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Comparing Danish and Wisconsin Early Childhood Education and Care from the Perspective of Deep Education

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Observing and reflecting upon the similarities and differences of the Wisconsin and Danish early childhood systems of education and care from the perspective of Deep Education has been a fascinating endeavor since I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark in August 2016.

As a Guest PhD at Aarhus University, I am here to be a participant observer in a family child care home so that I can learn more about the early childhood system from an inside perspective. Family child care is most often described as a single provider providing child care in their private home for a small group of mostly mixed ages of children, for compensation.

Before graduate school, I worked as a family child care provider from 2002 to 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin. During this period, I found that the system failed to adequately support me as a provider due to the enormous amount of record keeping for which I was responsible, the environment I was expected to provide and maintain, and the required education that was neither personally nor professionally relevant to me. For these reasons, in addition to the toll it took to care for and nurture whole families at the sacrifice of my own needs, I concluded that the work was unsustainable. Going to graduate school at UW-Madison was a way to try to resolve and understand some of the conundrums I wrestled with during this span of time. I wondered why I was oftentimes disrespected or my kindness and generosity exploited by parents and by the system, when at the same time, I was told I was doing important work. Therefore, when I was reviewing the literature about child care and learned that Denmark is the best example in the world for family child care due in large part to its organizational structure, I had to see it for myself.

It is obvious that Denmark must support families and children because there are families, children, and pregnant women everywhere. Danish parents get a year of maternity/paternity leave, and a stipend for each child. Parents pay about a quarter of actual child care costs or nothing if they are low income because it is subsidized by the high taxes. Family child care providers are municipal employees and receive good pay and benefits. Approximately 50% of all children in Denmark under three years of age are in a family child care home, and well over 90% of all children in Denmark are in some form of child care.

In future posts, I will reflect more deeply on topics that stand out to me such as the biking culture and how it relates to child care, my observations on Dagplej mødre (day care mothers), or the U.S. equivalent of family child care providers, a recent protest of the child care union that represents family child care providers and pedagogues (those who work with young children in preschool or kindergarten), and the current situation here from the perspective of providers, parents, administrators, and children. So far, I have not been disappointed by my initial observations.

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