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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Preschool Options Montgomery County Public Schools (Maryland)


Occasionally I feel the need to do a very specific post to record some information. This is one of those posts. Here in Montgomery County Maryland, there is a program called PEP (Preschool Education Program). This is a special education program for students with IEPs (Individualized Education Program). The tuition is incredibly affordable, and the preschools are located at elementary schools.

As I was researching preschools for my daughter, this program, along with the Headstart program, and a preschool option at the high schools caught my eye.

Let's face it, preschools are NOT cheap. I managed to find a reasonably priced one in the area (<$900 per year - message me for details), but my goodness it was difficult. They are few and far between.

With Caroline having a November birthday, she has an extra year before going to Kindergarten. She is currently in a 3's program that meets twice a week for 2.5 hours. Next year, she'll be in the 4's program that meets 3 days, for 2.5 hours. The year after that? Well our options are to find another program, or to repeat the 4's program that she'll be in the year prior.

So I started doing my research. We refuse to pay $3K or more for a school year. That seems to be the lower end of the programs around here in Montgomery County, MD. The one we are currently in is < $900 per year, so we'd rather repeat this, than pay an arm and a leg for another year elsewhere. We are also looking for something that has longer hours and perhaps a few more days to help better prepare her for the full day of kindergarten that is to come.

Programs I've identified in Montgomery County, Maryland (@Elementary Schools):

1. Headstart/PreK: This is INCOME based. I called and they quoted me a max income of around $26K per household for a family of 3. The school that offers this close to us is a 5 day program for 2 hours each day. They have 2 sessions (morning and afternoon).

2. PEP PILOT: This is special education and IEP based. They also include "typically developing peers" in the program, however. Which means that a handful of non IEP students get to attend as well. It appears that these program hours differ by school, but from what I have researched, most of them seem to be 2 day programs for about 2.5 hours.

3. PEP Classic: This is also a special education and is IEP based. The IEPs are more significant than the PILOT program, however. In this program it is left to teacher discretion as to if they want to hold any spaces for typically developing peers. I found a school in Gaithersburg (Thurgood Marshall), that holds 3 spaces for typically developing peers (other schools may do this as well). The program is 5 days a week for 2 hours.

All of these programs are insanely affordable compared to non county options. Ranging from about $400-$900 per school year. As you can see, however, each individual school seems to have it's own days/hours/tuition/etc. Each school must be contacted individually. So, how to apply?

From my research, here's how to apply:

1. Headstart/PreK: Call 301-230-0676. This office handles the applications directly.

2. All PEP programs: Call 301-279-2058 for information, but you must apply to the schools directly. For a list of the schools that are participating, you can view this webpage:
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/curriculum/pep/locations.shtm

Spaces fill up FAST for all of these programs, so it is essential to apply as early as possible. It is my understanding that transportation is provided in many cases, assuming you live in the school zone. The schools also tend to give anyone zoned for the school first priority.

We are in the process of contacting individual schools that we'd like Caroline to attend. It has been a tedious process, because MCPS does not just clearly outline the process online. I've had to talk with other moms about the process to figure it out. Nowhere on the website does the PEP mention that peer students without IEPs are accepted. This has all been word of mouth to figure things out, but from talking with teachers it is turning out to be correct information!

Now, I've gone through each staff directory of each school that we'd consider, and sent emails to each school requesting information on everything- application process, days/hours of the program, price, etc. None of this can be found on the county site or even on the individual school webpages.

It's absurd to me how difficult they make this, which is why I'm determined to record it here and help fellow MCPS moms out!

Early Child Development Program (@ High Schools)

In addition to the above programs, there is something called the Early Child Development Program, that is run through some of the local high schools. This program has preschool options at high schools and is the program we are most interested in. High school students help with the education process as a part of their career pathway.

This page shows what schools this is offered at throughout the county:
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/career-readiness/plans/childdev.aspx

Again, the tuition is insanely affordable (<$900/year). These programs tend to be 4 days of instruction, and about 3 hours, although some go a bit longer. Again, each program is different hours/days/tuition/etc. You must contact the programs directly through the schools and apply through the schools individually. They require a deposit, and spaces go quickly.

