Thursday, February 26, 2009

Daycare Centers and Preschools in Koramangala, Bangalore

So I have now officially joined the bandwagon of "paranoid moms" - not just being paranoid about daycares and preschools myself but spreading this fever to all the friends around me who are moms to kids in a similar age group as mine! Ain't I so evil ;) heeheehee

Nyways, it all started with a job interview I was actively pursuing. And the decision of whether I should take up the job if offered weighed largely on whether I would be able to find a very good home away from home for little N. In the US, I was able to work without much guilt coz I had a wonderful nanny who loved N just like she was her own child. But here, I am yet to find either a nanny or a daycare who will give her the love, warmth, intellectual stimulation and hygeine all at the same time. So over the past few weeks, I have been spending a lot of time each day researching and visiting daycare centers and preschools around our neighborhood in Bangalore. Hauling a toddler around to each facility is in itself a huge pain - forget coming home, thinking, comparing and racking my brain to figure out what is good or bad about each place and what are the options my kiddo has. So I thought I'd do this in written so that it gives me some clarity and also help out some of you who might be looking for this information out there.

This analysis is purely my opinion based on my personal research and talking to a lot of folks whose kids go to many of these places listed here.

I have finally begun to understand a little bit about the early years educational system here. Figured out that Daycare is a term given to something like babysitting where your kid is basically in their care, being fed and kind of hangs out in the premises but not necessarily with a structured routine. Pre-School is more of a structured program where they have an hour of two of instructor led activities. Pre-school (also called Playschool) starts at age 1 year 10 months at most places. When the kid turns 2.5 years old, you have more options for him/her. You can continue to keep them in the pre-school or opt for a Montessori. Montessoris generally accept kids at the age of 2.5 and continue their education upto 6 years of age. So your kid can either be in a pre-school (which is the traditional Playgroup, Nursery, LKG, UKG) or a Montessori upto the age of 6. Or you can pull him out of either and admit him to a high school (which offers education upto grade 10 or 12) for LKG at around 4.5 years of age. You can pretty much do this from a Pre-school to a regular school whenever you prefer (LKG or UKG or 1st standard) but Montessoris generally recommend children to stay on for atleast 3 years to obtain the full benefits of the Montessori method. And some believe that research has proven that kids who went through the Montessori program in their early years have grown up to be smarter.

Anyways, so here is a listing of all the daycares, pre-schools and montessoris I have visited, heard of or done some research on in Koramangala, Bangalore. Hope this helps atleast some of you who are looking for such consolidated information online.

1. Little Elly - This was the first ever place I visited so was not quite sure what questions to ask and what to look for etc. But after talking to the management there, I was pretty satisfied with the way they did things around there. The only thing that bothered me was that their toddler program (which is what my N would have gone to then) was only for 2 hours each day. I was really looking for a place that would keep them for 3-4 hours so that they can bond, socialize and get a feel of spending a good amount of time away from mommy. That way I could ease her into a full time program if I wanted to start working soon. Other than that, I liked their facilities, teachers and the overall hygiene.
  • Pros: They do have daycare facilities after the child's school is done. So after 9-11am, the child can still stay there upto 6:30pm (daycare charges extra). Huge plus for working parents.
  • Cons: If all you want is a playschool, they only run it for 2 hours per day. Paying around 30K for 2 hours per day seems a bit too much.
2. Child-Care Montessori - This place has been running its Montessori Pre School in 5th Block Koramangala for over a year and had recently opened up their Day Care center in 3rd block, Koramangala which is much closer to our place. So it sounded great since it is a Montessori cum Daycare center which means they accept children as young as 3 months of age. Obviously at that age, they would be treated as daycare children but if they continue there for a while, they will automatically be registered for the Montessori education program at 2.5 years of age.
  • Pros: I visited only their Day Care center which I really liked. They have very clean premises (great hygeine ranks very high in my list) and have good equipment overall for infants - such as good quality cribs, toddler beds, toys (indoor and outdoor). I also loved the folks running this place, their thoughts and philosophy.
  • Cons: I did not really like that my child at 1.8 years of age will be hanging out at the daycare center which was still so new that it did not really have a lot of other kids her age to socialize with. It also did not have a structured routine as such for this age group so was more like a daycare where they would pretty much do what they feel like and hang out with a maid most of the time. If I was working fulltime though, this might be a decent place to leave my kid for the time being.
3. KinderKare - This is primarily a home based day care which accepts kids around 2 years of age. They have a 3 hour program for these toddlers and they heavily encourage free play.
  • Pros: I liked the fact that they have a total of around 30 kids total in the age group from 2 to 4.5 years of age. All of these kids spend most of their time together so it is more like a montessori environment with some structure. I loved the 2 ladies who run this place and their overall attitude of doing it more for a passion than making money in the business. They seemed very understanding and flexible to accomodate these little ones totally understanding that they are not used to a routine of any kind yet since this is their first school ever. I think they will be ideal for my little N's first school and ideal for me as well since this is a stone's throw away from my place. So no putting her in a car seat and driving her to school every morning. All I have to do is enjoy a nice 5 minute walk.
  • Cons: They only offer a 3 hour program and do not have a full day daycare offering. So not an ideal place for working parents.
4. Vilma's Daycare - This is small cozy little daycare run by a nice lady who runs it in a home (does not necessarily live there though). They accept infants as young as 3 months as well and have a few teachers for the toddlers. I was not too keen on this place as it did not seem big enough for me (all the kids hung out in one living room for play time, meal time, reading time etc.) They said they spend an hour outdoors each day in a nearby park. But as I mentioned earlier, I have a high hygeine standard and this place did not fare too well for me in that department.

