By: Rebecca Lee
It is no secret that the North Shore suburbs of Chicago are home to some of the most excellent schools of the country. What arguably makes the North Shore such an exceptionally educated community is the way students are prepared beginning at an extremely early age. In fact, much research shows that early childhood education plays a crucial role in the academic, emotional, and social development of children. In Wilmette alone, there are a number of renowned preschools and kindergartens, both private and public, which many parents would affirm made all the difference in the education and growth of their children.
If you are a Wilmette parent of a young child, here are the preschools and kindergartens available to you, and what you need to know about them:
Trinity Church Nursery School
Onlookers are immediately struck by the gorgeous facilities of the non-denominational preschool located at the church on 1024 Lake Ave. Children have plenty of space to learn and play indoors and outdoors, which is evident based on the numerous photographs on the Trinity Church Nursery School website.
TCNS is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The school offers programs for a variety of age groups, all of which utilize “meaningful, developmentally appropriate activities” and “offer a delightful blend of free choice and structure,” according to their website.
Two year-old toddlers enroll in the Parent-Tot class (tuition is $825), where parents or caregivers, along with a teacher and assistant, introduce their children to interaction with peers through activity such as music, art, and story time. These children are guaranteed spots in the three year-old (tuition is $3272) then four year-old programs (tuition is $4202), where they are instilled with self confidence and emotional intelligence, and taught letters and numbers and even Spanish vocabulary. As they get older, they work with different specialists who teach a variety of skills, from adding and subtracting to following a recipe. These classes run for approximately two hours a day, a couple of days a week. When students become of kindergarten age, they attend the school for about three hours a day, two days a week (tuition is $2110). In this class, they are offered a wider variety of activities such as music, time on the playground, and even yoga.
Enrollment is competitive, so sign your child up quickly! TCNS also has established a fund to offer financial assistance to needing families.
Banner Preschool has been a part of the Wilmette community for forty years at 3220 Big Tree Lane. Also accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the play-based preschool offers programs for a range of ages that all seek “to protect the spirit, imagination, curiosity, and love of life in young children,” their website says.
Two year-old children attend a two-hour class, two days a week (tuition is $2410). The class is divided into “younger” two year-olds and “older” two year-olds, and led by two teachers along with an assistant. Especially the “younger” two year-olds are not required to be potty trained. Three year-old children attend a two-hour class either three times a week (tuition is $3350) or five times a week (tuition is $5290). These students are offered Lunch Bunch (they must bring their own lunches) in the early afternoon, as well as an optional additional multi-age Explorers class. Four year-old children attend a two-hour class (tuition is $5000) that meets five times a week, and are also offered Lunch Bunch and the multi-age Explorers class. Morning Care, beginning at 7:00 AM, and After Care, ending at 6:00 PM, are available to working parents for these age groups! Kindergarten-aged children are offered classes that meet two, three, or five days a week. Lunch Bunch and After Care are also available to these students, but Morning Care is not. Depending on the chosen program, tuition can cost from $2515 to $7230. Along with these core programs, Banner Preschool uniquely offers a class that teaches Japanese language and culture to children ages two through five! This class meets for two hours, two days a week ($2775).
Early Childhood Center of Wilmette
Located at the Wilmette Community Recreation Center at 3000 Glenview Road, the Wilmette Park District Early Childhood Center offers a program for three and four year-olds. This program is also licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the Creative Curriculum they utilize is endorsed by the National Association of Educating Young Children. Based on this approach, the needs and growth of each child are met and fostered. Children “develop their social, emotional, and physical skills” through a variety of individual and group activities including “blocks and dramatic play, small and large motor activities, quiet time, experiences with music, art, literacy, and science,” according to their website. This two-hour class is offered two, three, or five days a week for three year-old children, and three or five days a week for four year-old children. Children of all ages must be potty trained to enter any class. For working parents, the Early Childhood Center offers a Full-Day Preschool, which extends the above program. These children stay for a provided lunch and playtime. In addition to this class, “older” three year-olds and four year-olds are offered a special early-morning program. The fine motor and cognitive skills of these children are fostered at a more advanced pace. Tuition for these programs varies based on the residency of families, but appears generally less expensive than the aforementioned private preschools. Early Bird Babysitting is also available regularly beginning at 7:30 AM to working parents!
Rose Hall Montessori Preschool
Rose Hall Montessori has stood at 1140 Wilmette Ave, right in the heart of Wilmette, for thirty four years. Rose Hall believes that “each child has an inner drive to learn and that he passes through sensitive periods to various kinds of learning [such as] order, language, numbers, and socialization,” as the school is a member of the American Montessori Society and the Alliance for Early Childhood. Furthermore, the school emphasizes the development and cultivation of skills such as empathy and compromise, which they believe equally as important as academic rigor.
