As a licensed family child care provider, I knew that to provide the best child care to the families that came into my program, I needed to have the business side in solid shape. Operating a family child care meant operating a small business. I made a choice to open a family child care with the knowledge that I would need to be providing a stable income to support myself and my family. It was also important to me to support the families that chose me to care for their children. That meant having my door open for care as agreed. With good business practices in place my attention could be focused on the children in care and the learning opportunities I’d provide for them. As part of my family child care business, I knew I’d need a contract, handbook, records required by licensing, taxes, family communication tools and lesson ideas for children’s activities. None of this has changed over the years or because I use technology. What changed was the usage of my time and funds to develop and maintain all the records, care agreement and curriculum material. For me the changes technology usage brought to my program have been positive.
When I starting my small business in 1988, my first step was to connect with other providers in my area. I was lucky to find a very supportive group, so I didn’t have to totally reinvent the wheel when it came to my contact and handbook. I did have to get a good clean copy typed out and available to run copies off of. This meant lots of paper and ink for handbooks that were passed out to families that did not decide to use my services or that I decided would not be a good fit. That was time and money. I’ve never been good at seeing waste, especially if I had some control about it.
Like many providers, I also had daily communicate with families which included daily notes and a weekly newsletter. I used my desktop computer like a typewriter to type up those newsletters, daily notes, contract forms, and handbook. I then needed to print all that off. I also printed off photos that I added to 3-ring notebook style portfolios I kept on each child in care. Anything I could write out I was typing out in a word document or spreadsheet. Once printed off I was placing it into the filing cabinet full of folders. I had boxes full of teaching lesson ideas and directions. Shelves full of teacher books full of ideas and additional practice informational books. Today the filing cabinet is gone and the space the boxes and books took up is used for other purposes like natural science materials and art supplies.
The continual excuses about not remembering, not having knowledge of events or finding all my hard work (those daily notes and weekly newsletters) being left behind in cubbies or even on the driveway were frustrating for me. In addition to parental excuses, I was frustrated with all the waste in my time and money spent on these items which were for the parents’ benefit, more than mine. I began looking for alternatives in technology knowing I would need training to gain at least the entry level skills. I can tell you that today it’s much easier to access the skills needed and much of the technology available is much more user ready and friendly.
In 2006, I was able to find a local college offering a class on the Web 2.0 for educators. Not only was I the only family child care provider in the class (which I expected), I was the only teacher in the class working with children under age 10. Most attending were IT middle school and high school teachers or coordinators, and mostly male. They were interested in my reasons for being there and shared their experiences willingly answering my many uninformed questions. This class was where I was exposed to website/blogging. I had been following websites for information and ideas to support my teaching, but didn’t realize that I could actually build and maintain one without knowing how to write computer coding. The website platform actually did it all for you! This was a huge barrier for me gone.
The Journey Starts:
That Web 2.0 class changed so much for me both immediately and in the continuing years. With a blogging style website I saw a solution to my communication with both current families and potential clients. Through the class, I realized that I could really go almost paperless saving time and funds, while families would also no longer have the excuse of not knowing what was happening here! A bonus was I also found a tool for networking around the world, which has been an incredible opportunity for my professional growth. This was the beginning of my adventure with using technology to support my family child care business. There have been many changes in technology since 2006, and I continue to find parts of it challenging. I am comfortable with what I know, but there remains a learning curve outside that. However, I would not go back. What I have gained is worth the time and effort. Every chance I get I encourage other providers to give technology a serious look.
Next section: My 5 Guiding Points