Founding a Private Child Care Center With a Whole-Child Approach
CHALLENGE: Evolving From Early Childhood Educator to Private Child Care Owner
Kenosha Witherspoon founded and owns Someplace Else Learning Factory (S.E.L.F.), a private child care center in Detroit, Michigan. Creating a nurturing, safe, and loving environment where children have access to high-quality early childhood educational materials was a long road, but Kenosha knew that she could make a drastic difference in the lives of local children and their families in Detroit.
Kenosha began her career in 2006 as an associate teacher in a Head Start Program in Michigan. She advanced to lead teacher roles in various Head Start and home visiting programs and eventually became an administrator at a private child care center.
By 2017, Kenosha decided to start her own private child care center where she could have the greatest impact on the community she had come to know and love.
SOLUTION: Securing Funding and a Safe Place to Implement The Creative Curriculum
To open her own private child care center, Kenosha began researching curriculum options and facilities she could rent to best serve children. As a full-time early childhood educator and aspiring entrepreneur, cost and funding were major concerns.
Kenosha found a local building that had been used as a church that was available to rent, but she wasn’t sure if it would be approved as a private child care center. Fortunately, the landlord agreed not to charge her rent until her business was up and running.
After bringing the building up to code, Kenosha’s business was approved as a private child care center in January of 2019. She furnished her center by attending public school auctions and sales from closed child care centers to obtain quality cribs, cubbies, and portable sinks on a budget.
Building and Utilizing a Network of Education Resources
Now it was time to select a curriculum. As a teacher, Kenosha had used part of The Creative Curriculum in 2017 and was impressed by how excited children were to engage in a project-based learning approach, as well as how easy it was for teachers to implement. She knew she had to find a way to purchase it for her center.
Kenosha researched how to qualify for state and local funding, attended early childhood committee meetings to learn more, and reached out to staff members in education departments and programs. She quickly built a network of contacts in the early childhood field.
A woman she had met in a committee meeting from the Early Childhood Investment Corporation approached Kenosha with some excellent news. The state of Michigan was offering funding for curriculum for new child care centers if she agreed to professional development and ongoing coaching. The program she selected was The Creative Curriculum and she readily agreed to the professional development and coaching from Teaching Strategies to bring The Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers & Twos and The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, as well as The Creative Curriculum Cloud, to her center.
RESULTS: The Creative Curriculum: Engaging for Children and Easy for Teachers
By April of 2019, Someplace Else Learning Factory (S.E.L.F.) opened its doors and all attending children would experience a whole-child curriculum. When S.E.L.F. first opened, Kenosha had only two young siblings who attended, but word began to spread. By that fall, she had enough students to start several Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) classrooms. GSRP is Michigan’s state-funded educational program that ensures all children from birth to age eight, especially those in highest need, have access to high-quality early learning and developmental programs to enter kindergarten prepared for success. In 2019, GSRP developed and implemented a Curriculum Review Committee (CRC) charged with reviewing, scoring, and approving GSRP curricula. Two curricula went through the process and The Creative Curriculum was approved, while the other was not.
The Creative Curriculum provides teachers with the support and guidance they need to easily guide children down a path for success in school and in their lives. It provides clear plans for each day, allowing teachers to be present in the classroom and focus on adapting the learning for each child.
Kenosha explains, “The Creative Curriculum and the Cloud allow teachers to easily follow a plan for the day instead of planning all night long. It provides the day-to-day support to plan and individualize instruction.” The curriculum is supportive but not rigid, and Kenosha appreciates that it leaves room for her educators’ own creativity.
The Whole-Child Approach and Family Connection with The Creative Curriculum Cloud
With The Creative Curriculum study approach, Kenosha and her teachers incorporate language, literacy, social–emotional learning, math, science, social studies, and the arts into each day of instruction with study topics that engage and spark children’s natural curiosity. The Creative Curriculum Cloud allows them to easily find specific resources and provides guidance on how to implement each lesson. They all appreciate how it allows a substitute to seamlessly step in and use the same language and resources, so there is no interruption in instruction for the children.
Additionally, Kenosha especially appreciates the online professional development that shows multiple ways of addressing topics in the curriculum and provides strategies for how to strengthen her partnerships with families. The Creative Curriculum Cloud allowed two-way communication with families so they could stay connected, share resources, and provide the tools needed to develop relationships with them before the children even entered the program.
“The Creative Curriculum and The Cloud allows teachers to find or learn with the online professional development videos. The videos show you how to use the studies, and best practices, and strategies for communicating with families.”
A Bright Future and Expansion of S.E.L.F.
Word spread quickly about S.E.L.F., and today it has grown to three classrooms, including two GSRP-funded classrooms with infants and toddlers and preschool children and one classroom for school-aged children.
Kenosha plans to expand into the building next door to create two more GSRP classrooms as the local need for quality early childhood education continues to grow. She is always looking for committees to join and meetings to attend to increase funding and provide more resources for her community.
Bring The Creative Curriculum to Your Program
To others looking to start a private child care center, Kenosha shares that if you believe you can do it, it is possible to move from early child care educator to owner. Children and families need quality care centers that understand their unique challenges. She attributes her success to being willing to learn new information and encourages other aspiring child care center owners to do the same. Join early childhood committees, attend meetings, make connections, and reach out to funding representatives to uncover funding opportunities and helpful programs.
Now that Kenosha is implementing the full versions of The Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers & Twos, The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, and The Creative Curriculum Cloud, she had this to say:
“I fell more in love with Teaching Strategies. I would never use another curriculum again. And, I tell other caregivers: look at Teaching Strategies, because this is the curriculum you want to use.”
– Kenosha Witherspoon, S.E.L.F Founder