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Child's play: Preschool offers kids a chance to learn while having fun

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 30 2008 12:56 a.m. MDT

Students soar through the air as they jump on the trampoline during activity time in the backyard.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Nestled in a quiet Kaysville neighborhood there is a little red brick house with a white picket fence where children go for reading, writing and 'rithmetic.

"It really isn't a June Cleaver thing," said Heather Peel, who laughed after describing her house.

In her basement, Peel has a room full of school supplies, toys, dress-ups, children's drawings framed on the wall, a miniature table with chairs and, of course, the alphabet border across the top of the wall.

"It was crazy how it all came together," Peel said while looking at the picturesque room.

During the summer months, the room is very serene. Come fall, however, it is overrun with 4-year-old students in Peel's preschool, which is held during the school year.

"They hang their school bags," Peel said while describing the beginning of a typical preschool day. "We'll have an activity, and we have discover time at the carpet."

She pointed out the big, round, blue rug in the center of the room.

"We have a routine," Peel said. "But I don't want to be rigid."

When Peel and her husband, Darren, started thinking about having an in-home preschool, they initially planned for a pretty small outcome.

"I just thought it would be fun for people to walk their kids here," she said.

June Cleaver would approve. But Peel's preschool is no Mayfield business.

Soon, people were signing up from Layton, Farmington, West Kaysville and Syracuse. Now, starting her third year this fall, Peel's preschool has a waiting list.

Katrina Egan from West Layton took her daughter, Mia, to Peel's preschool last year. Egan has taken her children to five different preschools. She said it is pretty common in her area for any preschool to have a waiting list.

"If they get popular, they get waiting lists," Egan said. "Two-year waiting lists are most common. Three years is most I've heard."

With a waiting list until 2013, Peel said she has been overwhelmed by the response.

"Sometimes parents are embarrassed to call me to get a spot when their kid is still a baby," Peel said. "But I'm glad because I hate turning them away. That's the worst part."

Peel said the earliest that she will let parents put a child on the waiting list is when they are pregnant with the child.

Laura Elggren from East Layton said she signed her son, William, up for Peel's preschool three years in advance.

"She has an extremely long waiting list," Elggren said. "I took the last spot in the class."

Considering recent census reports on Utah's youthful population, it does not come as a surprise that preschools are in high demand. The report showed that one in 10 Utah residents is younger than the age of 5 — a number 40 percent higher than the national average.

"There's such a need for preschool," Peel said. "It's not just a 'go play so mom can shop' deal."

Courtney Jensen from east Layton was definitely not shopping when her son, Tage, was in Peel's preschool. In fact, she stayed at the Peels' home during class for the first couple weeks of preschool.

"He just had a really hard time," Jensen said about her son. "He'd just cry and cry wanting mom."

Jensen would sit outside on the stairs during class and Tage would periodically check to see if his mom was still around. Eventually, he was fine with the idea of her leaving.

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