By: Marie Huey
Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work going on in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.
Like many family child care providers, Terri Montgomery started her business when friends and neighbors approached her to watch their children. Now, after 22 years in the field, Montgomery continues to do the work because she loves children.
Because of the its rural location in Zimmerman, Minnesota, Montgomery’s program, Country Kids Childcare, faces unique challenges, while also offering unique opportunities. High-quality affordable child care in the area is scarce, so Montgomery’s program is in high demand. Currently five moms of children in her care are pregnant. Because of licensing requirements around ratios and safety, Montgomery won’t be able to take the infants for two years—which some moms are willing to wait. This shortage of child care for infants is especially severe and prevalent throughout much of Greater Minnesota.
However, being in a rural area has several advantages. The children love to be outside on Montgomery’s three acres, where much of their learning takes place. They explore in the woods, pick raspberries and watch for wildlife. Lately, a fox has been stopping by, and the kids enjoy watching him through the window. The outdoors are full of opportunities for problem-solving and teamwork, which she takes advantage of. For instance, the kids recently helped cut and stack tree branches. They enjoyed helping and being part of the group.
When the kids are inside, they utilize Montgomery’s entire basement, which is dedicated to child care. Every other week, a kids’ yoga instructor comes in to lead a class. Children have music class every other week and an ECFE reading teacher once a month during the school year.
To demonstrate and improve her program quality, Montgomery participates in Parent Aware. She appreciates the high-quality trainings, which had been difficult to access in Greater Minnesota before Parent Aware started. The quality supports have helped her improve her space, allowing her to purchase new shelving and make upgrades to the playground.
Hands-on play is essential to Country Kids, both inside and outside. Montgomery’s role as early childhood educator goes far beyond babysitter. She provides intentional and fun learning for the community’s littlest learners.