“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Due to a change in lifestyle, I do not keep up the Re-Discover Washington blog anymore, however, when something dear to my heart comes my way I make sure to share it with you. Such is the case with my friend Jennie Marie and her newly-opened Private Day School delightfully named AppleTree. She had started getting it in motion a while back before I left for Hawaii, and it’s wonderful to see that her awesome dream has come to fruition. I paid her a visit last week and I wished I was 5 again and I could stay there…
“If we are worried about the future, then we must look today at the upbringing of children.”
― Gordon B. Hinckley
What is AppleTree and how did you get the idea to open a Private Day School?
I have always wanted to be a teacher but the idea to open AppleTree has been floating around in my mind for a few years. I started college after high school and took a break after a couple of years. Then, life happened and I did not get a chance to go back to school to finish my bachelors in early childhood until 2010. Over the years, I worked in several private childcare centers and after graduating from UMSL in 2012 I taught for St. Louis Public Schools for a year and a half until my role as mom called me back to being a stay at home mom. It was during this time that I started thinking about opening a preschool. I started planning, originally just as a dream, but that became a reality when our small house in Washington did not sell after buying our current home. It just felt right to follow my dream and open a small setting preschool. I wanted AppleTree to be a small, intimate setting with natural elements where the children can feel relaxed and comfortable while exploring the toys and materials. AppleTree guides children to be stewards of the environment by recycling what we can; we reduce our food waste by composting; we collect rainwater in our rain barrel to water the garden and we up cycle whatever materials we possible can.
“If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
― Norman Douglas
“It is frightfully difficult to know much about the fairies, and almost the only thing for certain is that there are fairies wherever there are children.”
― J.M. Barrie,
What makes AppleTree different from other preschools?
I feel that AppleTree is different from other preschools because we have a child-guided curriculum with a focus on the environment. We are also different because we get a lot of our food from “Farm to You Market” and buy as much organic food as possible. We have already started planting our vegetable garden so the children can learn about growing their own food. While we do a lot with nature and natural learning, we also incorporate into our curriculum the Missouri Early Learning standards to assess their learning and developmental progress as they prepare to go to kindergarten.
“No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education.”
Why so much focus on outdoor activities?
Children have a natural curiosity of the world around them and I want to expose them to nature as much as possible. Incorporating different types of learning — such as counting, letters, colors, senses, beginning science – during this exposure and taking advantage of this natural curiosity tends to set up the children to more readily absorb what they’re being taught. That’s why we say AppleTree is “Where Learning is Natural.” Outdoor activity also builds grit, allows risk-taking, builds fine and gross motor skills, and personally I feel being outdoors as much as possible keeps children healthier both physically and mentally. Oh, and as a side note, so many children are afraid of insects and other “mysterious” outdoor things that I want to encourage them to explore rather than be afraid.
“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
How does a typical day at AppleTree flow?
A typical day at AppleTree starts with natural lighting, calming music on the iPod and a warm welcome as the children arrive. We have a very flexible schedule that changes daily based on the needs of the children and what projects we are currently working on. If it’s beautiful outside, we will pack our supplies up and head to our outdoor classroom where you might find us writing in our journals, painting with water, or cooking with wildflowers in our mud pie kitchen. Our day is centered on what activities the children want to participate in.
“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”
― Bertrand Russell
What were some of the challenges of opening up a private preschool?
The biggest challenges of opening up AppleTree were meeting local & state rules in order to get licensed, which I feel was an important thing to do. Also, getting the word out that I opened has been somewhat difficult as we are tucked into a residential neighborhood so we do not have a lot of street visibility.
“We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong there.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
How many children do you currently have and what is your capacity?
I am licensed to have ten children between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. I currently have 6 children enrolled.
“In their innocence, very young children know themselves to be light and love. If we will allow them, they can teach us to see ourselves the same way. ”
― Michael Jackson
What motivates you to keep AppleTree running?
The children. Every day they accomplish something new or make a new discovery. I had one little boy who was terrified of worms and insects and when we recently planted our new apple tree he decided that he wanted to hold a worm. He now says, “I’m not afraid anymore. Worms are so cute.” It’s also great to hear when the parents come in and tell me how their child is excited about learning how to spell his name or about how she wants to come in and see her seed sprouting. This age is so important to get those minds working, and the more they’re promoted to be intellectually curious now, the more they’ll be open to learning throughout their lives. That, to me, will always be exciting and motivate me to do this everyday.
“Children show me in their playful smiles the divine in everyone.”
― Michael Jackson
“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ”
― Fred Rogers
“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
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