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“Free” Swim Lessons & A Preschool Update


Remember when I put out the question of whether it would be a worthwhile expense to pay for swim lessons for my girls this summer? As a reminder, they have never been in any paid activity (ballet, soccer, swim, etc.) in their entire lives with the exception of childcare.

Well we just got letters sent home from our girls’ preschool (they attend the Jewish Community Center). We signed permission slips for the girls to go to the pool over the summer months where they will be receiving swim lessons from certified water safety instructors! This is “free” to us (in quotations because we pay a lot for the childcare, itself, but we are not required to pay any additional money for the swim lesson services). So YAY!!! I was super excited about this because I had NO IDEA this was going to happen! What a selling point/benefit for parents! I’m surprised they didn’t make a big deal about this when we first enrolled our kids here (they didn’t even mention that over the summer they do swim lessons!) To be fair, it’s surely not as in-depth as paid lessons (they go for 30 minutes twice per week for a few weeks in the summer), but it will teach them the basics and won’t cost us additional money out of pocket. Win-win!!

So that’s the free swim lesson update. Onto the preschool update…

Currently we pay a TON for very high quality care (see our budget where these costs are outlined here). Finding care for children aged 2 and under is challenging in our area. There were cheaper options available, but the quality wasn’t nearly as good. You can read about one of our experiences here. So we were willing to pay extra for really high quality care. There were two main issues related to this when we chose to go to the JCC. 1. Cost, and 2. Distance. Our current childcare facility is a full 30-40 minutes away. And since I work from home, that’s a 60-80 minute round-trip twice per day (once for drop-off and once for pick-up).

When the girls first started I was pretty diligent about staying at the JCC the whole day. I’d work in the library, then move to the patio, out to the commons area, etc. But there were lots of distractions and across time I found myself simply driving home more and more often. This, of course, meant less work-time since I was spending more time driving. In the past month or two all this driving has really become burdensome for me professionally speaking. I’ve had difficulty getting my work done in the limited hours available to me. The girls are in preschool 21 hours per week, but I easily have 30 hours worth of work. Not to mention the driving time means that the 21 preschool hours really only equals about 17-ish hours of actual work time. Less when you factor in other miscellaneous errands or activities (e.g., I’d often go to the gym at the JCC for 30-45 minutes when I’d drop off the girls. This reduces my work hours even more…now down to about 15-ish per week). The point is that I ended up working more and more late in the evenings and/or on weekends and felt my overall productivity waning. Toward the end of the Spring semester I was barely hanging on by a thread. Still taking care of my responsibilities, but just barely.

So we knew it was time to move the girls to a new preschool facility. They turn 3 in June and a ton of new options will become available to them (many preschools are only for potty-trained kids age 3 and up, so they weren’t options last summer). I found one place I really like (I spoke about it here). Last Friday I went to the preschool office and paid the enrollment fee ($75 per child) so starting this Fall (the preschool year is the same as the academic year in our area – starting in August and running through May), our girls will officially be starting a new preschool!!!

I’m super excited because both of our big issues with the JCC (price and distance) will be resolved to some extent. Instead of a 30-40 minute drive, our new preschool is about a 10-15 minute drive. And we’ll be saving some money, too. I ended up deciding to enroll the girls in 5 half-days instead of 3 full-days. The difference is 21 hours (for 3 full days) versus 25 hours (for 5 half days). The price is going to be about $800/month for both kids. We’re currently paying over $1,000/month so we’ll be saving a couple hundred a month (not to mention gasoline and having more work-able hours since I won’t be driving as far). I wish we’d be saving more, but I think this was a good compromise and I’m happy with the trade-off.

We do have to be officially “accepted” to the program (I had to fill out a huge application packet and they’ll notify me within 2 weeks if we’re accepted or not), but the woman at the front desk didn’t seem worried about it. My guess is its more of a formality to make sure there aren’t glaring red flags about the family or children somehow. I think we’ll be okay (fingers crossed).

So now let’s just hope that the transition is a smooth one. The new preschool has fabulous reviews and I coincidentally met a mom at the park whose kids go to the preschool and she just raved about it. So I’ve got high hopes!

Do you pay for summertime activities for your kids (if you want to share, just out of curiosity, I’d love to know how much you pay and what the activity is)?

How much do you pay for childcare?


