PRESCHOOLS & CHILDCARE CENTERS IN NORTHERN ARLINGTON
(Clarendon Moms Official List)
Since moving to Arlington, I’ve heard all the playground gossip whispered amongst all the stay at home moms and nannies: “You better get on the wait list now for your 6 month old!” What?! From the talk around town, I thought getting my kids into the “best preschool” was as tough as applying to an ivy league college. I’ve got great news for you. It wasn’t. The hardest part for me wasn’t the actual application process or the bad luck of having to apply for the dreaded wait list. It was finding the right school, the “perfect fit”. The perfect fit meant: the number of days my child would attend, the hours they would attend (what’s the point of dropping them off only to have only an hour or so free time to myself), the structure of the program (the curriculum), the demeanor of the instructors/teachers (are they passionate about their career or burned out), the commute to and from the school, the way my child would respond to the method of education (and how they would relate to their classmates), the cleanliness and amenities of the facility and finally the price of tuition.
It took me a while to find all the schools available to my children for enrollment. I couldn’t find a complete list anywhere on the internet by googling. I managed to find lists that were partial, but good enough. Finally, I started interviewing moms and grandmothers on the playground. The most helpful parents were people whom were lifelong Arlington relatives, living right in the neighborhood of Lyon Village or Clarendon from 20 to 30 to even 70 years.
After creating the list, I then decided to go and tour a number of the preschools. This was a mainly pleasant journey. However, there were two preschools in particular where I encountered a director who flippantly urged me to get on the wait list while my child was only 9 months old so he would be able to be considered for the 3 year old program. Needless to say, I didn’t even think twice about never returning to that school.
I had a few questions about the importance of preschool.
Is Preschool really that important? The answer was unanimous across the board. Yes! Absolutely! It prepares your child for the vigorous education Arlington County Schools offer at the Kindergarten level.
What is the difference between Preschool, Daycare and Cooperative Playgroups? The short answer: Preschool offers a curriculum that is similar to Kindergarten and actually prepares your child for Kindergarten. Daycares offer child care and babysitting. Cooperative Playgroups are shared parent child care geared towards socializing your child for playing within a small group of children with other parents present.
Note: After touring preschools, daycares and co-ops, I found most of them to be very similar and not a drastic difference. The cost is approximately the same in the Courthouse, Clarendon, Ballston area. The licenses and regulations are by the same agencies. Most of them have a structured day of activities. The primary difference I noticed was the age range. Some daycares accept children between 6 and 8 weeks old while co-ops accept children at age 1. Most preschools accept children at age 2 or 3 years old. All of the programs accept children until they’re ready for Kindergarten. The secondary difference that stood out was the approach to the type attention given to children. For example, some programs seemed to offer more of a specific educational theory (like Montessori, Waldor, High Scope or Reggio Emilia) and other programs seemed to offer more of an emphasis on play as opposed to activities geared at teaching specific skills.
Here is the Clarendon Moms Guide to Preschools, Daycare Centers and Cooperatative. You may click on each link for direct access to their website. I hope you find this helpful.
Arlington Children’s Center: The primary goal of their teachers is to nurture each individual child’s emotional and educational needs, as well as provide a sense of routine, opportunities to be creative, and prepare the child for primary education.
Arlington Montessori House aka “Hippo House: The school is affectionately referred to as Hippo House by staff and families. They offer two classes of 28 students (of mixed ages), one teacher and one assistant. Both teachers hold Association Montessori International (AMI) certification. The program is a three-year program: two years of pre-school and kindergarten. We expect new families to enroll with intention of keeping their child in the school for three years–through kindergarten. This third year is the culmination of the primary level Montessori experience where children reap the benefits of the past two years, facilitating entry into a new school with a high degree of self-confidence, independence and enthusiasm for learning.
Arlington Unitarian Cooperative Preschool: Arlington Unitarian Cooperative Preschool is a child-centered cooperative with the mission of developing and encouraging social, intellectual and physical development in the children entrusted to its care.
Ballston Children’s Center: Their philosophy is to provide a quality day care program in a learning and loving environment. The primary goal of our teachers is to nurture each individual child’s emotional and educational needs, as well as provide a sense of routine, opportunities to be creative, and prepare the child for primary education. Our teachers will bring unconditional love and emotional security, a sense of routine and an opportunity to be creative and resourceful.
Blue Bird Day School: School should provide a happy, relaxed and supportive environment that contributes to the development of the child. This development should occur physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. Each of these areas combined form a puzzle that all persons are required to have to understand the world and their place in it. They believe children need many chances to excel in these respective areas. We hope to achieve this through the questions we ask, goals we set, information we provide and by the behavior we model.
Clarendon Childcare Center: Their curriculum is “emergent”. Topics of study, the selection of materials in the room, projects and field trips are carefully planned from the children’s interests and needs.
Children are encouraged to observe, to experiment and to make their own discoveries, and all activities are seen as opportunities for learning to problem-solve.
