. I would like one ramp, please.
There are other differences from DC, like having to change Henry to inside shoes when we get there, but nothing earth-shattering. The teachers seems positive, energetic, and excited about kids. That’s probably the number one thing I look for.
Anything else you are curious about?
Psst. Want more differences? Differences around the house here. Differences on lifestyle here. Differences on starting solids here.