For us, the early child development program makes the most sense. We are looking for a program that is 4-5 days of instruction, and more than 2 hours long, so Caroline is better prepared for the long hours of kindergarten. All of these programs are amazing, however. Whether you are in need of financial assistance, IEP support, or just looking to find a great preschool, these are all great options. I love that our county provides these types of programs for families. I wish there were more of them and more spaces so more families could participate. What I don't love, is how difficult it is to get information, and how inconsistent things are (varying from school to school).

One day MCPS might have the resources to hire someone to manage a webpage for all of this (MCPS please hire this SAHM to get things organized for you LOL). In the meantime, I'll be updating this post with any specific information that I receive back from schools.

Specific School Information (as of 2018)

Child Development Programs
(not a full list as I could not find information on all schools)

Bethesa Chevy Chase

View more info at this link: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/bcchs/academics/childdevelopment/preschool.aspx


Blake
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday (with a few exceptions)
Time: 7:50am through 11am
Cost: $300/semester
View more info at this link: https://blakeprek.weebly.com/welcome.html

Clarksburg
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday (with a few exceptions)
Time: 8:45 am through 1:20 pm 
Cost : $450/semester
View more info at this link: www.chsprek.weebly.com


Damascus
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday and some Fridays
Time: 7:50am through 10:50 am
Cost: $550/year

View more info at this link:
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/damascushs/departments/cte/child_dev/child.aspx?sid=21172

Walter Johnson
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday and some Fridays
Time: 2 hrs and 20 min
Cost : $225/semester
View more info at this link:
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/wjhs/departments/facs/

Magruder
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday
Time: Morning session 8:40-11:05, Afternoon session 12:05-1:35
Cost: Morning session $225/semester, Afternoon session $150/semester
View more info at this link: 
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/magruderhs/academies/education/preschool.aspx

Northwest
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday
Time: ?
Cost: ?
View more info at this link: http://www.childdevelopment.nwhjags.com/

Northwood
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday
Time: 7:45am to 12:45pm
Cost: $750/year
View more info at this link: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/northwoodhs/about/preenrollment.aspx

Paint Branch
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday
Time: 8-11:05am
Cost: ?

View more info at this link:  http://panthercubs.wixsite.com/mysite


Quince Orchard
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday (with a few exceptions)
Time: 8 am through 11 am
Cost : $300.00/semester….$600.000 year
View more info at this link: http://qocougarcubs.weebly.com/

Seneca Valley
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday (with a few exceptions)
Time: morning session 8:45 am through 11 am afternoon session 12:05-1:35
Cost : $225/semester for the morning session, $150 for the afternoon session
View more info at this link:
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/senecavalleyhs/programs/childdevelopment.aspx
12 spaces available- a few spots are held for Sept-Nov birthdays


Sherwood
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday (with a few exceptions)
Time: 8-11
Cost: $300/semester

Springbrook
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday
Time: 8am-11 am
Cost: $300/semester
View more info at this link: https://sites.google.com/mcpsmd.net/springbrook-child-development

Watkins Mill
Dates: October through May
Days: Monday through Thursday
Time: 8-11am
Cost: $300/semester
View more info at this link: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/watkinsmillhs/departments/childdevelopment/

Wheaton
Dates: October through May
Days: Tuesday through Thursday
Time: 7:50 through 11:50 am
Cost: $750/year
View more info at this link: 
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/wheatonhs/departments/familyconsumer/

PEP (Preschool Education Programs)

Germantown Elementary

Dates: September through June
Days: T/Th or M/W

Time: 2.5 hours
Cost : $150/semester
Can enroll as a community peer (no IEP)


Thurgood Marshall
Dates: September through June
Days: 2 days per week (PILOT Program), 5 days per week (classic program)
Time: ~2 hours
Cost :  ?
Can enroll as a community peer (no IEP) in both the PILOT and classic programs here

Rockwell

Dates: September through June
Days: 2 days per week  (morning and afternoon options)
Time: ~2 hours
Cost :  $150/semester

Headstart (Income based programs)

The PreK Office at the county level handles all applications and matches students to their home schools. Call 301-230-0676 to reach them.




