On Being Present

The other day, we had the opportunity to visit with someone from a different generation- an older, wiser, sort of a generation.

While watching my children read and color, she looked up at me and asked if my kids were going to remember my face.

Taken aback by the question, I set down my iPhone and asked her whatever in the world she meant.

Oh. Right.

"My granddaughter reads all these things on the interweb about raising kids, and she writes about her life on the computer for everyone to read, and she's on that i-thing you have, just like you, all the time.  I just wonder if you're all raising your children from behind those things.  Are you ever really present?"

Well.....shoot.  That's a pretty good question.

I know that my kids are happier when my phone dies (thanks, Apple, for my junky battery life!) and that they identify their life events and accomplishments as important based on whether or not I put them on Facebook.  But I've gained something from all this mom-technology, too, right?

I'm not so sure.

How do you balance your kids and your technology? Are you teaching a good computer/life balance? I don't think that I am, which is funny from someone who all but bans the television during the school week- but I think I forgot that anything with a plug can be an addiction.

Here's an invitation to presence, starting with me.  I hope you'll come, too.


Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic

Disney on Ice is headed our way, and I think this will be a very fun event for the whole family!! Unlike Princesses on Ice (which is also fantastic, but definitely girl-focused) Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic features favorite characters from all the Disney classics! Taking a look through their Facebook wall, my boys were excited to see the Army Men from Toy Story, but generally agreed that anyone not sparkly would do nicely to keep them excited!

You can flip through all the great pictures from several Disney on Ice shows by liking their Facebook Page located Here.  (This won't win you anything, but if you'd like to get a taste of what you'll see at a Disney on Ice production, this is a good way to do it!)

100 Years of Magic promises to be a great night for the family! To complete it, we're planning to head 2 blocks down from the Verizon Center to get some cupcakes at Red Velvet, but that's completely optional, of course!

We're going to be giving away a Family 4 Pack of tickets to Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic at the Verizon Center!! EDIT:  To win, leave a comment by clicking the text bubble icon the top of this post and leave us a message with your favorite Disney Character! OR You can email your entry (please put Disney on Ice in the subject/re: line) by clicking Here.

If you don't win, don't forget that you can use the code "BLOG12" as a promo code for Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic and get tickets for only $15!

Best of luck, and thanks to our generous partners for this fantastic prize!

Disclosure: My family and I were provided with a 4 Pack of tickets to Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic in addition to a set of tickets to give away to a reader.  All opinions expressed here are my own.


Review: Mamaratzy Photography

I often wonder if kids in the age of "helicopter parents" feel like they're being followed by their own personal brand of paparazzi, so I loved the tongue in cheek name that photographer Tiffany Coles-Brown gave her business right from the start!

Tiffany came to work with my kids for a few minutes so I could see her in action, and she is fantastic with children.  My kids even dragged the poor woman down into the creek behind our backyard for some action shots in the bamboo, and with the stamina and bravery of the coolest National Geographic photographer, she followed right along in stride.

That was really all I needed :) I think it's really important that children's photographers "get" kids! If they don't, it's going to be a long day with a lot of pictures of people rolling their eyes!!

Mamaratzy Photography offers pictures from babies to families to boudoir to weddings and fitness! If you'll pose for it, she'll snap it!

Right now, Mamaratzy is offering a special on Valentine's Day pictures, as well as a Valetine's Day 2012 giveaway on her Facebook page.  If you haven't liked her yet, you'll definitely want to, because she runs giveaways and specials constantly!!

Thanks to Mamaratzy for the great giveaway to PWCMoms Military Mamas, and for her February V-Day Give-Away!! Best of luck, readers!!

Disclosure: Mamaratzy Photography provided PWCMoms with 2 giveaway items for readers, as well as doing a short, 15 minute shoot with PwcMoms for free.  All opinions expressed here are my own.  


Giveaway: Dunkin Donuts- Thanks to BeltwayBargainMom.com and DD!

Laura Harders is a fellow Prince William County mom and blogger at BeltwayBargainMom.com where she shares her frugal finds, grocery store & restaurant deals, and family-friendly events in the DC-metro area.  You can find her over at her website, or on Facebook.  This week she's giving away 8 ticket books on her website for coffee and a donut each week for a year at the new Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins, and she's kindly shared 2 with me just for PWCMoms.com readers!!  For those of you that didn't meet her at Gymboree, she's also incredibly kind and great to talk to! Be sure to check her site out!

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I did some time in Massachusetts.  (Not like prison, but it was so cold it FELT like it!) While I was there, I developed a deeply-rooted appreciated for Coffee Regula, which is some combination of 2 creams, 3 sugars, and a little spoonful of something addictive.  

Seriously, in the great white north, there will be traffic backups on Route 9 because the drive-thru at the Dunkin Donuts extends back onto the highway.  You think the Woodbridge Chick Fil A has a crazy drive-thru line? You haven't seen Massachussets-ens trying to get their coffee.

The newest DC-area Dunkin’ Donuts & Baskin Robbins store is located right here in Prince William County, 9685 Liberia Avenue, Suite 101 in Manassas, and the store just finished off its grand opening promotions, which included free medium coffees, free scoop nights, $3 for 6 donuts, plus free coffee & donut coupons for a year for the first 100 customers that came in on Tues. Jan. 10th & Wed. Jan. 18th.

