By Nancy Rineman
Atlantic News, August 26, 1999
HAVING A GARDEN PARTY – Susan Pender Haight, director and owner of The Learning Circle in Hampton, checks out the progress of the cucumbers in the school’s garden with her 14-month-old son Gavin (right) and 5-1/2-year-old Madison Whitaker of Hampton.
[Nancy Rineman photo]
HAMPTON – Seacoast families with toddlers and preschool-age children have a new choice in early childhood education, and it’s conveniently located right in the heart of Hampton at 830 Lafayette Road.
Director and owner Susan Pender Haight opened the doors of The Learning Circle on June 28 with a Summer Enrichment Program for children ages one through five. The school program will begin September 13, and will offer full and part-time preschool and toddler programs. With 26 children rounding out the enrollment possibilities, Haight said there are still openings for preschool.
Haight said the acquisition of the Route 1 building ended a two-year search for just the right ingredients – spacious, airy rooms with natural sunlight and a shady back yard for playing. The renovation was truly a family affair, according to Haight, with her husband, Sean, as well as her parents, grandmother, great aunt and brothers and sisters-in-law all pitching in. The result is a warm, home-like atmosphere of sunlit rooms opening into each other, just perfect for the school’s philosophy of sharing thoughts and interests.
Haight brings back to her native Hampton 10 years of teaching and directing experience, having taught in Vermont and New Mexico, as well as in New Hampshire. With an MA in early childhood education and BA in art education, Haight says she is really excited to be back in the Seacoast area where she has seen a definite need for her type of school. She is joined by three other teachers all of whom have degrees in early childhood education or related fields, Haight said. In addition all are CPR-trained.
One off the advantages The Learning Circle offers parents is the possibility of having their toddlers and preschoolers together. There are two-, three-, and five-day options for each of the programs, and working families will be able to take advantage of the school’s early morning and extended daycare, with hours running from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., five days a week. The Learning Circle’s calendar closely follows the Hampton public school calendar, another plus for families who may also have children in the upper grades.
Last week at the school’s summer camp, the music was playing and teachers and children alike were singing. The expansive setting of the school’s interior and its open concept allowed a variety of activities to transpire, from working in the kids kitchen to making funny faces in a carnival-type wavy mirror. The double size mattress tucked neatly in a corner was a welcome spot for rest time for at least one of the children, while still another became entranced by the aquarium housing hermit crabs.
Two of she children are Haight’s sons, 3-1/2-year old Jack and 14 month-old-Gavin, both benefiting from having a working Mom who gets to spend the day with them. And with many friends from her hometown of Hampton, Haight will have no trouble involving the community in the programs she hopes to develop.
“I’m really trying reach out to the community,” Haight said, adding that she hopes to have high school students as well as UNH interns as an integral part of her school.
“I have a real belief that we should all be more involved in educating our children,” Haight concluded.
Haught also plans to implement a “foster grandparent” program, with senior citizens spending time in the classrooms. Their projects may include cooking, gardening, or reading stories, anything to reach out to the children, she said. And children of The Learning Circle will return the favor with visits to senior citizens at the nearby Seaside Elderly Day Out program, and possibly hosting lemonade parties.
Haight said she feels very strongly that her school will make a difference, especially in trying to bridge the gap between childcare and pre-school. Interested families may reach The Learning Circle by calling 926-0823.