The more time I spend in this field, the more I recognize the presence of those who quote standards and regulations that are within their comfort zones, not necessarily what's considered best practice or developmentally appropriate. Some things still make people uncomfortable. As an advocate for tiny humans and their families, I'm an avid reader and researcher. I've invested many hours reading materials about attachment and primary care-giving I strongly believe in mixed-age groupings where the teachers have the professional development and knowledge to support children over the span of their first three years of life.
I have three classrooms in my very small, close-knit center and I'd really like to change our program model from only birth to three to include a preschool classroom. Ideally, our two remaining birth to three classrooms would be birth to three. I want children to come into the center and stay with their primary caregivers until they transition to preschool and stay with that preschool group until transitioning to kindergarten. Dreamy, right? So glad we agree.
I had a conversation with my licensing representative and she shared that I cannot mix infants, toddlers, and two-year-olds in the same classroom because it's not safe. "Just think about how big some of your two-year-olds are and then imagine them with infants." I did. I pictured it. And it made perfect sense to me that they be together. Families do not consist of children all the same age, unless you've been blessed with multiples. We don't keep children from younger siblings or cousins. Granted, teachers will require a bit more support with helping children to respect those younger children and planning for such a vast age grouping can be tricky. But that's why we have an Infant Toddler Specialist.
Imagine my surprise while reading the standards for child care (dude, I read everything) and finding the following:
"Children may be combined in any of the following ways:
1) infants, toddlers, and two-year-olds may be combined; and/or
2) Two-year-old children through five-year-old children may be mixed in any combination; and/or
3) Four-year-old through six-year-old children may be mixed; and/or
4) Children of all ages may be mixed during the first hour and last hour of programs that operate
10 or more hours per day.”
I'm not one to fight with those who have the power to shut down my program so I sent a sweet-as-pie email asking for more clarification about this section of the standards and whether this meant that I could indeed group them together as I had hoped. Response is pending.
So I suppose the main point of my presentation here is that if it's permissible by the standards, I'm doing it. I'm moving forward and blazing some kind of trail because it's what's best for our children. I want to eliminate transition as much as possible and create a solid foundation for our children and families. Sure, it means I'll be spending copious amounts of time offering professional development and technical assistance to teachers, but THAT'S MY JOB anyway.
C'est la vie!