Even though the grand opening promotions are now over, we have a special giveaway for 2 lucky readers. Coupons for 1 free coffee & donut each week for the 2012 year! The coupons are only valid at the new Dunkin' Donuts store on Liberia Ave.  My husband's new route to work goes right past this store, and while he's never caught the coffee bug, he's planning to make lots of friends at his new job using that addictive Dunkin Donuts brew!! 

To Win:

1) Leave a comment on this post
2) Additional entry for liking BeltwayBargainMom.com on Facebook and DC Dunkin’ Donuts on Facebook and leave a comment that you did. 

Twitter banned me for adding follows too quickly, so while I'm appealing that, I refuse to offer a twitter win, but you can enter via twitter for one of the 8 BeltwayBargainMom is giving away :) 
_____________________________________________________________________________________________Disclosure: Dunkin' Donuts of Greater Washington DC and the management team at the new Dunkin' Donuts store provided PWCMoms with giveaway items for readers, in addition to coupons for my family.  All opinions expressed, however, are my own.

For extra chances to win free coffee & donut each week for 2012, be sure to enter Beltway Bargain Mom's giveaway here: 


Guest Post: $5 and 5 Minutes Towards Energy Efficiency

$5 and 5 Minutes For Energy Efficiency
By Kate Haldeman

Do you spend an inordinate amount of time watching the DIY network and other shows involving home maintenance because 1)  It will save money and 2) The hubby never seems to get around to doing it, or if he does, he leaves it half-finished?  If so, you have probably also faced the daunting question of ‘Where to Begin’?  This blog is all about empowering women to take care of the necessary home and garden maintenance items to save money and keep their families safe and healthy at the same time.

Since it is the middle of winter, undoubtedly little gusts of wind are finding its way into your home, robbing you of hard-earned dollars. Chances are that these gusts are coming from uninsulated outlets and light switches on the outside walls of your home. Luckily, there is a quick, easy, and cheap solution - Electrical Outlet Sealers. These fire retardant, plastic foam sealers stop the gusts of cold air from coming into your home and, best of all, the only thing you need for installation is a flat head screwdriver.

Electrical Outlet Sealers

1. Turn the electrical power off by way of the main breaker.
2. Unscrew your electrical outlet cover using a flat head screwdriver..

3. Place the insulator around the fixture.

4. Screw your outlet cover back on.

5. Turn your electricity back on.
Do you have any thoughts on this (good, bad, or funny)? If so, why not share your experiences by commenting below or follow me on Twitter @KateHaldeman   Stay tuned next month for indoor air quality tips.  
Kate Haldeman, a seasoned marketing veteran with 10 years of consumer & online marketing experience, holds a Masters in Business Administration. In her role as Marketing Mgr. for My Plumber Heating & Cooling, she keeps abreast of the latest home maintenance tips & tricks.


Miss Electricity

Friday night, my family was invited to come and check out the final dress rehersal for "Miss Electricity" at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton (close enough to Woodbridge/Lake Ridge "for government work" as it were).  We had a fantastic time!

Miss Electricity is about a 5th grade girl named Violet who thinks she needs to break a world record to "be someone".  The popular kids at her school reinforce this by calling her "cabbage" or "nobody", and even Violet passes this behavior on to her friend, Freddy, who she claims to be "just her assistant".  That all changes, however, when Violet is struck (twice!) by lightening and gains "super powers", or does she?

There are some great themes in this play, including that you're good enough just the way that you are, that how you treat others matters (especially moms and assistants), and there are some fun educational tie-ins, to.  Violet is getting ready to take a test on States and Capitals, and the show is peppered with them.  One of the characters LOVES to spell things, and Freddy's interest in Greek Mythology makes a small showing, too.  These could easily tie in with a unit study, or one of the themes of the play could be used for an anti-bullying or "free to be me" message. The director, Caren, has even put together a study guide that ties several of these themes together, which is available for students who come to see the show.  SOL-based field trips can be arranged by calling Caren at 703-584-2900.

Weekend performances run from now through February 25th, but weekday performances can be arranged for groups by calling the box office.  Don't forget to identify yourself as a PWC Mom's Reader when you call to book your tickets-- we've arranged for you to get 25% off your tickets, making tickets for PWC Moms $9 for adults and $6 for kids. Hopefully, this will help you enjoy the show even more!!

All three of my kids greatly enjoyed the show (almost 4, 5.5 and 8) but I would say the target audience is really between 2nd and 6th graders.

A few notes of possible sensitive items to be aware of (as always, I over analyze here because I know we have some parents that are very sensitive to things some of us wouldn't ever consider).  First, there is a scene where Violet talks to Athena.  This could be considered praying, and if you are sensitive to those as a religious family, you'll want to be prepared for it. Additionally, there is some "thunder" used, and my youngest didn't enjoy it, but she didn't cry either. Second, there is some mild name-calling, but aside from someone being called a "cabbage" I doubt it's anything you've not heard said before on the playground, and it's all G-rated.  Third, Violet is part of a single-parent family, and if you have recently made that transition, it might be good to know that up front.  The topic isn't really explored, it just is, but I realize that transition can be difficult on children. Oh, there are these seats.

