Wednesday, April 23, 2014

School Information Series: St. Stephens Episcopal Preschool

Thanks to Amy for writing this post about another great preschool option in Durham!  

Type of School: Half-Day Preschool

You’ll find a colorful, creative, and caring environment at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Preschool (SSEP). As a former preschool teacher and college instructor, I have been extremely pleased with the engaging, educational environment created by the energetic and enthusiastic team at this school. My oldest daughter is about to complete her second year, and my youngest her first.

“The mission of St. Stephen’s Preschool, as an integral part of the parish, is to offer an educational program grounded in the Word of God that nurtures the whole person of every child under our care.   By careful and constant attention to social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical and creative growth, an educational experience is presented that fosters the love of learning and growth in a warm and welcoming community that mirrors God’s love for all His children.”

St. Stephen’s Preschool was founded in 1962 and is accredited by the Durham and Orange Preschool Association (DOPA) and the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAEP). The student-teacher ratios vary by age: younger 2 year-olds is 1:5; older 2 year-olds is 1:6; 3 year-olds is 1:6; four year-olds is 1:8. 

The teachers’ lesson plans are driven by the school’s adoption of the Creative Curriculum. The SSEP website indicates, “The Creative Curriculum is an award-winning curriculum for preschool success. Using exploration and discovery as a way of learning, The Creative Curriculum enables children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills. The Creative Curriculum has helped teachers understand developmentally appropriate practice and how to create daily routines and meaningful experiences that respond to children’s strengths, interests, and needs.”
Teachers report to parents on a weekly basis about the week’s activities in the classroom, songs practiced, books read, and upcoming events. Every morning, parents and students are first greeted by the Preschool Director Tamiko Sanders at the school’s entrance and then by their teachers at the classroom entrance. My girls are enamored with their teachers; they talk about them frequently away from school and look forward to seeing them on school mornings.

Children participate in a Music Class, Creative Movement Class, and Chapel once a week. Outdoor learning is incorporated every day at St. Stephen’s. The spacious and shaded playground has appropriate play structures and outdoor activities. Children also learn about planting and growing food in the SSEP Garden. Lunch Bunch is available for potty-trained children; for a small fee, children can stay an additional hour for lunch (brought from home) and outdoor play. St. Stephen’s is a tree nut-free campus and also complies with any additional allergies on a classroom basis. 

Throughout the school year, children participate in a variety of events: Preschool Annual Picnic; Fire Truck Visit; Pumpkin Patch Party; Christmas Program; Creative Movement Program; Dr. Seuss Celebration; Easter Egg Hunt; Popsicle Parties; and Visits from Rags to Riches and Kazoom Theaters. 

Community service activities are another community-building aspect of St. Stephen’s. This year, the school participated in a food drive for The Durham Rescue Mission, and we assembled kindergarten readiness kits and held a book drive for the East Durham Children’s Initiative. Parents and siblings are always invited to participate in events and service activities.

I am most impressed with the strong leadership, committed teachers, and loving atmosphere at St. Stephen’s. Both my children have blossomed in this environment. And I look forward to their continued growth in the upcoming school year.

St. Stephen’s is currently accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school year.

Available classes are:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 2 year old class
Tuesday/Thursday 2 year old class

Monday/Wednesday/Friday 3 year old class
Monday - Thursday 3 year old class
Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 3 year old class

Monday - Thursday Pre-K class (4 year old)
Monday – Friday Pre-K class (4 year old)

If you would like to learn more about our school or to schedule a school tour, please contact Preschool Director Tamiko Sanders at 919.489.6789 or

Monday, April 21, 2014

Charge Ahead Durham

What it is:  I discovered this a few weeks ago and think it's a really great way to both do something for the environment and help the kids learn about helping their world.  Charge Ahead Durham is an initiative from the city/county of Durham Sustainability Office.  What you do is you head to the Charge Ahead Durham website and register for free.  Then, they post weekly "charges" that you can complete that all help the environment in some way.  If you complete that charge and let them know, and you earn points.  The points can win you great weekly prizes like gift certificates to Ninth Street Flowers or Letters Bookshop, or a tin of popcorn from Mad Popper, and you can be eligible for the grand prize drawings which include a night's stay at the Kings' Daughters Inn, a bike, or more.

What we liked:  Lots of times, I would like to be better to the environment, but I don't know exactly where to start.  This gives lots of small ways to start, many that don't take up much time or money.  Plus, you can involve your kids in the tasks and help them learn to be caretakers for the environment.  Previous weeks' charges have included enjoy the ATT with a buddy, install a rain gauge, bag the plastic bags, and give the computer a rest.

What we would change:  There's not much we would change.  It's a great program that's easy and free, and good for the environment.  Plus, you have the chance to win fun Durham prizes!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Giveaway! Smashburger

I don't normally do this, but I had the chance to do a quick giveaway before I've actually checked out a spot.  However, I'm checking out this new great Durham restaurant next week and wanted to give all of our readers the chance while I could...

