Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Making the Grade in Fort McMurray With Educare

I remember when we first arrived in Fort McMurray over a decade ago with the then three year old Intrepid Junior Blogger in tow. We had known many of the challenges associated with living here - high housing costs, and low availability of vacant space. We had known about the potential to feel a bit isolated, although we learned that was a bit of a myth as this place is not so very isolated at all. What we didn't know, though, was that childcare was in desperately short supply, and preschool spots very limited. We had come from a very small community with a fairly low birth rate, and few new families moving in, but the situation here was very different. When I talked to someone shortly after our arrival here about getting the IJB into preschool many dark comments about the odds against that happening quickly were made, and I was relieved when we did find a spot. Other parents at the time were equally concerned, but they handled the challenge in a slightly different way. They didn't wait for a spot to open up in an existing program - they started one instead.

In 1996 founder Kim Farrell saw the need for a new preschool, one with a focus on literacy and language development. Kim founded Educare based on this need, and the program has been going - and growing - ever since. Educare is unique in many ways, but one significant difference is that it has a speech pathologist on staff, a very appealing addition for anyone with a child with a known or suspected speech issue. It has been clearly shown that addressing such issues early is vital to minimizing the impact on future education, and so Educare is the "jump start" needed to assist those children. But Educare is far more than just aimed at children with speech issues. Educare is designed to benefit every child.

Last week I had a chance to sit down with one of the board members of Educare, and what came through from our conversation was a shining passion for children and education. The staff at Educare are Early Childhood Education professionals who pursue continuing education opportunities and professional development. This is not "play school" as some may think of preschools, although it is designed to be fun and engaging for the children. It is a genuine preparation for our educational system, and it is designed to help children as they ease into the school environment. With a focus on literacy and speech it is also meant to give them a little bit of a head start in those areas and to help them gain strength and proficiency.

Now, it's not just limited to literacy, though, with classes in music, a social skills program, and so much more. In an educational system that is devoted to creating 21st century citizens programs like Educare give children the foundation on which to build. And Educare designs their programming to mesh with both the Catholic and public school boards, allowing students from the program to easily integrate into their new schools when they leave Educare. A curriculum focused on child development and incorporating education through play, peer interaction, and music is bound to prepare a child for further educational success, and those are the ways Educare seeks to prepare children (but it doesn't stop there, of course, as there is so much more).

Educare is a paid preschool program, but they do try to keep the fees reasonable and minimal by holding fundraisers, such as the annual Shamrock Shindig (an event on March 16th this year, and one I plan to attend). Through such fundraisers and community grants the program is able to maintain excellent staff while also minimizing costs to parents who choose to enroll their children. And Educare maintains an open door policy, inviting parents of potential students to come in and check out the program, meet the staff, and learn about what is offered and if the program is the right fit for their child.

I am passionate about many things, people, and my child is one of them. And every single parent I know is passionate about their child, and so we seek out those who are also passionate about children to educate them and to help them blossom. We look for those with genuine commitment and passion for what they do, and a short discussion with a board member (and some subsequent research online) has convinced me that Educare has that passion. Children aren't just important to us as parents - they are important to our entire community as they are the future for all of us. They are our future leaders, our future doctors and lawyers and engineers and all the rest. In them our hopes and dreams reside, and so we search for the best possible place for them to bloom and achieve their full potential. One of the ways we do this is to start them on the path for success early, and so if you are thinking about the need for preschool I would suggest you check out Educare when considering the options (and there is a waiting list at Educare, so check into it early). While my IJB did not attend Educare I know it is one of the programs I would have considered had I known about it, but I simply didn't know it existed ten years ago - and perhaps that is why I am sharing it with you today, so you have some knowledge I didn't have and the ability to make that choice. Knowledge is power, and so today I share some knowledge with you in the hopes that perhaps it is just what you needed to know :)

My sincere thanks to Danielle
from the Educare board
for sitting down with me
and sharing the Educare story and philosophy!
You can contact Educare directly at
780-743-3464 (Lynette)

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