Curious and inquisitive, kids love to learn. And the sooner the better, before their innocence is hardened by the natural strains of our society.
Those are just some of the ideals upon which Jack and Jill Preschool, located at 280 Hillcrest Road in Lebanon, was founded.
For 50 years, Jack and Jill Preschool has been putting local kids in positions to succeed. The local, independent, and privately-owned school is celebrating its golden anniversary with a number of events throughout the year, none of which are more important than putting into perspective the number of young lives it has helped influence over those five decades.
Children are not things to be molded, but young people to be unfolded.
“I just love to see their little light bulbs go off,” said Kerry Lively, one of Jack and Jill’s co-directors. “They’re sponges for learning. We have hugs at the end of the day, and they make you feel so good. Children are so genuine. They light up your day.
“This is just such an exciting place,” continued Lively. “It’s just such a happy place. Our days are filled with smiles. We’re fostering confident learners. Little things are so big in kids’ lives.”
Currently, Jack and Jill Preschool has 135 young learners, between the ages of two and five, enrolled for the 2019-20 school year. Most of the children spend two to five hours a day learning the essentials for being good students, for two to five days a week.
The costs of Jack and Jill Preschool’s programs range from $57 per month to $290 per month, depending upon the frequency and intensity of the programs. Most of the children hail from Lebanon County, from Cornwall to Fredericksburg, from Palmyra to Eastern Lebanon County, even from the city of Lebanon.
“It’s not a daycare,” said Lively. “It’s run as a school. We provide that school environment. We work one-on-one or in small groups to check their skills. It’s more than free play. It’s much more than simply spending time with children.
“The kids are from families who are excited about learning,” added Lively. “We now have alumni bringing their children here. It’s really a family experience. When they leave here, they definitely don’t go to the same elementary schools. It’s very diverse. We have a reputation, from serving the Lebanon Valley for 50 years. We really love to share our passion for learning.”
At Jack and Jill, preschoolers are taught, pre-writing and math skills, manners, how to be good friends and how to use time wisely. But cognitive development is just as important as establishing a healthy routine and developing social skills.
Jack and Jill employs 12 staff members. All of the preschool’s lead teachers possess bachelor’s degrees in elementary or early education and their Pennsylvania teacher’s certificates, and some have earned master’s degrees in education.
Part of the learning experience includes developmental checklists and parent-teacher conferences, three times throughout the school year.
“The children are very attentive at this age,” said Lively. “We have to be changing things all the time.”
Sometimes they don’t even realize they’re learning.
“It really instills that love for learning early on,” Lively continued. “I think the social part is so key, to have them feel comfortable with their school days. I don’t know if you can say that learning the cognitive skills are more important than the social aspects of it. But when you combine the two, it’s
In 1970, Jack and Jill Preschool was founded from modest beginnings by Carol Maurer and Rita Moore, a pair of Bloomsburg University elementary-education graduates who relocated to Lebanon. After starting preschool programs for their own children in their homes, Moore and Maurer began a program at Iona Methodist Church, then at Frieden’s Lutheran Church in Myerstown and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on South 12th Street in the city.
In 2001, Jack and Jill Preschool moved to its current four-acre site in North Cornwall Township. It was around that time that a board of directors made up of active parents was formed to oversee Jack and Jill’s operations.
“The early curriculum was based on nursery rhymes,” said Lively. “Rhymes are a good way to teach with three- and four-year-olds. When [Moore and Maurer] had children of their own, they realized they should be teaching this age group [more].”
Moore and Maurer started Jack and Jill in their own homes, Lively said, and it only expanded from there. Moore still comes in to teach science through puppetry.
“The excitement she creates with the kids is pretty remarkable,” she said. “The flip side of that is, 25 years ago, a lot of pre-K children began being exposed to reading and writing at a much younger age.”
Another aspect of Jack and Jill’s curriculum is preparation. For if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
“It is absolutely a preparation for school,” said Lively. “We follow standards set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to ensure our children are prepared. We want them to have a love of learning and to be prepared to hit the ground running when they get to school.
“Routine is huge,” continued Lively. “In our basic schedule, we teach every aspect of the day. Children thrive on routine. They get to learn their routine. It helps them understand the times away from their moms and dads.”
Jack and Jill is one of more than a dozen preschools in Lebanon County. Some are privately operated and some are public-school based.
“We are adding a new program this year,” said Lively. “This fall, we’ll be offering a two-day, pre-K program on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with longer times. It’s a need we saw, and you can fit in more experiences. Time goes fast when you’re having fun learning.”
And when it comes to teaching children, there’s no time like the present.
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