Now, we went on a closed dress-rehersal night, so there weren't many people there.  However, just as a warning, the backs on the seats flip down!! I'm sure I don't have to tell you guys how fun they are to mess with! And kick over! And clap with!! Hooray!!

Just sayin.  The chairs and I are not friends.

My kids universally said their favorite part was the dance to the "Party Rock" theme.  Their second favorite was a brief appearance by Zeus who is "too busy listening to his iPod, texting a friend and eating a breakfast burrito" to help Violet.  (Interestingly, it's the same actor who does both)  The youngest liked Athena because she was pretty, the middle one "got" that Violet wanted to be important and famous, and the oldest "got" the message that she already was.  They also all understood that Violet had been mean to her friend and should have acted nicer.  We had a talk about that in the car on the way home, and about how she apologized for being wrong.

This is a fun play, and a great location to introduce your kids to the arts.  No need to schlep all the way into DC :)

Additionally, keep your eyes out for other great performances from this group, who's got other plays such as Sinbad: The Untold Story, Rapunzel, Home (American Premiere) and Winnie the Pooh lined up for the rest of the year!!

Thanks to the Workhouse and Studio 3 for having us!! We really enjoyed ourselves!

Disclosure: Our family was invited to a closed dress rehearsal which we attended for free.  All opinions expressed are my own.


Open Skate at Prince William Ice Center

On Saturday night, I took the kids to the Prince William Ice Center to bide my time as a football widow.  (I was pulling for Tebow, but rooting for the Patriots)

I was a little nervous when I pulled up and couldn't find a parking space- but there were still a lot of skaters hanging around after the morning's exhibition activities.  There was also a hockey game going on when we arrived (PW Ice Center has 2 sheets of ice).

Princess was supposed to start skating lessons on Tuesday morning, but I forgot and we missed the first day, which I'm adding to my mother of the year application! When your child enrolls in lessons, they're put in the computer to have one free practice a week while they're in lessons.  It used to be you got a coupon book, which probably would have worked better for me since I promptly forgot about the fact that she was in the computer when I went to pay.  I've seen some BOGO coupons lurking around, I want to say there's one in the Leisure magazine the park authority puts out, but I'm not sure.  If you can find them, take them! We had 5 people skating plus 2 skate rentals, which ended up being $41.

Skate sessions last 2 hours for open skate.  We decided to arrive halfway through, which is when they clear the ice to Zamboni it, which takes about 10 minutes, so I guess the sessions are really an hour and 50 minutes :)

A note here.  PLEASE ask someone for help if you don't know how to put on ice skates! I pulled a few people off the ice to re-tie their skates.  I used to help teach kids' classes when I was a figure skater, and it really makes a HUGE difference if your skates are tied properly.  If you can wiggle around, slide your foot out, or fit your hand in your skate after you've tied it, "Ur doin it rong".  Let the boots help you support your ankles!! Luckily for you guys, YouTube is here to rescue us!
Ah, that's better!! While I'm at it DON'T WALK ON THE BLEACHERS WITH YOUR ICE SKATES ON!! THE BLADES WILL GO DULL AND THE NEXT PERSON WON'T BE ABLE TO SKATE!! If you need to sit down, there are benches in the lobby.  Sorry, it's kind of a pet peeve of mine.  Skate blades are like your good metal knives- so don't use them on metal!

The music was embarrassing my 8 year old.  It was mostly 90s instrumentals and they started with the first verse being sung, and then it was just music.  Of course, this meant I needed to sing! Sorry, kids, you can tell your therapist about it later!

It is rather crowded on a Saturday night (did I mention that? I'm writing this in 5 minute chunks!) so make sure your child learns how to get up before you put them on the ice. A quick way to do this is put their skates on and have them fall down and get up several times in the lobby.  On the ice there is an area with 4 cones where all the girls who think they're the next Tara Lipinski (or whoever is the new "it" skater) go to show off their moves.  Keep your child away from that area, because it's the place they're most likely to get trampled by someone going backwards.

In terms of what to bring, snowsuits are a good idea on toddler skaters.  Otherwise, long pants, long shirts, and a jacket along with GLOVES!! for everyone, and if you're being safe, a helmet is a good idea, especially for new skaters. 

There is a cafe that serves snack foods and drinks.  Outside food and drinks are not allowed according to the signs on the front doors.  Cash and credit cards are accepted both at the front desk to buy passes and skate rentals and in the food bar and pro shop, which does have gloves if you forget!!

We had a really great time skating, and will definitely be back for more fun!! Little kids (ages 2-5) will probably only make it an hour or so their first time.  Older kids, or those that have skated before, will enjoy the entire session, and your younger ones can always take a snack break.

Disclosure: My children take hockey and skating lessons at the Prince William Ice Center.  I was not, however, compensated in any way or asked to provide this review.  All opinions are my own.


