Let’s face it, finding the right childcare for one’s family is no easy feat.
I know that back when I was working full-time at the newspaper as a reporter, the idea of leaving my baby with a stranger was enough to cause crippling anxiety.
Fortunately, I had family living close by who stepped up to the plate to help with daycare for our first daughter, Molly.
However, after our second daughter, Zoe, came along, hormones kicked into overdrive. There was just no way I was going back to my cubicle.
Instead, I swapped writing deadlines and power lunches for full-time diaper duty and tot romp.
Fast-forward to almost five years later and this Valley Mom is ready to let her little ladies spread their wings and fly.
I also have to make some sort of income so we can keep a roof over our head. For the past two years, I’ve managed to work part-time from home, but it has been tough on all of us.
Molly is now in full-time Kindergarten, but Zoe, 3.5, still needs my full attention — and rightfully so.
“Come and WIPE ME!” my dear preschooler has screamed on numerous occasions from our bathroom, while I’m mid-interview with a client.
I’ve been known to scribble notes in one hand with a phone clenched between my ear and shoulder, while using my free hand to fulfill my maternal responsibilities.
Rather than continue this awkward…err, messy juggling act, Jason and I have decided to enroll Zoe in a daycare program three days a week. During our recent childcare hunt, we discovered CEFA Willowbrook — a full-day early learning program designed for infants and children up to five years of age.
The franchise, which includes 14 locations across the Lower Mainland, has a reputation of highly developing a child’s intellect and delivering the finest start in education, arts and the humanities.
According to their website, the program at CEFA is far beyond the typical childcare programs found throughout Canada.
What exactly is so special about CEFA? Good question!
I’ve often wondered the same thing as I drove past the new Willowbrook location (just off the Langley Bypass).
This particular franchise, which opened a year ago, consists of eight spacious classrooms, a parent’s room, art room, nap room/gross motor room and a 5,300 sq ft outdoor playground.
I covered the grand opening for The Langley Times, but had never been inside… until recently.
Last week, CEFA Willowbrook’s owner Brenda Ip, a former high school Mathematics/Science teacher who has always dreamed of creating an environment that would help young children flourish, invited me on a tour.
Here are just 8 things I discovered about CEFA Willowbrook that completely blew my mind.
1. The Top-Notch Curriculum & Staff
At CEFA, children learn while surrounded by peers of the same age, similar to the Canadian elementary school system. Children are enrolled in a classroom based on their year of birth, unlike typical child care environments where children of different ages are grouped together.
CEFA boasts an Enriched Curriculum that includes a unique partnership of core subjects, (such as Reading and Math), and fine arts (such as Drama and Yoga).
Each of the teachers are trained Early Childhood Educators who, in addition to their qualifications, are trained and certified by CEFA Educational Systems to become specialized junior kindergarten Teachers.
2. Low Teacher Turnover
After meeting with a few of the teachers, Brenda noted that the staff turnover at CEFA Willowbrook is extremely low compared to the industry average.
“We treat them really well, and because I used to be a teacher myself, I am able to respect and support them like teachers (and not like babysitters),” shes said.
“We also feed them all the good food we have for our children. It truly is a blessing for ourselves and our children that our staff loves coming to work — it’s a happy, harmonious space for them to grow.”
3. The Food
Do you know that CEFA has an in-house cook who creates delicious, hot, and healthy meals for your child?
While I didn’t realize that fun fact beforehand, I became privy to it the second I walked through the front door and the delicious aroma coming from their kitchen caught my attention. It was just about lunchtime and the cook was busy pulling black bean and quinoa brownies out of the oven.
“You have to try one of these,” she said, cutting me a slice.
On the counter I also spied the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetable that were being sliced and diced for a fresh pineapple salsa that would top some fresh baked chicken breasts.
“Wow, I don’t even eat like this at home for lunch,” I said, amazed at the spread she was putting on for the students.
I also learned that in the summer months, the school receives a weekly organic box from the organic farmers in Richmond – Sweet Digz Farm. Children and staff get a chance to taste as many different kinds of organic vegetables, like golden beets, organic carrots, radishes, etc.
For parents, there is no need to worry about breakfast, lunch or snacks — CEFA takes care of all the food for that day they’re in care.
Imagine not having to worry about packing a lunch or whether those cookies contain peanuts? I know that would free up a lot of time in our busy household.
4. Let’s Talk about Safety
While your child is enrolled at CEFA you can take comfort in knowing he or she is safe and secure in the building. Parents are given a little computerized FOB chip for their key ring that allows them to enter the building.
Also, every child on site has an emergency kit filled with enough food and supplies to last 72 hours in the event of an earthquake or other disaster.
5. Shh… It’s NapTime!
As we walked down the hall, I heard soothing spa music coming from a dark room.
“What’s in there?” I asked, noticing adorable little sleep cots on the floor and around a dozen children tucked into their beds, sound asleep.
“That’s our nap room,” explained Brenda.
“The children bring their own crib sheets, blanket and a stuffed toy to feel comfortable and at home. Those who don’t nap or who wake up earlier than the rest of the children are permitted to quiet play in another room.”
6. Connecting Children to their Community
As a blogger who promotes life in the Fraser Valley, I pride myself on feeling connected to my community. While Zoe joins me on many events and adventures, I always wonder how I can be a better teacher when it comes to social responsibility?
Through CEFA’s ‘I Contribute to the World’ program, the children quickly learn that they can affect certain elements they thought depended entirely on others, explained owner Brenda Ip.
“We believe social responsibility is extremely important and is the foundation for character building,” she said.
“By teaching a child to contribute, you teach them what it is like to feel empathy, and you teach them that they can make a difference.”
Whether it is recycling at home and in the classroom, participating in projects to help others or caring for a younger student at school, the children at CEFA quickly learn that have the ability to make a difference in the world around them.
7. Okay, How much will it Cost Me???
While CEFA’s fees may be on the steeper side, especially when you compare them to traditional daycare and preschool programs, families have a choice with respect to how much or how little their child attends the school.
Programs range from two-to-five days per week — fees start at $695 and go up to $1,300 per month at the Willowbrook location.
All applications require a $200 application fee ($100 for each additional sibling). Note: If you enroll before April 30, 2015 at CEFA Willowbrook, you’ll receive an application fee credit of up to $200 and a free uniform for your child.
Government subsidies are also available for qualifying families. For more information, check with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
8. The Tax Advantage
CEFA qualifies for a tax advantage of up to $7,000 per year, per child. This amount is directly deducted from your earnings when filing your taxes.
And there you have it Valleyites, 8 fun and interesting facts that I learned about this amazing childcare option in my community. Jason and I have decided to sign Zoe up for the school on a part-time basis for now, and she is just about finished the gradual enrollment process.
I have to admit, I was really nervous about how she’d do on her first day since she already made so many great friends at her previous school, but she adapted really fast.
“I don’t want to go home yet mum, you just go home and leave me here!” she said, during pickup.
Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how her first month goes!
If you’re curious about CEFA like I was, I highly encourage you to attend one of their upcoming open house session that are listed below:
The CEFA program was created in 1996 by Natacha V. Beim, a trained elementary school and junior kindergarten Teacher. The original curriculum component of the program was based on the French standards of junior kindergarten, a strong element still in the program today. Over the years, the program has evolved and been influenced by different learning styles Natacha observed throughout the world, while on her quest for an internationally standardized program.