-Katrina



Caroline has been in gymnastics now for 1.5 years. That's half of her life! As a mom, I have such mixed feelings about it...

I LOVE the physical challenges that it presents to her. I love the energy release, the focus it requires, and the fun she has. It has built her core muscles, helped her with balance, and she's a full year ahead on some of her physical abilities (according to her pediatrician). All of that alone is reason enough to keep going with gymnastics!

1 year ago, Caroline successfully walked across the balance beam all on her own.


A full year later, she can do a back flip (mat assisted) all on her own, and she attempted flipping herself over the bar for the first time unassisted! She can jump up, and push up on the bar with her arms straight, and hold her position. It's incredible to see the strength and coordination that she's gained!


We are not the type of parents to force an activity or sport on our child. Caroline tried gymnastics and had fun with it and excelled at it, which is why we've kept her in it for so long. We've always said that, if at any time she no longer has an interest, we'll pull her out.

There have been moments that we were close to doing so!

The first moment happened when Caroline started having anxiety around a mat that is ripped. She had so much anxiety around this mat, she was unable to participate in class for a few weeks. We'd show up and she'd refuse to do anything.


I almost decided not to sign her up again. Then, she moved past it and started excelling again. So we kept her in.

Then she moved up to the next level- preschool level. She's in the class without me now. Again, she just excelled.

Then, more anxiety happened. This time around new people. New people in her class, new people just out on the floor during her class, etc. Again, it was to the point that she wasn't participating in class unless I was by her side or at least on the floor.

Again, I thought about stopping the class after the session was over. Then she moved past the anxiety, and went and did back flip all on her own! And she can jump up on the bar and hold her position with straight arms. WHAT!?


She focuses, and just does so amazing when she puts her mind to it. I was blown away when I watched her do these things last week. She was in seemingly a bit of a plateau skill wise, and then all of the sudden all of her observation, listening, and practicing just sparked a fire and got her moving at a whole new skill level. I am so impressed.

So, of course, now we'll be signing up for the next session! LOL!

Why do I go back and forth with this you might be wondering? A few reasons...

1. It costs money! Gymnastics isn't the most expensive activity we could be doing (in fact we chose it because it was pretty reasonable compared to others), but it adds up quickly! If at any time it's no longer a good fit for her, it's not worth continuing to put money towards.

2. I want her to try other things. My intention was to have her do all sorts of activities at a young age, not be just focused on one. We can't afford all of it, however, nor do we have the time. If I want her to try ballet, she'd have to stop gymnastics. When she's enjoying it as much as she is, and excelling as much as she does, however, it's so hard to pull her out simply to have her try something new.

3. It's been half of her life! She's put a lot of work in, so I hate to pull her out if she has a lot of potential in this sport. I know, I know, it's Mama just having some emotional tie to it at this point, but it's there! On the flip side, as I mentioned above, she's spent half of her life doing the same activity. I so never intended to spend so much time on one thing!

At the end of the day, if Caroline is still having fun, and still doing as good as she is, we'll probably be keeping her in. If the day comes, however, that she says it's no longer fun, we'll let her stop, of course! Although boy will that day be hard for me!

I've watched her in gymnastics from the moment she was barely walking. My heart was so full of pride and happiness as I watched her walk in without me for the first time. And every time she masters a new skill I watch in awe.

I don't know what her future is in gymnastics, but I have to say I just love watching her love something so much and do so well. Gymnastics has not only been great for her physically, but also mentally and emotionally. She's moved past anxieties, she's learned how to wait her turn and follow instructions, and just in general, she's really challenged herself. It's been such a fun 1.5 years!

-Katrina

In exchange for an honest review on this blog, British Swim School of Central MD has provided my family with free swim lessons. All opinions and thoughts are my own. See below for an enrollment special!

One of the reasons I was so drawn to British Swim School over other swim classes, was their attention to safety. As I researched other swim classes, and talked with other moms that had experience with them, I only found one company that had a true focus on safety- and that was British Swim School.

