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With today's economy, the need for affordable quality day care is greater than ever. Or is it?

If a parent relinquishes precious time with a child, they may miss out on important "teachable moments" or not create the kind of bond they hope to establish. On the other hand, if a parent feels trapped at home and not building a career, how happy will the child and family actually be?

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Features : Kids : Day Care, Yes or No?

Day care or home care, which is best for children?

In the USA, professional day care services for families started out to be helpful and beneficial - the lack of good quality care for children of single moms and moms who were family breadwinners was a real problem until day care providers and services became more available.

The day the tide turned from day care being a needed service to a convenience was the day some folks started to take a hard look at how mothers and fathers were using day care as a dumping spot for their kids rather than an important place to find child care and early learning resources.

When moms and dads started to leave children in day care to give themselves more free time the backlash started to arise from early childhood educators and parents who gave up jobs to provide their children with quality care.

No longer was day care a vital service to help working families, it was a place to corral the kids so mom or dad could have the day free and not take responsibility for their children's early learning experiences.

If mom and dad push a child into preschool or day care before age 5, who potty trains, teaches table manners, and encourages self-esteem? If parents depend on their day care provider to teach basic life lessons to their children, they may or may not get the desired results and attempts to change those behaviors may actually become problematic.

Children's basic educational experiences with day to day life should be learned at home, from parents and family members who can provide a nurturing environment rather than a structured situation for the most basic of lessons and growth opportunities.

If a mom or dad chooses to work rather than to stay at home for the first 5 or 6 years of their child's life - that is, if they decide to stay at a job not out of necessity but for personal or career reasons - he or she is probably making a choice to miss out on some of the most important early learning events in their son or daughter's life.

They're missing opportunties to teach from daily activities including chores and situations that arise, missing the joy of playing with children, and the bliss of experiencing the world again through curious and wide open eyes, minds and hearts.

With older kids, parents are missing the chance to help children with homework and discuss a child's day after a day at school and to monitor safety without relying on text messages and phone calls.

These are crucial moments you can never get back; they're so important to helping your child develop independence and fostering your relationship.

Most parents want their children to get individual attention from them - but if they aren't around when that child needs them, the day care provider must fill in - or not. Parents need to be the role models, the comforters, and the moral leaders, and those lessons can't be timed, they happen as a part of the daily routine. If you willingly relinquish that precious time with your child, you may find yourself with problems later on down the road and miss out on important "teachable moments."

Now this doesn't mean that that stay-at-home mothers or fathers do a better lob than those who work and place kids in day care. It just means that if you make the choice then you need to be fully aware of the possible outcomes and try to work with the day care provider to manage situations with your child in the say you would handle them. You need to evaluate your day care choices carefully, and consider the family and day care as a team.

This discussion only addresses the emotional and educational aspects of placing a child in day care when it's for convenience, not when it's financially necessary; we all need to do what's best for our own family, and if your financial situation requires that you work, then you must of course choose good day care for your child and make the very best of the time when you are at home with your child.

But my point is this: if you have the option to say home, and you consider the total costs of working and placing children in day care - emotional, educational AND financial, you may decide to leave the workaday world and stay at home or find a way to work from home to be a fulltime parent for at least your child's first 6-10 years.

It's an investment you'll never regret, and one that will give your child the best possible early learning experience she or he could possibly ever get.

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