5. Planet Kids - Great huge premises. I should say by far the best I have seen in Koramangala. They have a huge place with all sorts of outdoor activities including things such as a splash pool. Indoors, they have a huge ball pit, a media room (with a huge flat screen TV) and a computer lab as well! So facilities wise the place ranked # 1 in my rating but I was not too impressed by their management and their overall attitude.
  • Pros: Great campus. Have various locations in Bangalore so you can transfer your child to a nearby location if you move. Also have full time daycare facilities for working parents.
  • Cons: Management did not show too much understanding and flexibility for kids who are going to a school for the first time ever. I am also not a huge fan of putting kids in front of a TV or computer as at this young an age.
6. Little Paradise - Is a preschool as well as daycare center.
  • Pros: Offers day care facilities so is a plus for working parents.
  • Cons: Heavily overcrowded. The daycare area is not seperate so infants sleeping are surrounded by playing toddlers all around.
7. Little Feat Montessori House of Children - I have personally not visited this facility since they do not accept kids younger than 2.5 years of age. But from all that I have heard and researched, this Montessori has nothing but good reviews all around. I have a lot of friends whose kids go there and have only heard good things about the people who run this place and the overall reputation, their attitude towards kids, etc. The only con I have heard is that they have 10 classes running but their facilities are not very huge both for indoor and outdoor play.

8. Head Start Montessori House of Children - I have not visited this facility either since they too do not accept kids younger than 2.5 years of age. But again, this place has great reviews from all that I have read about it. The only thing is that getting an admission here is next to impossible - they fill up with siblings of existing kids one or more years in advance!

9. Eurokids - Not visited this school either but have friends whose kids go here and are extremely happy about the place, teachers and curriculum. The big pro is that they have presence all over India so if you move around a lot, this is certainly beneficial for you.

10. Vivaa International - Not visited this place myself but have a few friends whose kids go there. Have heard mixed reviews about this place about their management of kids. The pro is that they are a Montessori which offers day care facilities as well so your kid can either spend the day here if you are working or go here after school for the remainder of the day.

11. Roots to Wings -This is a new chain of pre-schools owned and run by the Singapore based company Educomp. I was very interested in this since they claim to be very different from the rest in their philosophy and curriculum so thought why not check it out.

  • Pros: The pro I liked was that they do accept kids at a very young age (around 1.5 years). And since they are so new, they do offer trial weeks where you can send the kids for 2 weeks free of charge to see if they really like it.
  • Cons: The biggest con for me was that they were too new (no kids enrolled in the center that just opened up in Koramangala). So although they seemed to have all the knowledge in theory, I would feel more comfortable if I had seen them actually working with kids in real life. They were great at showing their powerpoint presentations about their well researched curriculum and the "seven petal approach" but when it came to practical questions from a mom such as how will you potty train my kid...they were not able to put me at ease (obviously coz they had never done it before!)
12. Planet Bloomingdale - Not visited this place myself since I had not heard any good reviews about it but I do know that they have a full time daycare for infants.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You know you've lived long enough in the US when...

You know you've lived looooong enough in the US when you move back to India and...
  • Try plugging in appliances and wonder why they don't start. And then you realize you haven't "switched on" the plug point! (Gosh - I have done this soooo many times with my phone charger only to find 2-3 hours later that the phone is still dead!!! Grrrrrr)
  • While driving, you turn into a new street with no traffic and suddenly panic wondering what side of the street are you supposed to be driving on - left or right? There is no one to follow so you are left clueless as to where to drive and so accidentally drive on the right side of the road!
  • While driving, you constantly keep hitting on the wipers while trying to actually hit the side indicators on.
  • When talking to the receptionist at the medical facility, you mention "you owe me change for 100 Dollars" instead of saying "100 Rupees" (yes - this really happened with me and for some reason cracked up the entire staff out there. Gosh I have even done this with the sabzi wala!)
  • You feel awkward eating your own breakfast or lunch while your maid or cook is busy working in front of your eyes at your home (I still cannot see myself eat without offering them something nice as well).
  • When you take your baby for well check exams, they tell you the weight in kilos and you are dying to go home and calculate exactly how many pounds is it and how she shows up on the US growth curve (even though the docs assure you that you should be using the Asian babies growth curve).
  • You are dying to get a good haircut but miss your salon and stylist there :(
  • Your fingers automatically dial "1+Phone Number" to call an out of state friend instead of dialing the "City Area Code + Phone Number"
  • You go shopping at supermarkets and take the vegetables at the cashiers counter only to realize you needed to stand in queue at another counter near the vegetables section to get them weighed and bagged.
  • MOST OF ALL - what REALLY gets me is you have to really tax your brains and think hard before buying anything coz it is not easy to return or exchange the items once bought in stores here - not in the next 30 days and not even in the next 30 hours :-)
I go through so many more such incidents on a daily I am sure I will keep coming back to this post and updating it with more. How about you you go through such gotchas in your early days of moving back to apna des? Any fun ones to share?