Rose Hall offers a program to toddlers as young as sixteen months! Little Explorers, which meets once a week for an hour and a half, brings together children of sixteen to twenty four months (tuition is $900). They use puzzles, shape sorters, color works, fun songs, and movement games to explore the world around them. Accompanying parents also have the opportunity to get to know one another! Two year-olds attend the Toddlers program, which meets for two hours two or three times a week (tuition is $2780 or $4100, respectively). Here, they are provided with all kinds of resources to learn numbers and vocabulary and shapes and colors. Group snack and outdoor playtime teach children to clean up after themselves, compromise with their peers, and put on their own coats and shoes! Rose Hall also offers a Half Day Preschool five days a week, which teaches children ages three to six based on a curriculum of five components: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, and Cultural (tuition is $7200). These core programs are enhanced with hands-on lessons of botany, art history, music, French, and even yoga! Children of kindergarten age can choose from the Rose Hall Kindergarten Enrichment Program or the Traditional Montessori (tuition is $4160). The Kindergarten Enrichment Program, as the name suggests, is intended for children already enrolled in a public school kindergarten. Here, they study large units such as Art History, Community, Continents, and Rain Forests for approximately three hours a day, three days a week. On the other hand, the Traditional Montessori meets five days a week for three hours a day, and can replace kindergarten. Children who attend this program study Math and Language at higher levels, develop skills of leadership, and also participate in the previously mentioned units of study. Both of these programs offer lunch! The Lunch Bunch program at Rose Hall is creatively structured, as teachers use this time to work on manners and responsibility.
As with the other private preschools, the application process appears thorough and competitive, so enroll your child quickly!
Connecting Kids Preschool at District 39
Located at Romona School and with a solid mission of inclusion, District 39’s Connecting Kids Preschools gets rave reviews. Its mission is to provide a developmentally based preschool program in a nurturing, language-rich environment. As a collaborative team of Early Childhood Specialists, we utilize a curriculum designed to teach to each child’s potential and work together to develop individualized programming. Our inclusive model promotes learning, acceptance, and self-esteem within a diverse population.
With a student-teacher ratio of 3:1, Wilmette’s 3-5 year olds benefit from a high quality developmental environment. Classes run 2 hours and 20 minutes per day and 1-2 paraprofessionals assist. Certified Early Childhood Teachers lead each class, along with a Speech-Language Pathologist and Occupational Therapist who develop and facilitate weekly groups in their area of specialty. The school practices an integrated team approach which involves collaborative assessment and planning for every child on a regular basis.
Connecting Kids is aligned with District 39’s philosophy of inclusion, whereby children with special needs are integrated, or included, in a classroom with typically developing children. Under this model, the program makes it possible for children with special needs to participate in all classroom activities, with modifications as needed. This enables typically developing children to be more accepting of people with disabilities and act as role models for the children with special needs. Additionally, all children benefit from being under the guidance of a team of Early Childhood Specialists. Four days a week costs $3,355 and days a week costs $4,180.
Ronald Knox Montessori
Ronald Knox Montessori School has stood at the edge of Kenilworth Gardens, adjacent to Mallinckrodt Center since 1963. From its location, next to the gorgeous Mallinckrodt Park area, RKMS provides a nurturing, stimulating environment for children from six months through six years of age.
RKMS is a parent-governed and professionally operated non-profit that dedicates itself to the Montessori educational philosophy. At the heart of its belief is the notion that the greatest learning occurs when children are allowed to choose their own path to development. At RKMS, children are encouraged to explore a world of activities under the watchful eyes of competent, Montessori-trained teachers. In this setting, children cultivate concentration, motivation and self-discipline along with a life-long love of learning, high self-esteem and respect for others and the world around them.
RKMS offers a Parent-Child program for children aged 6 months – 23 months, meeting twice a week for 90 minutes. Not only do the children receive excellent developmental activity, parents have the opportunity to meet and bond with other local parents. Tuition is $2,300 for s days/week – four day options available. There are several options for their Toddler program (students age 2+ by September 1) with AM, PM, early bird, half-day options and additional enrichment opportunities. Tuition ranges from $7,100-$12,350. The primary program is for students age 3-6 and has 1/2 day. full day and full day Kindergarten options available. Language, Math, Science, and Geography are the academic areas of the classroom that children work in each day. Additionally, children form and shape their social-emotional skills as they practice working in small groups, learn how to problem-solve with their peers, and lend a hand when others need help. Art, Reading, Writing, Yoga and Science enrichment is also offered. Tuition ranges from $12,300-$15,600 for base tuition with enrichment costing an additional fee.
As with the other private preschools, the application process appears thorough and competitive, so enroll your child quickly!