Mission: Sleep

12841 Braemar Village Plaza Suite 224 Bristow, VA  20136

ph:  703.201.2190 fax: 703.991.7116


Remember how nerve-racking it was bringing baby home from the hospital the first time?  Worrying if you produced enough milk, worrying if supplementing was okay, wondering about breathing patterns and deciding if you should wake her to feed. Is he eating enough?  Is she crying too much?  Am I sleeping enough?   Is (insert anything baby related here) normal?!   

Now imagine going through that process without your partner.

Mission Sleep is a new non-profit organization that strives to provide free, overnight newborn care to military families where Dad is deployed or wounded when Mom has their baby.  Mission Sleep will provide a Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse or Post-Partum Medical Technician to come into the home of a new mom and provide overnight care and education to that mother.  This allows mother to transition from hospital to home and provide her relief in the early months home with baby.   

Mission Sleep is the non-profit arm of Let Mommy Sleep, the only baby nurse agency serving Northern VA, DC and Baltimore.  In partnership with Walter Reed Medical Center, Mission Sleep supports new military mothers by providing overnight care by postpartum and mother/baby nurses.

To learn more about Mission Sleep, or to donate to this most worthy cause, please visit us at:  www.missionsleep.org.  When moms get together, we make miracles happen, and we would love to make a miracle for our Military Moms.

Let Mommy Sleep's facebook wall will have a post asking for the best motherly advice you ever received. 
They  will give away a $30 gift certificate to US Nails (by Safeway) to the mom who leaves the best new mom 

Don't forget to refer your favorite military mama to MissionSleep, too!


Activities for Little Guys/Gals

Sometimes one of you asks a question on the wall that warrants you an entire blog post.

My goodness some of you are needy. ;)

Just kidding.  I wouldn't have anything to claim I'm doing if I didn't have questions. Then I'd have to admit I really AM watching the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and not "doing laundry and blogging".

I would never live that down, y'all.

Okay, so, user question was something along the lines of "I'm looking for sports activities for my 3 year old"

You wanna nab an early sports scholarship for junior? Let's do this.

Gymboree (Happy Birthday to our Gymboree Woodbridge Friends!!) offers sports for ages 3-5, art for ages 18 months-5 years, music 6 months to 5 years, and play and learn from birth to 5 years.  (Bonus- they've got scheduled indoor play times you can take advantage of!) Classes vary by location.

Haymarket Ice Plex offers Skating lessons for children as young as age 3.  Hockey classes can be started after passing the first two levels of skating lessons so a child has a firm grasp of the fundamentals.

SoccerTots/Little Sluggers offers classes starting at age 18 months for soccer (which involve parents) through age 10.  Locations are all over the NOVA area, including Haymarket.  Baseball starts at age 2 and goes through age 5.

The Little Gym (in Gainesville) offers classes ranging from Parent/Child (4 months-3 years), Sports Skills (starting at age 3 through age 6, includes hockey, baseball, soccer, and more), gymnastics from ages 3-12, dance from ages 3-12, and karate from ages 4-12.

The Freedom Center in Manassas has "Little Hoops" basketball starting at age 2.5 and 3.5 year olds can try "Little Pucks" hockey. Pee Wee Football classes start at 3.5, as does T-ball.  Parent/Child sport classes start at age 2, and Soccer and Sports Mix start at 3.5, with Tae Kwon Do starting at age 4.

Prince William County Park Authority offers swimming and gymnastics for toddlers, including "Parent/Child" classes that start at 6 months for swimming.  Ballet begins at age 3 and gymnastics at 18 months.  The Dale City Rec Center offers two courses of "Tiny Titans Tri-Athletes" classes for ages 2-5, and has both soccer and t-ball for ages 4 and up. Basketball through the Park Authority begins at 4, All Star Sports (a mix) is ages 3 and up, and Little Pros is 4 and up.  For these courses, check out Our Leisure Magazine.

Gymnastics- most gyms offer classes for toddlers and up.  Rates vary GREATLY based on the credentials of the instructor, and all I can say is that from a personal perspective, unless you 2 year old hops on the uneven bars and throws out a triple flip with a stuck dismount the first time they touch it, you do not need to be paying over $80 a month for gymnastics.  If the first place you call gives you sticker shock, try again.

Prince William Ice Center starts their skaters at age 4.

Most Martial Arts studios that I've looked into seem to have a class for children as young as 3.  I'm linking to this one but just because it's the one I found that actually listed their class ages. Call and check the studio nearest you.  As with gymnastics, let me point out that if you're signing up a 2 or 3 year old, please do not let some push owner pressure you into a 1 year contract.  Your kid is too young to know if they'll like mashed potatoes from one day to the next, a year is insane.  Just throwing it out there.

Swim Kids starts em young, too, with classes for parents and children beginning at age 6 months.

Hope this helps you get started!! Have a favorite sports location for your child? Share it in the comments!


When you grow up....

I think as moms we all spend time wondering what our children are going to be when they grow up.  When my oldest was 15 months old (and already talking way more than was fair)- the best days of his life were Tuesday and Friday because that was when the trash truck came.  "Twash!! Momma!! Momma! Da twash twuck is hewe!! Can we go see da twash twuck? I gonna wide da twash twuck one day!"

Fantastic.  My progeny will be a master of waste management.

