Tasha Raye Ryan of Haverhill, MA
Every month we feature a leading Family Child Care Provider from Massachusetts. Each of these Providers has developed a unique program that reflects methods and development philosophies based on years of experience working with young children. These women are providers, educators, and businesswomen. Each is a "Pillar" in their community, and plays an integral role in the lives of the children and families they work with. We're honored to help bring their stories to light.
Meet Tasha Raye Ryan. Tasha is the owner and Provider behind Dependable Kid Care in Haverhill, MA. Don't let her youthful demeanor fool you, Tasha's been in the child care business for 28 years. She's a staple in her community and a trusted partner to so many families in her neighborhood. We first met Tasha at EarlyEdCon, a full day event sponsored by the Mass Dept. of Early Education & Care, and we're excited to share her story.
Tasha, how did you get started as a licensed Family Child Care provider?
I started my program just after I had my first child. At the time I had been helping a neighbor with their infant son and, once my daughter was born, my neighbor and I agreed that I would take care of both kids at my house. Around the same time I joined a local new moms social group. Naturally, as the other moms started to return to their jobs, one by one I took in their kids. It really just grew from there. That was 28 years ago, and I've had the program ever since.
How would you describe your approach and philosophy with the kids?
In my home we learn through play. Every day we do something different - whether it's something seasonal or something around the house. I really believe in child-led exploration. As Providers, we're here to guide, support, love, and nurture these children. My emphasis is that children play, and that through play they will learn how to learn how to behave, how to act, and crucially, and how to get alone well with others. There's really no limit on the amount of learning and fun we can have, and it doesn't require worksheets and highly structured curriculum.
What are a few example of favorite activities?
Every day we spend time outdoors - we have a back yard full of developmentally appropriate play structures. In terms of specific activities, when you get creative there's really an endless number of simple things around the house that can captivate kids with fun and developmentally appropriate challenges. As an example, think about teaching children the ability to discern and match patterns - shapes, sizes and colors - all critical skills for toddlers. Now consider a basket of unmatched socks. Not only do we introduce pattern matching across multiple dimensions, but as a group activity, the kids have to figure out how to do so working together, as a team. Matching socks! It's not necessarily something you'd see on a formal curriculum. Simple activities like these are all around us once you know how to see them.
Of course we also got all dressed up for Halloween and painted Jack-O'-Lanterns as well!
What's the most important thing for a parent to know when considering your program?
It's important for them to know that this is my home and we a Family Child Care program, and not a Center. Some Centers may place more emphasis on structured curriculum and academic worksheets. I've been doing this a long time and personally I believe in letting children learn through exploration and play. These kids are going to have the next 17 years to sit at desks and complete worksheets. When they're here with us, we're going to play, we're going to sing and dance, and we're going to learn how to get along with others. My goal is that every child that comes up through my program is ready socially and emotionally for kindergarten. It works - I regularly hear from parents or from Kindergarten teachers directly that the kids coming out of our program are so well prepared for school. I suspect that's part of why so many local teachers bring their kids to my program!
The other thing to remember is that your child with be with me and my assistant every day. I've been doing this for 28 years, and my assistant has been with me for 6 years. I personally work directly with the kids every day - we don't have a rotating staff of short-term assistants.
How do families find out about your program?
Most families hear of my program through their friends or word of mouth. That being said, as a Provider, I'm also a businesswoman and I know that marketing my program is important. I have a healthy waitlist, and I still make the effort to market my program both online and at local events in town.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a Family Child Care Provider?
I would just emphasize that to be a Provider you need to be both an educator and a businesswoman. It's a lot of work, but I've found it very rewarding to develop a program that I'm proud of, and a business that supports my family. And I still get to work with children every day, and that's just what I love to do.
Check out Tasha’s Profile on NeighborSchools.