Are children taken on field trips?

Our Pre-Kindergarten classrooms often extend their learning by exploring our county through field trips. They attend several plays at the local historic Mishler Theatre and travel to local farms each fall. Parents are always encouraged and welcomed to join us!

The school age children who are enrolled in our summer camp, Camp Scorch, also experience many fun field trips throughout the community. The trips vary each summer and may include: Chimney Rocks Park, Canal Basin Park, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, Johnstown Flood National Memorial Museum, Fort Roberdeau, Lincoln Caverns, Rails to Trails, Canoe Creek State Park and other historical sites.

In addition, the children help to plan many entertaining excursions. Summer favorites include: walking to Valley View Park, roller skating at Morrison's Cove Memorial Park, bowling at Pleasant Valley Bowling Center, visiting a wildlife refuge center, fishing at Brush Mountain Sportsman's Club, hiking at the nature trails at Canoe Creek State Park with the park ranger, and attending the Altoona Curve's Super Splash Day!

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Are developmental screenings conducted?

The first five years of life are very important to every child because this time sets the stage for success in school and later in life. During infancy and early childhood, many experiences should be gained and many skills learned. It is important to ensure that each child's development is proceeding without problem; therefore, we are interested in helping parents follow their child's growth and development.

Upon consent of parents, Ages and Stages Developmental Screenings are conducted by our staff throughout each child's enrollment. Begin With Us teachers/practitioners screen and monitor each child's development using the "Ages and Stages Questionnaires". These forms consist of different questionnaires that are administered at various stages of development. Each questionnaire, completed by our teachers/practitioners, who care for the child on a daily basis, contains simple questions addressing specific developmental areas. There is also a part on the "Ages and Stages Questionnaire" for parental input. Results are then shared with parents and next steps are taken as deemed necessary.

On-site vision, hearing, speech and overall developmental screenings are also administered to preschool and pre-kindergarten children by local agencies and/or the local school district. We work closely with the local early intervention agency, behaviorial health agencies, and the local school district to provide the most appropriate supportive services to the children enrolled at our centers.

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Are parent-teacher conferences offered?

Informal observations and formal assessments of children are completed throughout the year, and are reviewed with families during parent-teacher conferences that are held in November, January, and May. Conferences are a good time for parents and teachers to discuss each child's development, and for the teachers to gather information that will help them to support the family. Together, parents and teachers set individual goals for each child. Teachers are always available on a daily basis to answer questions and to talk about individual children at drop-off and pick-up times.

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Are there opportunities to meet other families?

We are proud of the special events that are available to our families. They provide wonderful opportunities to meet others, build memories, and have fun. Family events are scheduled throughout the year and include the Winter Family Holiday Party and the annual Summer Family Picnic. Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten families may also participate in Breakfast for Grandparents, Muffins with Moms, and Donuts with Dads. Pre-Kindergarten families celebrate Pre-Kindergarten Graduation at the end of the school year. Evening trainings and other family social events are offered based upon parental desires and suggestions.

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Can parents visit at any time?

Parents are permitted free access, without prior notice, throughout the center whenever their child is in care.  Parents are welcome and encouraged to participate in the classroom and volunteer for field trips. The only exception is when a court of competent jurisdiction has limited the parental right of access to the child and a copy of the order is on file at the center.

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Do caregivers have up-to-date First Aid training?

All practitioners/teachers and administrators are fully certified in Pediatric First Aid and Infant/Toddler Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

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Do children and the staff have access to technology?

Practitioners and teachers use lap top computers to record child observations, to utilize our on-line assessment programs, and to research information for daily lessons.  Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten children use lap tops to access our Waterford Math and Science curriculum.  All of our buidlings are connected through our server and wireless network.

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How can parents be involved in the program?

Parents are invited and encouraged to be involved in their child's days while at Begin With Us. There are many different ways in which parents can participate and volunteer at the centers. Parents may volunteer to attend field trips, read in the classroom, assist teachers, assist with creating individual learning goals for their child, and/or coordinate special events and specific activities.

We view our program as a learning community in which there is constant collaboration between parents, teachers, our administration, and support service agencies.  Our overall goal is for parents to be involved in their child's education and individual learning needs.  It is our hope that parents will share with us their unique culture and ethnicity of which their family is comprised and allow us to incorportate their customs, traditions, values, and aspirations into our program.  We hope that parents feel welcome to share and to feel the sense of community that we create.

