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What parents of young kids in the Tenney Lapham Neighborhood need to know

My sis was just in town with her son. They live in Boston and my nephew will start at a Montessori pre-school this fall after spending his first two years with a nanny. She really thinks things through thoroughly and makes good decisions.

Thinking ahead to kindergarten, she is wondering how to weigh all the factors in her choice. Of course the school district matters, but her big question was, What are the personally relevant criteria to use in evaluating a school? 

I'm the older sister so I appreciate that she asks my advice, even if I thought about none of these possible criteria and just bought a house. I want to be my sister when I grow up, but for now I surf on my instincts and intuition.

Lucky for my kids, we bought a house three short blocks from the best nursery school I could ever have dreamed up: Flexible scheduling, amazing teachers, intimate setting, and integrally part of the history of the neighborhood we live in.

Two mornings a week, we leave the house about 5 minutes before the "Hello Song" begins for our short stroll, or roll. On the way, we convene with our neighbors also en route to Tenney Nursery and Parent Center. It is totally idyllic, by my personally relevant criteria.

Every year, about 100 families join the secret club. Unfortunately, it is too much of a secret. In contradiction to the perception that it is really stressful to "get a spot" in a good nursery school, Tenney is underenrolled for fall 2014! What?!?! Sign your kids up now!

TNPC was started in 1979 by a group of families in the Tenney Lapham neighborhood. I imagine that 35 years ago, the neighborhood must have been teeming with young kids, as it is today, and progressively-minded parents who were looking for creative and flexible solutions to childcare. Because it was founded by parents for their families and neighbors, the everlasting sense of community is amazing.

That was the era of cooperatives, a movement with a very rich history in Wisconsin. Today, there is a continuity to that history at Tenney: teachers who were once students, teachers who taught current kids' parents, that kind of thing. It's a real community.

Both my kids started Tenney at age 2, and both will be there until they begin Kindergarten (with their friends, at a school a few blocks away). They are in different, age appropriate classes, but because there are only three classrooms, and such a small number of children served, they will play together in the gym, on the gorgeous playground, and during Lunch Bunch.

It's not "Montessori" or "Waldorf" or any of the in vogue styles of education. It is simply nursery school in the most classic, and to my mind perfect, sense: the play structures are all built of wood and encourage imaginative play; the kids spend loads of time outside; art and story are integral in the curriculum; the kitchen is used for cooking healthy snacks; and the teachers cover all the official Pre-K basics.

I love that my neighborhood is so full of young children. I think it is in part because of the reputation of the local schools. I hope that Tenney Nursery Parent Center can also be the draw it deserves to be as the neighborhood heads into an interesting future.

Parents of young kids (age 2 and under) can drop in for Toddler Time on Fridays to check it out!

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