Like many other towns, Shelburne bustles with the early morning ritual of buses transporting kids to school and kids being dropped off at childcare. Heather’s House–Learning for Life, is among those childcare destinations. At a time when the economy is uncertain, Heather has expanded her home-based childcare and pre-school adding two jobs and six new childcare openings to the Shelburne community. Her expansion helps keep the town of Shelburne healthy.
“Better child care is what’s needed in Vermont,” says Elizabeth Meyer, president of the Vermont Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. “Greater partnership between parents, providers, employers, and private and public funders are needed to make it happen. Without child care, Vermont does not work.”
“We want to build constructive thinkers,” says Heather, while sitting among the tables and chairs of her center. “It is essentially learning for life through play. It is play based with intention.” During this type of play-based learning, Heather asks clarifying or expanding questions that help guide each child. Yet it is still play and has the child’s intrinsic focus rather than being externally motivated by an age-based generic structure.
A traditional approach to early child education teaches a certain age group how to count to 50 or to repeat the alphabet whether they are ready or not. Influenced by both Waldorf and Montessori educational models, Heather keeps the whole child, and their parents, in mind. “I view myself as a partner in raising your child and that is part of what I offer,” Heather says.
Where Heather sees the most success is when she is able to stay with kids from early infant until they officially start kindergarten. “Research shows best practices are to stay with a bonded caregiver,” says Heather.
Part of what can interfere with these bonds is the typical scenario of transitioning to a traditional preschool when a child turns three. Heather sees this as limiting early child development where bonds have to be re-established and such abilities as being an expert within a social setting may be delayed.
Part of Heather’s philosophy is grounded in building solid relationships with the children and their parents. Heather starts this process with an extensive interview with the parents to understand a child’s background and have the parents feel comfortable. Parents also feel a sense of community that often only happens with an extended family.
Despite an uncertain economy and obstacles along the way, expanding Heather’s House–Learning for Life is a clear choice for Heather, who wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Adding jobs and childcare openings also benefits the Shelburne community but there is more. The children attending Learning for Life are provided with a level of educated care that lay the foundations for their success throughout their whole life.