Our "Parent Advisory Committee" is a great opportunity to become actively involved in program decision making. We also have a parent listserve where e-mails about particular topics are sent to parents for their input and involvement. We are extremely grateful for everything that the parents of our community have done to mold our program over the years. We welcome and encourage parental participation in our program!

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How is discipline handled?

At Begin With Us we respect and build positive relationships and the development of friendships between practitioners/teachers and children. We play together and learn from and with each other.

Practitioners/Teachers model and foster children's emotional well being by demonstrating respect for children, by listening to and responding to them, and by creating a positive emotional environment as reflected in behaviors such as frequent social conversations, joint laughter, and affection. We express warmth through behaviors such as physical affection, eye contact, tone of voice and smiles. We are consistent and predictable in our physical and emotional care of all children.

We support and recognize children's work, accomplishments, and contributions to the group. Practitioners/Teachers function as security for the children by creating a predictable, consistent and harmonious classroom and they build relations with every child in the program.

We believe in a positive approach to discipline. Re-direction to another activity is used the majority of the time. Emphasis is placed on positive reinforcement to lead the children to make choices toward their own self-discipline.

The children's expression of feelings (e.g. crying, laughing, angry storming, sadness, etc.) is not only tolerated but also encouraged by a respectful, listening attitude on the part of the practitioners/teachers, who will attempt to help the children clarify these emotions through reflection. We encourage children to "say their words", identify their feelings and describe the problem to resolve conflict instead of hitting, biting, or pushing.

Children are encouraged to listen to one another and to provide comfort to each other when a friend is sad or distressed. We promptly respond in developmentally appropriate ways to emotions and feelings of children by providing comfort, support and assistance. Practitioners/teachers may change their responses based upon individual needs, such as different abilities, temperaments, activity levels, and the cognitive and social development of the children.

Limits and rules are necessary to protect the safety of each child. They are enforced in a firm, but positive manner. Practitioners/Teachers try to avoid conflicts between children by listening, watching and assessing situations carefully so they can step in early to avoid bullying, teasing, rejecting or hurting another child.

We also use praise and attention wisely to encourage cooperation, negotiation of shared materials, care of the classroom and helpfulness. We engage in meaningful and extended conversations with each child to clarify acceptable behaviors.

The Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten general classroom rules are as follows:

  1. We use our words.
  2. We walk inside.
  3. We take turns.
  4. We are kind to our friends.
  5. We use our manners.

However, children are provided the opportunity to participate in decision making about classroom rules, plans, and activities.

Time-out is only used in circumstances when a child is disruptive to the total learning environment.

We NEVER use physical discipline. We never use threats or derogatory remarks. Other forms of discipline such as shouting, shaming, or withholding food are NEVER used.

Practitioners/Teachers give one on one attention to infants when engaging in caregiving routines and adjust their interactions to engage in frequent face to face social interactions each day. These include both verbal behaviors (e.g., talking, cooing, repeating infant sounds, singing) and nonverbal behaviors (e.g., smiling, touching, holding). We are sensitive to various signals and learn to read infants' and toddlers' cries or other signs of distress by quickly responding and providing physical comfort and needed care. We facilitate appropriate social interactions when an infant is interested in looking at, touching, or vocalizing to others.

We always make time to talk with parents about their child's day!

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How is effective parent communication maintained?

We know how important it is for parents to be involved and informed of their child's educational experiences and days at Begin With Us. We work hard to develop open and honest communication with the families and to ensure that information is exchanged on a daily basis. Newsletters, e-mails, postings, flyers, personal notes, telephone calls, "Getting to Know You Meetings",  classroom calendars, and formal conferences are all ways in which we get to know families on an individual basis.

Communication is especially critical at the infant and toddler ages. Information about infant's eating, sleeping, and other relevant day's events are recorded on daily communication sheets, which assist parents in assessing their child's day. White boards that are located in each classroom list daily and weekly activities and classroom news.

Our monthly newsletters and classroom calendars also provide pertinent information about center policies and procedures, announcements, and special events.  Parents are constantly reminded to communicate openly and frequently with us to make the most of each and every day!

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How many adults care for the children?

The following practitioner/teacher–to–child ratios are met at all times:

  • Infant/Older Infant:  Birth through 12 months. Ratio 1:4
  • Young Toddler: 13 through 23 months. Ratio 1:5
  • Older Toddler/Little Young Preschool/Young Preschool:  24 through 36 months. Ratio 1:6
  • Preschool:  37 months through 48 months. Ratio 1:10
  • Pre-Kindergarten:  49 months through 60 months. Ratio 1:10
  • Young School Age:  Kindergarten through third grade. Ratio 1:12
  • Older School Age:  Fourth grade through 13 years of age. Ratio 1:15
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What ages are served?