I don't consider myself a tiger mother, but I have my moments.  When my second child became old enough to express interest in a profession, he adamantly proclaimed he was going to be a chef.

"That's great sweetheart, but you have to go to college, too", was my answer through bites of the surprisingly decent cookie he'd just created.

I try to remind myself that just because they want to do it when they're 4 doesn't mean they'll want to do it forever.  In my elementary school yearbook, I declared in 5th Grade that I wanted to be a children's psychologist.  In middle school I was going to be a professional figure skater/college professor.  In high school I was going to work in International Relations for the UN.  In college my major changed from Government to IR to French to Russian to Philosophy to Comparative Religion.  I get that we all grow and change.

But, at the same time, when my daughter did this to my face the other day:

I couldn't help but think that she'll be doing makeup on Dupont Circle when she grows up.

Just a thought.  (Oh- bonus! She did the hair, too!)

What does your little person show a propensity for? What do they claim to want to be? Do you try to steer them towards a family college or certain profession?


Preschool Reviews 2011/2012

**Disclaimer:  These reviews have been submitted by individual parents who are representing their experience with a school.  PWC Moms does not necessarily endorse any or all of these schools and encourages parents to visit a school before enrolling their child.  After much consideration, it is our policy when asking parents to share their experiences with schools or play areas, or businesses, to share those opinions to aid other parents, even if our personal experience contradicts the views of another parent.  Please always conduct your own research and site visits in addition to looking at the experience of other parents at any particular school.**

The Schools we received feedback on, in alphabetical order by name of school are:

Myself along with 3 other mommy friends cooperatively taught our children for their first year of preschool. After looking at some other preschools in the Manassas area, I decided that a cooperative preschool was the perfect fit for us. It allowed me to be in the classroom but gave her the formal classroom that she needed to get accustomed to. And we both love it.
As the children arrive the day starts manipulative time, circle time, center time, and the rest of the day flies by with bathroom break, snack and recess. The last 15 minutes are circle time again where the themes of the day are reinforced, calendar and weather are talked about. Class ends at 12:15.
My daughter has really taken to her teacher and the friends she's made in the class. She's eagerly awaiting the return to class tomorrow. The ideas presented in class really stick with her and she's constantly telling me what Ms Jo said. Even if it's something that I know was introduced to her last year by me. Don't know if that is because someone else is explaining it, she's a year older, or Ms. Jo is really that good. :) Also, my daughter is always excited when she knows that I will be in the classroom. I love that I get to see exactly what's going on in the classroom. I don't have to pull teeth to know how her day went (as I've heard other Mommies mention). Plus I feel like I'm holding onto her just a little bit longer. Now the logistics. This is the part that parents always worry about. How much commitment there is. Before school starts every parent that will volunteer in the classroom is subjected to a background test and must obtain a TB test. Only one parent is required, however both parents are given the opportunity to volunteer. A parent will typically have to volunteer 2, possibly 1, times a month. One of those times you will provide snack for your class.  You must sign up for one parent "job". It can be as simple or involved as you wish. For example, organizing a family night, classroom parent, fundraiser coordinator, board president, etc.  In addition, a parent must attend 6 pre-determined dates for setup/cleanup or training. For those of you with younger siblings, the school will assist you in pairing up with another parent to trade babysitting services while the other volunteers. And ensures that you will not volunteer on the same day. I have a 3 year old (not old enough for school) and have found it very easy to trade with another mother and he loves going with her.  (Click Here for Website)

I recommend Chesterbrook Academy in Woodbridge.  My daughter began at summer camp when she was 3.  She had been home with me and it was a hard transition.  They encouraged me to call and check on her the first week and even called me with updates. She attended two years of preschool.  We have been very pleased with the progress she has made.  They teach Spanish, sign language, computer skills and more. I feel that Chesterbrook has prepared her well for Kindergarten.  I would recommend the school to everyone! (Click Here for Website)

I love, love, love the 2 1/2 year old and 3 year old program offered by Cloverdale.  The teachers are superb.  They have a very real, effective way of interacting with the children, and to say they are gifted in teaching is an understatement.  These ladies are the kind you want your children to have teaching them EVERY year because of their true interest in the kids.  I can't say enough good things about these teachers.  Besides their basic preschool classroom learning (language skills, art, counting, etc.), the kids also had music and P.E.  My kids LOVED music day in the "Big Room".  The staff I interacted with were pretty phenomenal as well.  They always got me information I requested and were nice people to have around.  Cloverdale has a great program going on, and it's quite affordable.  I highly recommend it.

