So often parents ask us what we do at TSL. It is hard to answer this question without being generic. We are a small business childcare and the answer to the questions "Who are we?" "What do we do?" have to be defined carefully, because that answer sets us apart from everyone else.
My reply is often this..."TSL does not define itself by what we do, but what we do outside of what we do." This can be confusing so I have to break it down for people. As a recreational program we can do 101 things and still sound like any other program. We do games, crafts, projects, outdoor time etc. and the list goes on.
So, I go on to explain who we are. We are educators. We formed our program out of love and passion for children and child's programming. Embedded within the context of all of those regular things, we swear by a philosophy that emphasizes cooperation over competition, values friendship to such a point that many games and activities and projects that we do are a means to that end. Our planning purposeful, calculated and reflective of who we are. There is nothing random in what we do or how we do it. The program nuances, or the culture, that exudes are existence can't often be explained in generic terms. That is who we are. That is what makes us different.
We have seen many programs tout virtues, but with no real way of reinforcing those virtues. Without calculation and precision, virtues are only words on a page or on a banner. Real virtues are taught, trained, learned and practiced over and over. Even our decision not to travel is rooted in our belief that we'll have more time to practice and instill our values by staying put, not because we don't like theme parks or lakes.
So, if you are reviewing multiple program options, don't forget to ask that big question....it may take some programs off guard. But that in itself will be telling.
Who are you?
Is your child's school experience affected by the quality of childcare he or she receives before school begins and after school ends? We think so.
There is nothing overly scientific about this piece, but I'm passionate about my philosophies and TSL has always believed that childcare experiences in the before and after school setting can positively or negatively impact a child's full day experience. Makes sense, right? A child who engages in healthy play with stimulating and well trained adults between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. will walk through the school doors feeling good and ready to tackle the rigors of academia. While the child who is not engaged or is supervised by someone with lesser vested adults in the same time span, at the very least, may not benefit at all from his early morning experience such that it prepares him for the 6 hours ahead. And what about after school. An additional three hours of a child's life...doing what? Do parents and school professionals even know?
Many children are spending as much time in childcare programs before and after school as they are in regular school, yet many school districts and even families aren't taking the time to scrutinize the programs that are serving their children. When a school district needs a new roof what do they do? They begin a long process to evaluate multiple companies, accept bids, review bids and finally settle on the most viable company to complete the job based on their reputation, their cost and their efficiency.
Now, what happens in most school districts when signs begin to emerge that a new childcare service may be needed? In most cases....nothing. Familiar programs become entrenched after years of service and operate under little scrutiny because, quite frankly, not enough people care about what is happening in these programs or believe themselves to not have enough time to be concerned. In many cases complacency is the common attitude. "The service provider had been here for years," "It's just after school" "we don't have anything to do with that, they just pay us rent".
Quality of childcare is important. Programming, delivery, and how it is integrated into the wider school community are all important factors that hint of what benefits await the child who attends a school program whose philosophies embrace the full day from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. as part of the child's growth and development. As it were, the majority of school districts look at the 8-2 period as their only concern. In my mind, that only provides children with quality experiences (or one should hope) for only half their day.
Their lie a day ahead perhaps, when RFP's invite agencies every couple of years to compete to offer quality childcare programs in all school districts to give fair opportunity for all organizations to compete. Staging this competition is key to getting the best programs in place for your children. The same way they get the best new roof on the school when it is needed. Aren't children as important as a new roof?
So, it was 2009 and I was in the midst of our first year summer program as TSL Adventures, the culmination of lots of hard work as I scurried to get TSL off the ground while finishing my 12th year as an elementary classroom teacher. Then, opportunity knocks.
Along comes Sacred Heart School asking if we could bring TSL to their school and run their before and after school programs. I hear the words of a song in my head "should I stay or should I go"....I went. After 12 years of teaching I closed the door behind me and never looked back.
Not that it was easy to do, but I had faith that a better forward path could be shaped with this decision. I had no money, no certainty, no business experience, no accounting experience...in fact, during my first year I had pulled to the side of the road in tears after visiting an accountant for the first time. It was then I realized the only thing I truly DID know, was children and programming for children. I had countless years as a teacher and as a recreational program leader. As well, I had meticulously observed and savored recreational programs with analytical skill and stealth. But not only that, I had a thirst to see this little program at Sacred Heart grow, mostly because I knew it had to. In the end, everything I did not know, was outweighed by what I did know. The rest I developed a keen sense for in time.
Year after year, with relentless drive we added programs, subtracted programs, added more programs, moved programs from one facility to another, expanded our staffing to include middle and upper level management, learned the ins and outs of accounting, marketing, social media presence, website design and integrated software applications among many other things and kept our heads above water the entire time. How?
Awesome programs. We found our niche. There weren't many, if any, private programs that were doing, or even could do, what we sought to do, which was to redefine the school-age childcare experience and develop a unique brand in our local community and beyond. Our philosophical approach, backed up through solid programming, quality care and affordable prices encouraged repeat business which became the backbone of our operations. Not to mention word of mouth advertising, which is the best free advertising any business can have.
The first 10 years has been an awesome ride as we now operate 10 locations, with three daycare centers, 10 after school programs in public and private schools as well as off campus center locations and 10 summer camps through the capital region. We can only wonder where we will be in another 10 years!
TSL Team Contributions
This blog is for parents and educators to learn more about our organization. It's also the space where we share information of interest to parents.