County programs through the rec centers were super affordable, but they seemed to be more of a mommy and me playdate at the young ages- something I wasn't really wanting to pay for. And other programs just didn't have the safety first approach.

British Swim School is unique in their approach to the water. From the youngest of ages on up, they require a mastery of safety skills before any further progress can be achieved. I love this. Having a respect for the water is so important. Even the best of swimmers can drown in unfortunate circumstances. Swimming uses energy. Floating is the key to saving your life. This is what British Swim School focuses on at an early age, as a result. 

Their initial focuses are on water acclimation and learning how to float. They work with children on being comfortable in the water, and being submerged, while also teaching a respect for the water. We don't want children to panic if they are submerged. Being in a panicked state could cause someone to drown. Rather, we want them calm, comfortable, and knowing what to do. 

So, British Swim School has their students going under the water from their very first class at the Tadpole level. Instructors work with students at individual paces, and make sure they are comfortable and calm. The back float (or starfish) is also introduced immediately. Swim strokes are not taught until a child is comfortable and able to float on their own.

This balance of comfort and respect for the water is something I really appreciate as a mom.

They took it a step further, recently, and I have to say I was very impressed. Twice now, we've had swim classes that solely focus on being prepared in an emergency. During these classes, emergency situations are acted out with the children. What better way to prepare for a water emergency, than to have a safe simulation in the pool!? Just as with anything we teach to our children, acting out scenarios can really help our children to understand how to respond in emergencies. 

We teach stop, drop, and roll, from an early age. So why not act out water safety?

We were asked to have our children stay in their normal clothes (with swimsuits underneath). Why? Well, in an emergency, it's likely that it happens in normal clothes. Perhaps a child is running around outside, and slips into the pool. Perhaps, their toy fell in the water, and they decided to reach for it, and fell in. It's quite possible those things could happen in normal clothes. 

Wearing a swimsuit in the water, feels MUCH different than wearing a shirt and pants. Our regular clothes are heavier and harder to move in. I thought it was genius to have our children in their normal clothes, so they could know what this feels like and be prepared if something like this ever happened to them. 

During these safety simulation classes, they have the students help one another. One child gets into the water and rolls over to do their starfish (back float) that they've been practicing since they started at BSS. The instructor asks them to yell for help. 


The other students in the class are asked to find a floating device. They use the life rings during every class and are very comfortable with them. They have them stand up on the pool deck, grab a ring, and throw it to their classmate in the water. 


The child in the water, is then shown how to hold on to the ring, and kick to the edge of the pool. 


Each child gets to do all parts of the simulation in class. They talk about the lifeguard's role at the pool, and to always get an adult to help as well. They talk about never getting into a pool alone, never reaching into the water for a toy. They talk about getting to the edge of the pool. They talk about how the safest position in the pool is on your back and floating, and that they need to YELL fpr help if something ever happens.

The class is great.

Caroline has been at the Seahorse level now since August. She'll be here for a little while longer until she's ready to move up to the Minnow level. She is not yet 100% on her starfish (back float) being independent, and she is not fully comfortable with her submersions yet. She's close, but needs more time. And guess what? This Mama is totally fine not teaching her anything else in the water, until she masters those skills!

She is having fun, getting tons of practice in the water on a weekly basis, and getting more and more comfortable every week. Until I know she has mastered the safety skills, there is no reason to be teaching swim strokes. I can't reiterate enough how pleased I've been with this program.

My daughter is learning such valuable skills right now, and there's no rush. I really appreciate that about BSS. They challenge Caroline, but they don't push her too hard that she becomes frightened of the water. They have high expectations, yet they make it fun all at the same time. It's been a great company to work with!

-Katrina


Enrollment Special 20% off

If you live in Montgomery County or Frederick County, Maryland, and are interested in signing up with BSS, I am really excited to announce that you can receive 20% off your first 4 lessons when you call to enroll and use the code #MAMAS18. The information for our central Maryland British Swim Schools can all be found at this link. And not to worry if you live elsewhere, there are British Swim Schools ALL over the US!

Other Posts of Interest:

British Swim School- Tadpole class (level 1)

British Swim School- Swimboree  (level 2)


British Swim School- Seahorse (level 3)