We absolutely love Cloverdale for many reasons, and have used it for both of our older children, our youngest will begin attending, too, in the fall.  With programs beginning at 2 and a half years (Half days Tuesday and Thursday) ranging up to an outstanding Pre-K program, Cloverdale has a well-established program that focuses on literacy readiness, core competencies, and social skills.  They offer German to the students in the 4 and 5 year old programs, which all of the kids seem to love.  The teachers are all amazing and most of them (the exception being the teacher for the relatively new 2 year old program) have been at the school for many years which speaks to the happy, cohesive teaching team at this school.  The teachers are as patient and understanding as they are qualified, and have the skills and calm, even tempers needed to help even the most clingy children adjust to being away from their primary caregiver while they learn to function in a school setting.  Cloverdale also offers "Stay and Play" for $10, which allows students to remain until 2pm (the normal day is from 9-12) and has been a lifesaver for me on a few occasions where I was volunteering at the elementary school or had a doctor's appointment.  Also, Cloverdale offers private K-3 grades if you are looking for a school where your child can stay for the early years of elementary school.  We love it at Cloverdale and would never leave if we could keep our kids preschool aged forever!! (Click Here for Website) 

A shout out to Daytime Playtime in Haymarket too, they are awesome!  We love their summer camp and they were a top contender when i was touring preschools.  So much so that we have sent our son to their summer camp 2 years running! (Click Here for Website)
            From the school: We are going to have open Houses on January 28 at 1pm and February 1st at 6pm. We will be opening registration for the 2012-2013 school year the first week of February.

My children attended Evergreen.  Without going into too much detail, the director is overbearing to work with and frequently told me that she knew my child better than I did.  There was a great deal of drama and while she definitely seems skilled at what she does and is especially great and knowledgeable with  children who have special needs, I'm not sure it was worth the difficulty dealing with her and her never ending string of issues. 

My 3 year old son attends Evergreen Nursery. We started right when he turned 3 and have only been going for a few months, but it is a magical, magical place. Ms. Jody Boronkay is the director of the 12 child max school in the basement of her home (don't let that be a setback, I questioned it for a moment and it is more set up for child learning than many of the preschools we visited- and we visited A LOT). There is a 1:4 teacher:student and the focus is really on children getting excited about learning. When they learned about the rain forest she put a huge pool in the main classroom, hung vines all around, turned the thermostat up so it would be humid, and brought in animals found in the rain forest- FOR A WEEK! so the kids would get the full effect of the rain forest while learning. She also has a part of the program swimming lessons and ice skating lessons. They visit a pond weekly in the spring to watch the changes that happen. I could go on and on. A major selling point for us (as if that wasn't enough) is my son has a severe dairy allergy and has us worried being away from the protective world we are in and not having a full understanding of "safe" foods yet to protect himself. Ms Jody has taken extensive measures to guarantee his safety. She also has chilren with cerebral palsy and autism and the children flourish (dare you to find the child!) and so the children learn how to care and embrace and understand children of handicap. This school is a warm, exciting place that I wish I had as a child. I am feeling very limited in 2 paragraphs in the sharing of just how wonderful this school is. (Click Here for Website)


The Freedom Center preschool is small, really tiny, and that's its strength and its weakness.  There is only one small classroom, so there are only 4 classes---3 am, 3 pm, 4am, 4pm.  The same teachers teach all the children (the three year old teacher is the four year old PE teacher, the four year old teacher is the three year old PE teacher) and the aides work for all the classes.  As a result, the children know their teachers very well and the teachers and aides know the children very well.  There is a very warm, family atmosphere that makes even the shyest kids feel comfortable.  Miss Phyllis, who is the director, is warm and accessible and laid back, and her attitude really permeates the whole program. The classroom is tiny, but the children leave at least once a day for PE elsewhere in the building and often times more frequently for activities.  There is a big emphasis on physical education and the children are taken outside whenever weather permits (even on chilly days, they bundle up and go out).  There is no pick-up/drop-off and the preschool room is in the very back of the large building.  This means on rainy days, you have to hustle through a huge parking lot and then through the whole building.  Pick-up/drop-off takes a lot longer here than I imagine it does at other schools. The curriculum is play-based and there is definitely a big difference between the 3 year old program (which has little academics and is more focused on teaching children what school is and how to be a student) and the 4 year old program (where there is a heavy emphasis on pre-reading skills).  There are little to no worksheets and lots of hands-on activities.  My son came into the program a bit wild and unfocused.  He struggled a bit towards the end of the 3 year old year but has really excelled in the 4 year old program.  I think the caring, relaxed atmosphere and the ton of physical activity provided have really helped him. (Click Here for Website)

Pros: low tuition, kind teachers, private classrooms, walk-in drop-off and pick-up. Cons: very little communication/organization from teachers or director, no outside play (even though there is a playground.)

I had such anxiety about sending my quite shy 3 year old to preschool last year but our experience at Good Shepherd had been so wonderful.  The director is amazing and from the first moment, she made my daughter and I feel so welcome and reassured.  It's not as "high-tech" as many parents would like, but the wonderful teachers and the caring and attention they provide the children (and the parents) cannot, in my opinion, be beat.  There is a feeling of "family" at Good Shepherd. They pay close attention to the safety of the children and as a "worry wart" mom, that has helped ease much of my anxiety.  I also like the smaller teacher to student ratio.  This is our 2nd year there and my daughter attends the 5 day a.m. 4's program (they're teaching the Handwriting Without Tears program which I love) -- she is SO happy everyday I pick her up that it really does warm my heart!   I KNOW she'll be ready to start kindergarten (both academically and socially) in the fall and I owe the majority of that knowledge to Good Shepherd.  I really believe that the majority of parents who choose Good Shepherd are 100% satisfied with their decision.  