Early Steps Bilingual Preschool: The vision of this center is integral development in which children age two to five can develop basic knowledge and fundamental skills to succeed in life by enriching the minds of young children as they grow within a society that demands bilingual/Spanish language capabilities.
Early Years Preschool: Early Years Preschool provides a nurturing environment that promotes the development of a child’s emotional, social, intellectual and physical skills. Creative, stimulating activities allow each child to develop and learn at his or her own pace through exploration and play.
Embassy School: No website available. Call 703. 525.2144
Finding Dreams In Children Child Development Center aka Bright Horizons Preschool & Education Center Opened in Fall 2006, the center serves 92 children on a full-time basis. Their emphasis is on preparation for success in life, academic excellence and a rich and rewarding childhood.
Little Ambassadors Academy: Little Ambassadors’ Academy offers premier and quality childcare with a curriculum based on engaging our students to learn through discovery. Little Ambassadors’ offers full days of multiple activities that create a foundation to help children develop into lifelong learners. Starting at the age of two, our students will be exposed to Spanish as a second language. All students will learn different aspects of various cultures to help them understand the benefit of possessing a multicultural education.
Faith Lutheran Preschool: Their mission is to empower each individual child to investigate his or her interests within a loving community of peers and adults by providing a safe, playful environment where children are free to discover, explore, question, and express their own experiences, predictions, and evaluations in myriad “languages.” They offer a variety of materials, tools, concepts, and equipment to help children see alternatives, to problem solve and make their own decisions. They are committed to observe and listen, and then to react to and validate their students ideas with respect, imagination and tenderness.
First Baptist Church of Clarendon Child Development Center: (also known as CDC) The Child Development Center was initiated in September, 1969 as a non-profit ministry of the First Baptist Church of Clarendon. Since that time, the Child Development Center has experienced steady growth and is now one of the largest Child Development Centers in Arlington County.
Full Circle Montessori: Their principal mission is to foster a Montessori learning community that supports the development of the whole child – emotionally, socially, intellectually, and physically – through a dynamic partnership among staff, families, and the greater community. Their core values are: kindness, empathy, love, respect, openness, tolerance, peace, humor and laughter.
Kindercare: KinderCare Learning Centers are designed to be a home away from home for children where they can learn, laugh, grow and have fun. Kindercare child care centers offer a mix of large spaces for group learning and several smaller age-specific classrooms for age-appropriate learning so your child gains social skills as they develop academically.
Kinhaven: Kinhaven School, a parent-governed, independent preschool, provides a rich community of involved parents, highly educated teaching professionals and school staff. Kinhaven School’s unique model harnesses the professional expertise of experienced faculty along with the parent power generated by their membership organization to offer parents a wonderful opportunity to influence their children’s early education.
Lee Center Cooperative Playgroup: This is a play group cooperative that is fully parent-run without paid teachers or staff. Parents work the play-group 1/3 of the days the play group is in session. Parents have the option of dropping off their children on days they’re not working at the play group. These are licensed play groups of 12 students ages 1 to 4. There are 6 play groups that meet once or twice for 2 hours. Tuition is for a 12 week term.
Madison Center Playgroup: This is a play group cooperative that is a parent-run and parent-funded program for children ages 1 to 5. It is licensed for child care by Arlington County and the state of Virginia. During morning groups, parents take turns supervising the children. During afternoon groups, parents stay with their children for the entire play session.
Mount Olivet Preschool: They believe that their developmental philosophy allows them to provide children in the community with stimulating experiences consistent with the best principles and purposes of early childhood education. They strive to do this in a safe, loving, Christian environment with a low teach/child ratio.
Overlee Preschool: is a parent-run preschool since 1945. They seek to provide a stimulating and happy environment that will help children to learn to respect themselves, to respect the feelings, ideas and rights of others; to make choices, resolve conflicts and solve problems; to explore new ways of doing things while developing confidence as a whole individual.
Rock Spring Preschool: is a parent-run school, with a teacher-led curriculum, and children-led play. Founded in 1943 by a group of caring and inventive mothers, Rock Spring is the oldest cooperative preschool in Arlington offering age-specific classes for one to five-year-olds, as well as an Extended Day Program and Summer Camp.
St. Charles Preschool: St. Charles Preschool began as an extension of the St. Charles education program in 2004. They recognize that each of their students are children of God and include God in their curriculum. The curriculum is not just the goals of the program and the planned activities but also the daily schedule, the availability and use of materials, transitions between activities and the way in which routine tasks of living are implemented.
Tender Roots: Tender Roots is a cooperative toddler program inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach. Tender Roots hopes to provide an engaging and nurturing environment for one and two year old children, while in the daily security of their parent/caregiver. Teachers guide the day, supporting children and parents in the learning process.
Trinity Presbyterian Preschool: Established in 1957, Trinity Preschool has earned a reputation for providing a well-rounded, nurturing environment that helps children blossom by offering smaller classes.
Westover Baptist Preschool: offers a nurturing environment that encourages a feeling of success in children attending their school, by designing learning activities that are developmentally appropriate and centered around play. Children experience a variety of wonderful activities throughout the year, and family friendly events.