Libertyville preschool blends learning, faith
Four-year-old Ben Kristopher works intently on his rubber-band pegboard design at the Little Knights Preschool program at St. Joseph School in Libertyville. | Darrell Harmon~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 5, 2012 6:19AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Lori Ventura thinks nothing of making the 15- or 20-minute drive to get her 4-year-old to preschool.
With three of her children having attended Little Knights Preschool, located inside St. Joseph’s School in Libertyville, Ventura says its worth every minute it takes to get her daughter Rocky to school.
“It’s a very loving environment,” said Ventura, who lives in Grayslake.
In its 21st year, the preschool garners students from Mundelein, Vernon Hills, Lake Villa and other surrounding towns. With a maximum of 18 students per class and religious instruction, computer time and “in-house field trips” blended into the daily curriculum, students learn to love learning and coming to school, said Lynn Eichhorn, director of marketing and enrollment at the school.
“They’re having fun being here,” said Eichhorn. “We want them to start their love of learning at an early age.”
Currently at 39 students, the preschool offers 3-year-old classes Tuesday and Thursday mornings or afternoons and 4-year-old classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings or afternoons.
“Our curriculum does prepare them for kindergarten,” she said, adding that many of the preschoolers remain at St. Joseph’s for kindergarten and beyond.
All of Ventura’s children attend St. Joseph School.
“It’s nice for all of our children to be at the same place,” she said.
And Rocky already has a sense of belonging, she said.
“She’s up in the computer lab meeting the teachers she’s going to have for kindergarten,” she said, adding that third-graders come into the preschool as reading buddies. “Since they’re part of the school. they get a strong sense of community.”
Giving students the chance to meet and talk with different people in the community is part of the preschool program, Eichhorn said.
“Different members of the community — people who help take care of our community — come in and talk about their jobs,” she said.
And faith is woven into every aspect of the preschoolers’ day, she said.
“The school emphasizes each child’s uniqueness,” Eichhorn said. “So they kind of appreciate their unique qualities and the uniqueness in other people.”
The Rev. John Trout, pastor at St. Joseph’s, also is part of the program, she said, adding, “our pastor makes classroom visits.”
Teacher Barbara Jensen and a classroom aide lead the classes, tracking progress and preparing the students for kindergarten.
“She tracks the children’s progress throughout the year,” Eichhorn said, adding letter and number recognition are part of the tracking. “As long as you can see them progressing, they’re making their goal.”
A sensory table is filled with something different each month, like types of beans, for the children to discover.
“Then you might talk about how you plant seeds and how they grow,” Eichhorn said.
Teaching socialization, cooperation and respect in a living faith environment is the preschool’s motto, with a “lunch bunch” program emphasizing socialization. The program offers parents the option to either extend their child’s morning class by an hour or start their afternoon class an hour early, she said.
“That’s just a social time for the kids — they bring their lunch in,” she said.
Little Knights tuition is $2,560 a year for the 3-year-old program and $2,900 a year for the 4-year-old program, with the option to pay monthly, Eichhorn said. And the preschool accepts new students throughout the school year.
“I think that faith element is key to bringing people in from other communities,” she said.