The curriculum at Good Shepherd Preschool stresses all aspects of growth and development.  They work on physical, social, and emotional development, as well as academic development. They believe that children learn through their senses, activity, curiosity, imitation, conversation, imagination, and widened experiences. There is a fifteen minute chapel time monthly taught by GSUMC's Christian Educator or her designee. (Click Here for Website)

Can't say enough good things about the teachers and staff at Haymarket Baptist Church Preschool & Kindergarten.  Love them!  Great school, great programs.  (Click Here for Website)
             Note from the School: Open House on Jan 30th. If parents have a child that will be 2 1/2 and potty trained by Sept or one that will be 3 by Sept, they can attend at 9:30 for a meeting, a tour, meet teachers, find out how to do the online registration etc. I will be answering lots of questions! They can bring children to this meeting. If they have a child that turns 4 or 5 by Sept, and are thinking about the 4's program or private Kindergarten- 10:30 is the time to show up for their meeting.Registration for new families is Feb 6 at 7 am, using our website. 

My daughter attends kids n' motion twice a week.  It is a great preschool and accepts children starting at 2 and 1/2 and they do not have to be potty trained!  My daughter started at 2 and 1/2 and is 3 now.  They do play, craft time, snack, read books, learn letters, etc.  It is a really great program.  My daughter has learned so much already and loves making crafts. (Click Here for Website)

Love the Lake Ridge Creative Preschool, located on the corner of Old Bridge Road and Oakwood Dr.  Explorers class for 3-4 year olds is Tuesday and Thursday, either 9:15 - 1:30 or 9:45 - 2:00.  PreK for 4-5 year olds is M, W, F, same times.  The curriculum is the perfect mix of fun and learning.  The children do art projects, sing songs, do puzzles, learn to use the computer, go on field trips, learn Spanish, play outside daily, etc - it is amazing to me the creative ways they get the children engaged in learning.  There is an after school reading program for children that show they are ready to begin reading independently, though learning the alphabet and writing skills are taught to all almost from day one!  The preschool is open to everyone - non-Lake Ridge residents pay a bit more in tuition, though it is very reasonably priced - last year, Explorers were $120/month for residents, $130 for nonresidents, and PreK was $170/180.  Contact the Lake Ridge Recreation Department at 703-497-7112, or stop by the office, located in the vicinity of the preschool at the back of the big parking lot. 

I follow your posts via Facebook and read that you were looking for preschool reviews.  I saw you had a recommendation for Lake Ridge Creative already, but I decided to send in another one.  The following is excerpted from a letter I wrote to the Lake Ridge Board of Directors a few months ago in support of the preschool program.  My daughter attended for both preschool and pre-K, and I am very pleased with the school and highly recommend it to others.

When I was looking to choose a preschool for my daughter, my main focus was on the school's reputation and the quality of the program.  I had narrowed it down to two schools - the LRPRA preschool and one other local preschool.  LRPRA's preschool appeared to be more well-rounded in its activities and learning opportunities, and in preparation for kindergarten.   What finally "sold" me was the fact that I heard nothing but good things about the program.  My mother, who is a past LRPRA board president, told me that during her time on the board she received many positive reports from parents about the program.  A friend who is an elementary school teacher said that the children coming from the LRPRA preschool were generally better prepared for entering the structured environment of elementary school and excelled in their academics.   She said there was a notable difference between the LRPRA pre-school graduates and those of other preschools.  Nothing beats positive word of mouth "advertising" and opinions from other parents, and to me this spoke volumes as to how good the school is.My daughter has thrived at the preschool, academically and socially.  Her teachers are excellent, and I have no complaints.  I am already looking forward to when my one year old son is old enough to attend the program as well. (Click Here for Website)


We enrolled our child at Little Lambs after researching a variety of preschools in the area and having several educational professionals recommend it for our child.  They said its play-based, active learning approach with a staff who are supportive of children of differing backgrounds and abilities would be perfect for our child’s strengths and weaknesses.  And they were right! Our child had a poor experience at a previous preschool and was quite leery about the whole school experience.  He is a smart child who learned at a very young age how to tune out people who talk down to him.  The staff at Little Lambs has been warm and welcoming to our child, taking him in and showering him with love to bring him out of his shell.  He has changed from a sullen child who was unable to recite the alphabet to a bright and happy boy who can write his own name, finds letters in his world on a daily basis, and counts everything he can touch.  He talks about his friends constantly, and participates in classroom activities with gusto. We can’t say enough positive things about our experience at Little Lambs.  Other parents of children at the school talk about how it’s the hidden gem of preschools in Western Prince William County, and we wholeheartedly agree.  The learning experience, teaching ability, and administrative leadership are second to none. (Click Here for Website)

Old Bridge Preschool, associated with Old Bridge Methodist Church, has been open for 4 years. Besides being a great preschool with very caring staff, the also have a mission of accepting students with special needs. They have special staff for students who qualify for services through the county, and although they aim for 30% special needs, they also do amazing things with typically developing children. Their academic program appropriately prepares students for kindergarten and helps them develop a love of learning. I have had a great experience with the school, with both of my children attending during the 4 years since the school has been open. I highly recommend Old Bridge Preschool. 

