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Sonia and her family

Sonia Rivas's picture

**Para leer este blog en español en Mamá, haga clic aquí: Soy una educadora de temprana edad y madre – y quiero que todo padre sepa esto

As a mother of three and an early childhood educator, I’ve seen the power of high-quality early learning from both perspectives. I’ve become an early ed true believer, an advocate, a zealot not only because of what I see in my classroom, but also because of what I see at home.

In my classroom, I see how fast young children learn, how eager they are to explore their surroundings, how simple interactions with other children and caregivers can spark a meaningful learning experience.

At home, I’ve seen my oldest daughter struggle to catch up to her peers who benefitted from early learning and PreK in a way she didn’t. I've seen my son, who had access to free public PreK, enter kindergarten on a level playing field, and excel in school in a way I fear my oldest never will. I see my baby, my two year old, who spends his days in a high-quality early childhood education center and will soon transition into PreK, and I know I am already setting him up for success.

Three children, three educational trajectories – and the differences are obvious. If it weren’t for my job as an early childhood educator, I think all of my children would have been on the path my oldest is on. When she was a baby, I was like most parents I know. I didn’t know the value of high quality early learning, or how it compared to more informal childcare. In fact, being a native Spanish speaker, a huge barrier I faced in that time was that I did not know English, which affected my ability to access resources.  I didn’t know about the free PreK available in New Mexico. Also, I made too much money to qualify for state subsidies, but I didn’t make enough money to afford high quality childcare and early learning costs out of pocket.

My perspective has changed since then in large part because my profession changed. I started working in early childhood education; I got involved in New Mexico Early Educators United; I went back to school to learn more about childhood development. Sadly, most parents don’t have the insider perspective I do. Most parents don’t know that education begins at birth, not age five, or even that the state offers free preK to many families but only if they know enough to apply.

Working in early childhood education has opened my eyes, but I’m sad to say it hasn’t meaningfully changed my financial situation. I still don’t make enough money to pay for high quality early learning. In fact, it’s only because my boss gives me a discount that I can afford to enroll my youngest at the childcare center where I work.  

When I think about the childcare and early learning affordability crisis in this country, I realize that it cuts both ways – neither parents nor providers can afford the system we currently have, and sadly it is kids who suffer most when they lose out on high quality early learning opportunities. That’s why I joined New Mexico Early Educators United, and it’s why I’ve become an advocate for changing how this country supports children from birth to five, and their parents. We can do better, and we must do better, for our kids and our future.

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