The current programs serve children ages 6 weeks through 13 years. The centers have specific, structured programs for toddlers, preschool, and pre-kindergarten children. The centers also provide infant care, before and after school care and summer camp for kindergarten and school-age children.

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What are the fees?

The quality of practitioners/teachers and the programs at Begin With Us are maintained by tuition. Tuition is charged based on enrollment, not attendance. Please request a current rate sheet from the Director.

Click HERE for Tuition Funding Sources

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What are the qualifications of the practitioners/teachers?

Begin With Us recognizes that providing high quality child care and educational experiences for young children begins with committed, dedicated, knowledgeable staff. Our teaching staff and practitioners are oriented to our program in areas of nutrition, health and safety; behavior management; communication skills; developmentally appropriate practice and inclusion. Annual professional development training and attendance at regional, state and national conferences give our staff the tools they need to provide young child and families with the best care and education possible. All professional development is based on the Pennsylvania Core Body of Knowledge which is a set of early childhood competencies linked to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards that need to be mastered by all those working with children.

  • 38% of our teaching staff have degrees from accredited colleges or universities.
  • 32% have, or are working on a Child Development Associate (CDA) through Pennsylvania State University's Early Development and Education Institute.
  • 33% of the CDA recipients are working on their Associates Degree through Mount Aloysius College.
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What hours and days are the centers open?

Begin With Us is open year round, Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. We close only for the holidays listed below:

  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • New Year's Day

We also close at 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

Our summer camp program closes at 5:30 p.m. daily.

In the event of an emergency closing, parents will be notified of the closing by television (WTAJ and WJAC), radio (Froggy 98 and Hot 100), website (wearecentralpa.com), or via our in house e-mail listserve.

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What meals and snacks are served?

Begin With Us has an on-site chef that prepares a wholesome breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and evening snack for the children. All of our meals are nutritionally based. Begin With Us participates in the United State Department of Agriculture's food program. Weekly menus are posted in each classroom. Food allergies and restrictions are carefully honored.

Click HERE for Nutrition Information

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What type of assessments are used?

We use "The Ounce Scale" (OUNCE), for ages birth through 3 years, and "Work Sampling System" (WSS) for assessment of our Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten children. Both are performance based assessment tools that allow teachers to obtain a whole picture on each individual child. The teachers are able to document and evaluate children's skills, knowledge, and behaviors using classroom experiences and activities. Each child's assessments are recorded three times a year; fall, winter, and spring.

The assessment tools have several different components that go along with them. First, they consist of a checklist of a child's progression and mastery in seven different domains of learning. They also consist of a portfolio for each child which contains examples of the work that best represents the child's ability. Finally, there are narrative summary reports that are written and shared with the child's family at conferences and other educators as necessary.

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What type of curriculum is used?

At Begin With Us, we use Creative Curriculum as well as the Pennsylvania Learning Standards for Early Childhood as our framework for curriculum and assessment design.

Supplemental curriculums include "Color Me Healthy", "ThouchMath", "Kidwriting", Waterford Math and Science, "Providing Alternative Thinking Strategies" (PATHS), and "Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving" (ICPS).  "Handwriting Without Tears" is also used.

Click HERE to read more about our Curriculum Philosophy.

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When is payment due?

Payment is due on or before each Friday morning, the week of service.

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Where is Begin With Us located?

Begin With Us centers are located in the heart of Altoona at 703 and 729 Grant Avenue. A spacious play yard separates our buildings. We also operate a pre-kindergarten program and summer camp program at 711-717 Pleasant Valley Boulevard, Rear. Meals, snacks and drinks are provided free of charge according to the United State Department of Agriculture's Child and Adult Care Food Program guidelines.

Click HERE for Directions to our Centers

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When is a child too ill to attend?

To safeguard the health and well-being of the children and practitioners/teachers, and to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, we require parents to keep their child at home if he/she displays symptoms and conditions that are listed in our "Attendance and Absence" policy that can be found in our "Handbook for Parents".  The policy will be reviewed with all families during the admission process.

Children are assessed each day when entering the program.  Any health conditions which alert practitioners/teachers during the "Daily Health Check" will be immediately reported to the child's parent and the Director. If the child appears to be too ill to remian at the center, the parent will be asked to take the child home for the day.  The "Daliy Health Check" policy will be reviewed with all families during the admission process.

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