Both of my kids have gone there and I can't say enough good things about the school and staff. We have loved every one of our teachers and both kids have learned so much through play that they didn't know they were in school. They also accept special needs children which really teaches the children compassion for others.  (Click Here for Website)

We had a horrible experience here and pulled our child out mid-year.  The program sounds so great on paper, but the classrooms are dirty and the teachers over-stretched without aids.  The preschoolers have indoor gym at the same time as older children and my child came home badly bruised one day when a 4th grader bowled them over and I didn't even recieve a note from the school or the teacher.  It's not worth the money. (Click Here for Website)

My eldest has really enjoyed the 1/2 day, 5 day-a-week program for 4 year-olds offered by Russell Elementary School aboard MCB Quantico.  Each of the two classrooms fits 16, and there are three teachers permanently assigned to each class.  That makes for a great teacher:student ratio and provides ample attention to each student.  There are "out of classroom" classes, including art, P.E., and computers.  The class is run on a routine, and my eldest really gets into it.  She especially enjoys the big and small group times, where she can choose from a variety of activities provided by the teachers.  The school staff is a pleasant crew, and there are ample opportunities to volunteer in the classroom.  This is a good first look at "real" school (e.g., all the fundraisers, PTA, expenses, etc.), and I've appreciated getting my feet wet slowly.  Finally, there is a bus that picks up the kids. Only students from the same grade ride, and there is a teacher aboard the enter time to supervise seatbelting and that the proper adult is picking the students up.  It's a great program, and I'm thankful to have it. (Click Here for Website)

My son goes there, and he loved it from day one.  He is 4 and can already read a little bit.  They actually teach them there, not just babysit them.  The teachers are 'real' teachers, with degrees and certificates, and each class has it's own room with a door.  This is all great to me because he used to go to (other school name deleted) which is crap compared to this place.  He gets a newsletter sent home once a month with 'homework' and it tells the parents what they are working on, and helpful print outs to use at home, like sight words and refrigerator stories.  The preschool is from 9-12:30am I believe, but my son does go full time from 9-5:30pm.  But the actual 'school' part of the day mostly takes place in the morning before lunch.  They offer full time and part time preschool (you can choose 5 days a week or 3 days a week, but they only offer morning preschool, not afternoon).  They are affordable compared to other places, and offer morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack..  Their summer camp is GREAT, lots of field trips (about 2 times a week) and other fun activities for a reasonable summer fee.  (Click Here for Website) 

We love St. Matthews and feel like it is everything a preschool program should be.  It is structured enough for the kids to feel secure, free enough for them to explore, and loving so they feel safe in their first school experience.  We love that there is a carpool line because with a preschooler and a new baby this past year it was great not to have to get out of the car in the rain or snow with the baby! St. Matthew's was the only school we looked at because on our tour, our child walked right in and acted like they'd been in class there since day 1.  It's been great and we're military so we're not sure when we'll have to leave, but we'd be very happy if our youngest child was able to go here, too.

Pros:Teachers seemed awesome and school seemed well-organized.  Cons: No handwashing (just wipes), no snacktime at a table (they eat on the floor,) no walk-in drop-off or pick-up, open/mixed classrooms. (Click Here for Website)

ST. PAUL'S SCHOOL/MDO (3 Reviews):
Loved the mom's day out program at St. Paul's in Haymarket.  The lead teacher there is amazingly loving and great with the kids!

We came to St Paul’s based solely on its reputation in the area.  We were new to the area, and everyone told us it was “the best” academically and “guaranteed” placement in the Gifted program once the children moved to PW schools.  As parents of extremely bright students, it seemed to be a great fit.  Unfortunately, the school did not work well for our children at all.  In fact, it was extremely detrimental to our children and we’ve spent the ensuing months trying to fix the problems caused.What didn’t work for our children was St Paul’s insistence on rote teaching.  The children come in, sit down, and are instructed/lectured for most of the day.  They are given worksheets to reinforce the lessons, and are expected to quietly fill in the worksheets at their tables.  There is very little collaborative learning amongst the children – even during playtime, the children each choose a toy and play quietly by themselves.  They don’t interact, play together, pretend or share things between each other.  There is almost no gross motor play/exploration/learning, as there quite simply is no room on the campus.  The classrooms are extremely small and have no room for typical preschool things like centers or active pretend play.  The outdoor play area is extremely small and very limited in activities.  Arts & crafts, a preschool mainstay, are virtually non-existent.  So are teaching methods such as sensory play and manipulatives.  You learn to count by repeating what the teacher says and writing numbers repeatedly, not by counting physical objects.  You learn your letters by writing them over and over again with a pencil on paper, not by acting out the letters, drawing them with a variety of media, or exploring how they start different words with different sounds. If the children do not learn well by rote teaching, there is no personalization of lessons to a child.  There is no time taken to determine if a different learning/teaching style would reach the child, if something could be explained differently. The child is simply labeled as unteachable, a trouble maker, or just left behind while the rest of the class goes on.  Our children learned virtually nothing in their time at St Paul’s, and are now playing catch-up to their peers who were able to learn the basics of letters and numbers in other environments.

We've been extremely happy with the PreK program at St. Paul's and highly recommend the school! (Click Here for Website)