BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. Joanne Borchers decided to start a small "toddler time" program at her home about 30 years ago so that she could teach a little while staying home with her 18-month old daughter.
When Borchers' daughter was a few years old, Borcher looked for a hands-on nursery school program with Christian spiritual aspects and teachers that would try to advance children in areas that they were gifted in.
"I wanted so many things for my own child that I just decided to open up my own school for her," Borchers said.
Twenty seven years later, Borchers' Christian Nursery School located in the All Saints Episcopal Church at 201 Scarborough Rd., has about 40 three, four and five-year-old students, and the school has just begun accepting two-year-olds as well.
"It's a very close-knit feeling here. It feels a lot like family," said Nichole Culotta of Briarcliff who has one son in the three-year-olds' program and a son and daughter in first and second grades who already went through Borcher's school.
Jennifer Hickey of Ossining agreed.
"I feel like they really get to know each child on a personal level," said Hickey, whose four-year-old son is in Borcher's school.
Borchers' morning curriculum which runs from 9 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. includes free play and crafts, clean-up time, circle time, where students sit in a circle and share thoughts, snack time, outdoor play, story time and gym.
Last week, students sang an "I am special" song while sitting in a circle on the floor, then took turns sharing with each other what they are good at that makes them special.
"The bible tells you to encourage one another," Borchers said.
Borchers explained that her school has Christian aspects to it such as exposing children to the concept that there is a God who watches over them, cares for them and who they can talk to in prayer, but it is open to children of any faith.
In the afternoons, the Christian Nursery School offers reading and writing sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a "Little Explorers" science program on Thursdays, children's zumba classes on Fridays and a pizza and open gym session on Mondays.
"My son did really well in the reading and writing program," said Kathleen Winger of Briarcliff who has one son now in kindergarten and another son in Borchers' three-year-olds program "He would recognized words just by looking at them and his writing just became fantastic. His name, 'Harrison' is hard to write but he did great."
Children at Borchers' school also take various field trips to local places including Teatown Lake Reservation, the Atria Briarcliff Manor senior living center, Phelps Hospital and the Briarcliff Fire Station, and they participate in a Christmas pageant and a Valentine's Day dance.
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