Lovin' Jersey City's Lil' Brick Schoolhouse

A significant and glorious moment has arrived in our household: the World's Cutest Human (WCH) started pre-school two mornings a week, while I go back to work (only while she's in school... plus some naps, a bit in the evenings, and oh my, how slippery is the working-SAHM slope). While immensely grateful for the gift of staying home with my daughter over the past 21 months, I -- a formerly very career-driven woman -- have missed using my overly-active mom brain in adult ways.

The WCH is one of the most social little bugs I've ever met. She adores going to the gym with me because she gets to play with the kids in the Jungle Gym (babysitting room). She hugs random children in the grocery store, on the street and in the park. She'll follow a kid she's been playing with to his or her car in a parking lot out of sadness that they must part. In short, she's desperate for social interaction with little people her age.

So, as of this week, everyone is #winning.

One thing that excited us in moving over to Jersey City was the presence of multiple Montessori schools, the educational track we (believe we will) want to put our daughter into when the time comes. Two of the Montessori schools, in fact, are within a few blocks of our home. However, they don't accept children younger than 2.5 years old.

That's fine, I thought at the time. I don't want to hurry my child into school.

Which was truly how I felt when she was six months and a year old. Before I knew how desperate she would become for play with other young children. Around 18 months, this need became abundantly clear when she'd climb into the Scandinavian School wagons in Hamilton Park and buckle her seatbelt, trying to leave with the kids whose lives looked more fun than her life just with mommy at home. Womp.

So I realized it was time. Perfectly timed with my own pangs for more, I began to research what was available for an 18-month old, but because I wasn't interested in a typical daycare scenario, there weren't many options. I certainly didn't want a nanny. I thought that Scandi School and its hefty price tag was my only option, but it has a waiting list.

Then one day I was speaking with a mother in Hamilton Park who raved about her child's drop-off center, the Lil' Brick Schoolhouse. She couldn't say enough good things about the experience for her son, and also for her to have that time during the week. Perfect, I thought, and I made an appointment to meet the owner, Renee Dwyer.

The WCH and I stopped by Lil' Brick Schoolhouse one afternoon, and she played while I chatted with "Miss Renee." By the end of our (really lovely and enlightening) chat, I was signing the papers and choosing the days that the WCH would join Miss Renee's crew. When our meeting was over and it was time to go, the WCH had no interest in leaving a place with that many cool toys (the other kids weren't even there!).

"Pre-school" is a loose term; the Lil' Brick Schoolhouse classifies itself a drop-off learning and play center. Amazingly awesome, warm, loving, fun, creative, comprehensive, colorful resource for Jersey City's children is how I would classify this place.

Now that her children are grown (or nearly, in their late teen's and twenties), Miss Renee has channeled her love of kids into a play center that she says she would have dreamed of having for her own children. She did it. My dreams came true when I enrolled the WCH at Lil' Brick.

The Lil' Brick Schoolhouse is open weekday mornings from 9 AM-12 PM, and has two adjacent buildings -- one for the young youngin's and one for the older-but-still-pre-K youngin's (though they mix all the kids for a portion of play during the morning). Miss Renee has 6+ amazing assistants, each of whom she knows personally and trusts emphatically. There are always at least two assistants in the class of no more than ten kids. It's wonderful and personal and nurturing.

These are what they come running out to you, proudly holding in their hands.
These are what they come running out to you, proudly holding in their hands.

Every day they do a craft project, have a snack, play with the big kids, read books together, and then end the morning with song and dance time. The WCH comes home exhausted, happy and ready for lunch and her head on the pillow. I mentioned #winning, right?

The craft project that keeps on giving, as we take him off the fridge and
The craft project that keeps on giving, as we take him off the fridge and

So, yes, it is ideal. On the days I work, I have three hours in the morning while she has the time of her life playing, crafting, singing, dancing, and snacking. We share lunch and babble, and then she's down for nap time and I earn yet a bit more time to wrap up what might need follow up from the morning session. By the time she's up from her nap, I'm dying to see and play with her.

On the days I'm not working, I am gifted a few hours of time to myself for personal appointments, both the serious kind like the doctor and the refueling kind like a manicure. It has made the most gigantic difference.

Her mornings at school also make me more appreciative of the non-school/work mornings we have to explore together and hang out, because my need-to-be-an-adult has been satiated enough to be present to my daughter.

Come to think of it, "ideal" is not a strong enough word for a morning, or two, or three at the Lil' Brick Schoolhouse. Motherf***ing phenomenal is more like it.

*** IMPORTANT (and AWESOME) UPDATE***: Renee has opened a full-time daycare center in the Heights! Great news (amazing news) for working mamas. To be honest, I would choose something Renee is behind over a full-time personal nanny (especially given the lazy, indifferent, cold nannies I see in Hamilton Park every day). Check out "New Heights Children's Academy" on Facebook, or contact Renee to learn more (info below).

As far as I know, the only place you can find Lil Brick Schoolhouse on the interwebs is...