Although I'm originally from Virginia, I'm sending word from France, the only place I've ever been a mom, where public schooling, financed and organized at the national level, begins when kids are three. That means three years of public school before first grade. Schooldays begin at 8:30 and go until 4:30. It's admittedly a long day for a three year-old, and if a parent doesn't work, he or she often picks his children up and brings them home for the hour-and-a-half lunch break. But for parents like me who work, it's a reassuring place to leave our children. And free, to boot.
What happens when the schoolday is over? That's when the city government kicks in. A second team of people, city employees, arrive AT SCHOOL, and provides on-site, after-school activities for our kids, who have snack and wind down before we come pick them up at 6. Tumbling, reading, drawing, jungle gym, bikes, etc. with a young, dynamic team. During school vacations, the same municipal team provides a sort of day-camp, which includes more of the above, plus field trips, movies, special activities like ice skating or pony-riding. What you pay per day depends on your family's revenue. We're middle-of-the road, where salaries are concerned, so we pay something like 10 dollars for a full day of day camp, and peanuts (less than 2 dollars) for each day of after-school care.
Needless to say, I am horrified when I hear that my friends in the US, after having first shelled out thousands for private daycare until their children reached kindergarden age, must then have their schoolaged children bussed to after-school private daycare, where they continue to pay big bucks.
I know it's a bad word in the US, but let's hear it for socialism.
All the best, and thanks for keeping me posted on what's going on at home and for giving us opportunities to be heard.