In the three years that Tracy Lefebvre has been owner and director of Misty Morning Child Center on Commerce Road, she has created a cultural shift “to a child-focused program that meets the needs of 21st Century childhood development,” she said, building on the 15-year-old business’s foundation.
A career in early childhood development was a conscious choice for the former partner in a New York City advertising firm. “I had always wanted to teach,” said Ms Lefebvre. After she and her family moved to New Milford in 2003, she substituted at the Danbury Hudson Country Montessori school, and then went for a year of training at the Montessori CMTE in New Rochelle, N.Y. She continued working at the Danbury school as a preschool and toddler teacher, and spent here last two years there overseeing the program, before the availability of Misty Morning in Newtown came to her attention.
The timing was ideal, as she had been debating opening her own child care canter. “The Newtown location seemed like it would really work and allow my vision to unfold,” Ms Lefebvre said.
That vision includes supporting not only the children at Misty Morning, but the parents, by providing resources related to development. Additionally, Ms Lefebvre recognizes that many people do not have families nearby, so they lack the support provided by extended family members in the past. “We’re here to support that duel-income family. Early childhood care is very different from what it was even five years ago,” she said, “and the foundation gets laid early on for the future.”
Special resources are always available to parents and teachers in dealing with difficult situations, such as that presented by 12/14, and in recognizing when children are having difficulties.
Misty Morning is not a Montessori school, but Ms Lefebvre’s training influences it. “We use a whole child approach,” she said. Misty Morning differs from many other child centers in that there is more emphasis on the infants and toddlers, so far as early life lessons go, she said. “We offer quality care for those younger children,” Ms Lefebvre said, and understand that it is hard for parents to leave their babies in the care of someone else. “We want a strong secondary attachment, and we know that working parents need group care for their children,” she said.
The center also understands that child care costs can be an issue for parents. “We do accept Care For Kids, a state child care subsidy program for parents in the low- to middle-income brackets,” she said
Misty Morning uses a formal curriculum from Teaching Strategies that is based on the individual child. The word “curriculum,” particularly when applied to infants, can be a scary word to lay people, she acknowledged. It does not mean the children are stuck at little tables learning the alphabet by rote or memorizing math tables, though, she said. Children at Misty Morning might find themselves “learning” about science and art by painting with food color-dyed ice cubes, or watching buckets of snow turn into water.
“Young children learn through play. They don’t even know when they are learning,” Ms Lefebvre said, when they have access to toys and games that are appropriate and available. While babysitters or caregivers may have strengths in certain areas of development, such as arts or music, or reading to a child, they may not be able to support a child in other areas of development.
A curriculum for young children is a means for parents and teachers to judge milestones in physical and mental development, by supplying opportunities for children, she said. “A more formalized curriculum allows us to support all developmental areas, from fine to gross motor skills, social/emotional skills, and the opportunities to learn problem solving, for instance,” said Ms Lefebvre. “All items lead to intentional teaching,” she said.
There are times throughout the day when the children gather in groups for story telling or music, but most of the learning and play is child directed or gently guided by teachers, all of whom have head teacher certificates, and some of whom have master’s degrees in education. There is a 1:4 ratio of teachers to infants through toddler age at Misty Morning, and a 1:10 ratio for preschoolers and elementary school aged children, with one or two more teachers on site to provide support.
“Misty Morning is actively working to get our National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC] accreditation, and we should have it by next year,” Ms Lefebvre said. That accreditation process is a great way of looking at “the spider webs in the corners,” she said and is a set of best standards to achieve.
The 6,000 square feet of space set back from Commerce Road contains five spacious classrooms. The Bumblebees, infants from 6 weeks of age through the “waddlers,” occupy one room. The pastel colors on the walls are soothing, and off to one side is a sleep and quiet space for the littlest of the Misty Morning “Dragonflies.”
The Grasshoppers and Lightning Bugs, which are the toddlers, are in two rooms, and the preschool-aged Butterflies are in a fourth room. The fifth room is for the before and after school programs. Every room is furnished with child-sized tables and chairs, small, upholstered couches or chairs, and plenty of games, activities, and spaces for imaginative play. Several activities are underway at any time, in any room.
Bordered on two sides by a quiet wooded property behind the center, three fenced-in playgrounds are equipped with a variety of slides, climbing apparatus, and rocking or rolling toys where children can be supervised in proper group sizes. Adjacent to the main building are two playgrounds geared toward the smallest students.
Hawley and Reed Intermediate School children are picked up and dropped off by school buses; a Misty Morning van transports Sandy Hook School children to Monroe, and Middle Gate children are transported via MTM buses. Currently, she does not have service for Head O’ Meadow school children, said Ms Lefebvre, but that may change in the future.
Misty Morning Child Center does not follow the public school calendar, so care is available every day, year around, except for certain major holidays. During the summer months, an all-day summer camp is open to the public for registration. Information on the summer camp programs can be found at www.mistymorningcc.com, or by contacting Ms Lefebvre at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-270-6771.
“I’m one of the lucky few who got to change careers, do what I love, and use all of my skills together,” said Ms Lefebvre. “For me, it’s making sure there is quality growth here.”