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The Good-bye Window

A Year in the Life of a Day-Care Center

Harriet Brown

Publication Year: 1998

Have you ever wondered what really goes on at your child’s day-care center after you say good-bye? Harriet Brown did. To satisfy her curiosity, she spent an entire year observing Red Caboose, a center in Madison, Wisconsin. This engaging and thought-provoking book is the story of that year.
    In her beautifully written personal account, journalist and mother Brown takes us behind the scenes at a day-care center that works. At Red Caboose, one of the oldest independent centers in the country, we meet teachers who have worked with young children for more than twenty years. We watch the child-care union and parents struggle to negotiate a contract without ripping apart the fabric of trust and love that holds the Red Caboose community together.
    We look at the center’s finances, to see what keeps Red Caboose going at a time when other good centers are disappearing. Best of all, we get to know the children, families, and teachers of Red Caboose—their struggles, their sorrows, their triumphs.
    Started twenty-five years ago by a group of idealistic parents, the center has not only survived but thrived through some pretty tough times. In the world of day care, Red Caboose is a special place, a model for what child care in this country could and should be: not just babysitting, not just a service to working parents, but a benefit for children, families, teachers, and the community at large.
    Brown sets her rich and engaging stories in the greater political and social context of our time. Why is so much child care bad? Why should working Americans worry about the link between welfare reform and child care? What can we learn from the history of child care?
    This book is a must-read for parents, educators, and anyone who enjoys first-rate writing and dead-on insight into the lives of our youngest children and those who care for them.

“[Brown’s] writing is beautiful and her scholarship sound. Students considering day-care careers, day-care professionals, and concerned parents will gain insight by reading this provocative book, as will anyone who cares about the future of young children in this country.”—Choice

“I admire enormously the ambition of this book—its eagle-eyed witness and engrossing detail, plus the social importance of the project. I wish there were in the world more books like it.”—Lorrie Moore, author of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

The Good-bye Window is a fascinating peek into the secret world of children. With the poignancy of Anne LaMott, and the reportorial grace of Tracy Kidder, Harriet Brown has written a terrific and worthwhile book.”—Meg Wolitzer, author of This Is Your Life

“Harriet Brown’s well-told story of the Red Caboose child-care center should be read by teachers and parents, but also by every legislator and politician in the land. Only a writer as good as Ms. Brown could display the dramatic complexities of a school community in which the youngest members enter crawling and emerge a few years later as articulate, empathetic, and well-socialized individuals, ready for the ‘real world.’”—Vivian Gussin Paley, author of The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter


Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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p. vii


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p. ix

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p. xi

My grateful appreciation goes to everyone at Red Caboose. The board of directors took a chance on letting me into the center. The teachers allowed me into their classrooms, ignored my whispered notes into a tape recorder, and gracefully answered my questions. ...

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Author's Note

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p. xii

Most of the children and families in this book appear under their real names. A few asked for pseudonyms, to protect their privacy. To keep the narrative flowing, I decided not to mark these with an asterisk or note. ...

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pp. 3-7

At 6 A.M., the parking lot in front of Red Caboose is dark and empty. The chain-link gate that fences the playground from the parking lot swings open in the warm predawn breeze, whistling as it scrapes back and forth across asphalt. Inside the gate the wooden play structures are humped shadows, ...

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Chapter 1. Fall: The Bumblebee Room

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pp. 8-77

On a warm morning in early fall, the Bumblebees are sitting on the golden line, the metal strip where the sturdy brown carpeting meets the linoleum. Well, a few of them are sitting on the line; the rest are bouncing, rolling, pouncing, and jumping on the line. Most ofthese Bees are pretty new to the room, ...

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Chapter 2. Winter: The Turtle Room

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pp. 78-140

People coming in the back door of Red Caboose and looking down the hall can see straight into the Turtle Room—and the Turtle Room teachers can see them, which means that they pretty much always know what's going on in the center. And parents often peek into the Turtle Room to say hello, ...

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Chapter 3. Spring: The Elephant Room

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pp. 141-189

It's Good Friday, and the Elephants are jumping. On trampolines, that is—little round bouncers about a foot off the ground, scattered around the Elephant Room. Spring this year is an unwilling visitor; it's sunny outside but still chilly, a damp, grinding cold that keeps the kids inside all morning. ...

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Chapter 4. Summer: The Grasshopper Room

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pp. 190-240

Eight children are lined up in the Grasshopper Room hallway, sweating and fidgeting. Children come and go in a room all year long, and different kids attend on different days; still, each year a group personality seems to develop that lasts the whole year. This year's Grasshoppers have had little interest in sit-down projects ...

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pp. 241-248

On a rainy Saturday afternoon in April 1997, some of the parents and teachers of Red Caboose have gathered at Luke House, a local soup kitchen. Most of the board members are here, along with an ex-board member, Lynn, and a number of teachers — Gary Dosemagen and Cheryl Heiman from the center, ...


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pp. 249-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780299158736
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299158743

Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 44961101
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Good-bye Window