  • Reply Kim |

    I pay $840/month for daycare. My daughter is 6 months and that is for 40 hours a week. I picked a middle of the road price wise daycare based on proximity to my work since I already drive 30 mins or more each way to work. I am very lucky in that the women spoil her, and she is close enough I can breastfeed her at lunch everyday.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Oh, that’s fantastic!!! Also, daycare tends to be most expensive for infants so there’s always the possibility the cost could go down as she gets older. : )

  • Reply Holly |

    I was hoping for some insite from you.. Maybe you can email me and give me some tips. So i am in the middle of paying off about $60,000 in debt. Credit cards, school and car half of mine is credit cards ( long story) anyways so my question for you is should i close them and just start paying them off as i can. highesy interest first? We usually have about 1000 left over at the end of the month and then i pick up small side jobs when i can. My goal is to have this paid off in three years from this month.. What tips do you have for me??? thanks so much

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’m certainly no expert, but I can offer my opinions on the matter. First, I would prioritize the credit cards and car over the school debt (since student loans can always be deferred or put in forbearance if needed). But then you’ve got options. You could do one of 3 things: 1) pay highest APR first, 2) pay lowest balance first, or 3) pay whatever gives the biggest psychological boost first.
      Obviously you’ll have to figure out a way to pay minimums on all your debt, so then you’re really only concerned with which debt to pay “extra” on and it totally depends on the different sizes of debt and interest rates.

  • Reply mary m |

    We pay $540/month for full-time care for our 3 yr old. When she was 2, it was $640/month. My feelings on her daycare/preschool are weird. I’m not overly impressed with academic things…I know they read stories, sing songs, work on writing names, spend time coloring etc, but it’s so different from the Montessori school my older kids attended. On the other hand, they spend a TON of time outdoors with free play, and some structured activities. Makes me think of the outdoor kindergartens and what not that are popular in Europe. The downside is, they aren’t in a forest with lots of exploring etc.

    Oh and they do swimming lessons once a week (I think for 12 or 16 weeks?), which started a couple of months ago, and wraps up in the next month. They have to go off site for those though.

    We also don’t do any extra activities. Our older kids do some, and the 3 yr old just gets to go along for fun. We might do soccer with her this summer, they have a parks and rec class for 3 and 4 yr olds that meets at a near by school. I think the cost is $30 for 6 weeks?

  • Reply Nsheils |

    We will be paying $235/wk for summer camp at our youngest’s current nursery for 2 weeks.

    Then I’ll be enrolling my oldest in summer camp for $300/wk for 2 weeks. The swimming lessons everyday and everyone I know has said it’s really great.

    Then we’re off to the States, so I think we will do horseback riding for $150 for 5 lessons over 3 weeks and perhaps some gymnastics classes.

    Once we’re back we’ll have to decide if we want the kids to go back to camp as there will be about 3 weeks before school starts and it’s seriously HOT over here, think 115F and 80% humidity, so these activities are important when we are back here.

  • Reply Michee |

    Yay for the “free” swim lessons!! My kids had lessons … not free …. just to get the hang of swimming & floating. It was expensive & we really couldn’t afford it, but I knew it was important. Child care & preschool is so expensive, I don’t miss those days at all. I stayed at home (part of our debt problem) so I never did day care, but they did go to preschool. They are now 12 & 16 …. which brings a whole new set of expenses!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yeah, I can’t imagine driving-related expenses! And I totally agree that I think swim lessons fall into a different category than other extracurriculars due to the safety nature of it. We’ve lucked out this summer but I really think that by next year we’ll be paying for more in-depth swim lessons because we go to the pool and/or are around water a lot and I feel its really important.

  • Reply Marie |

    Just wondering (as I do not have children) — what are the “red flags” that you mentioned at the end of your post, in regards to the daycare application process? What types of things would screen a child out of being offered a place in the daycare? It seems odd to me that it requires such a “lengthy” application. There isn’t the same type of application for a child to go to day camp or weekly music lessons, etc… Not sure why the day care requires it or what they are “screening” for? Would that not discriminate against people (i.e income level, cultural background, etc.)? If you are stating your intention to place your child in daycare, can they not assume that you can pay for it instead of needing background financial information… Seems quite invasive. And outside of financial reasons… Why would a child ever be denied?
    Just trying to understand it.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Well, first, I cannot know for sure what these red flags might be (they don’t explain why they might not accept a child). BUT, it’s a private religiously-based preschool. Because it’s private (not public), they can legally discriminate on the basis of certain factors (religion being one of the big ones). I also think because it’s a much smaller preschool than our current one that they might not be equipped to deal with certain developmental delays or physical handicaps? Again – just conjectures on my part, but that’s my thinking.

  • Reply Kathy |

    As a daycare provider myself, I think one of the big pros about the 5 half days is the aspect of routine. Kids thrive on it and to have the weekdays be the same schedule is a plus for them.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for saying this! I know I need the extra time for work, but I’ve been struggling with it from a parenting perspective. Currently on Tuesday/Thursdays I take the girls to the zoo, go to the park, etc. We can still do those things in the afternoon, but the weather isn’t always amenable to that so I’ve been trying to mentally prepare MYSELF for this change.

So, what do you think ?