Marcy King is a big believer in schedules. King especially loves that her sons D-Majhe, 5, and D-Quannus, 3, students at the Oak Park and River Forest Day Nursery, are exposed to a consistent, daily routine.
“I took my sons out of daycare as soon as they were eligible for the Day Nursery,” King, a former Day Nursery student herself, said. King, who works full-time, said she is glad her children are learning basic skills while in an environment that allows for play and socialization.
When asked which part of the curriculum she preferred most, King listed almost everything the Day Nursery had to offer. Laughing at the length of the list, she stopped herself.
“It’s just an overall great school – I’d recommend it to any parent,” she said.
The Day Nursery offers full and half-day programs during which students are taught using the “creative curriculum,” a means of learning through play. Students learn preliminary math, science, language and reading through individual and group activities according to a daily schedule. Concurring with King’s love of schedules, Executive Director Catherine Hart explained that schedules allow students to learn to be independent during regular activities. Serving themselves at family-style meals, washing hands and brushing their teeth after snacks and meals, and changing clothes themselves if they have accidents, are actions and habits students learn to do at appropriate times and on their own.
In addition to these skills, students at all age levels learn Spanish at the Day Nursery. In addition to the ease and speed at which learning a second language comes to young children, Hart said that “children learn to interact with others easier when they can speak another child’s language.”
The school is a strong figure in Oak Park and River Forest. Its board of directors is comprised of volunteers from various professional backgrounds from the community, though the Day Nursery is currently looking for more. As with many organizations that rely on volunteers and donations to supplement their operational costs, the Day Nursery has seen a decrease in both as the recession has worn on. Hart has been pleasantly surprised by the greater numbers of high school students who volunteer in the late afternoon at the Day Nursery, but said participation in fundraising events has been lower than in previous years. Events like the Southeast Style Home Tours have seen almost a 50 percent decline this year.
The recession has also led to lower enrollment at the Day Nursery. The nursery’s capacity is 77 children, and often there is a waiting list for incoming students. This year there are only 52 students. In previous years the nursery had no need to advertise but has found itself advertising open-enrollment. The nursery offers a sliding tuition scale to allow for families of all income levels to enroll their children, according to Hart. To work with families while maintaining enrollment, the Day Nursery began offering a part-time program in the mornings.