So, Smashburger is a new burger restaurant specializing in "smashing" their Certified Angus burgers on their flat grill located across Erwin Rd. from Duke Hospital in the Lakeview Pavilion East shopping center.  I'm looking forward to stopping by with the family and giving everyone the full report.

They are offering one of our lucky readers two free entree certificates at the new Durham location.  All you have to do is comment on this post on the blog or on facebook before next Wednesday April 23 at midnight to win!

Enjoy, and happy eating!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Fun Zone: An Update

Ever wish you had a place to drop off your kids while you enjoyed a great dinner out in downtown Durham?  You can at The Fun Zone, and Zion is back to update everyone on what's going on there.

If you are ever in downtown Durham, and have noticed a small tucked away side building called Fun Zone, here is your chance to get acclimated to what they offer. A few years ago stircrazymoms did a blog on this child friendly spot (  but to keep things current we wanted you to know it is still open and available for new Durham explorers.  

The Fun Zone is an affordable child play business that offers rates of $5 per family for a group playdate (anything that charges per family has my interest so I don't have to pay for multiple children).  They are well equipped with everything to keep your children entertained and busy. They take appointments for scheduled play-dates, host birthday parties, and have a drop in childcare for the weekends.  With the growth that downtown has had over the last few years, this is a great way to have a date night and accessible child care all within walking distance of each other.  Rates for drop-in childcare are $10 per child per hour with discounts for multiple children.

What we liked: This little nook is very well organized and have areas for dress up, a craft area, and a book nook for little readers. You easily can keep kids of all ages busy, and there is something for everyone.  Did I mention that you can bring your own snacks.

What we would change:  Some may say the parking, but I actually had no problem on a weekday parking my car on a side street and walking one block to get to the corner where Fun Zone is located. Weekends could be more difficult.

Check out their website which has more information on rates, biography of the owner Ms. Toni (whose picture is below), who also owns the establishment next door, Sew Crafty, and other fun facts.  The phone number below can also be used to schedule your next playdate!

Website and other important information:
Address: The Fun Zone 104 W. Parrish Street, Downtown Durham NC 27701 
Toni Phone: 919-740-3587  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sew Crafty

What it is: Do you or/and your child have a knack for fashion.  If you do, and you are looking for a fun activity for you and your age appropriate kiddos, you may want to check out Sew Crafty "where learning to sew is sew easy and sew fun".  I visited Sew Crafty and met the owner Ms. Toni (pictured below), who also owns a child play facility next door, Fun Zone (  

Sew crafty offers classes for children and their families, both private and group lessons.  They also host craft spring/summer camps,  parties, and for you American Doll fans, they have a class for making accessories and clothes for your doll.  Not only do they teach sewing clothes, but their services include tote bags, beaded jewelry, and polymer clay sculpting.

What we liked: This establishment is very organized, and although it requires lots of hands on work, the instructors are ready and willing to help any process along. They allow creativity in your own right.  They come equipped with all your sewing essentials as you will see from the pictures below and are ready to work with you.  This space would make for an explorative day with Fun Zone next door, eateries, and a bustling downtown to keep you entertained.

What could be better:  Parking can be tricky depending on when you go because it is located in the heart of downtown Durham.  

Visit their website to find out more information and don't hesitate to get your jump start on learning or brushing up on your sewing skills.

Website and other important information:

Address: 104 W. Parrish St., Durham


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Elite Dance Studio

What it is: This past weekend I had a chance to take my twins to Elite Dance Studio (located near Brier Creek) for their spring open house where they had bounce houses and offered FREE dance classes.  We attended the Pre Ballet/Tap for 3-4 year olds where all the little ones were encouraged to wear tutus :)  

Elite dance serves children from 16 months old and up. Their dance variety includes Jazz, hip hop, cheer, ballet, and tap.  The spring open house catered to parents like myself who probably are interested but unsure if their child would be willing or able to handle an instructional dance class. All my suspicions were put to rest as my kids and I both enjoyed the open house.  After meeting the owner, Ms. Crystal, I was assured that she and her staff are more than capable of handling a room full of little ones and teaching them the basics of dance.

What we loved: The free classes are a great way to test the waters before purchasing 6-8 weeks sessions for your kids. Most importantly, the rates are very affordable ranging from $60-$80 for 6-10 week classes ($60 bucks for a 10 week class----you can't beat that!), and $70-$150 for week long summer camps. So far these rates are the best I have seen in Durham!

What we would change:  The spring open house was a hit, so much so that every class was packed, and kids in their tutus and ballet/tap shoes were everywhere. My kids were distracted a lot by the bounce house (what kid wouldn't be), and almost missed their class because they just wanted to bounce around.

Website and other important information:

Address: 2228 Page Rd., Suite 102, 27703

Check out the rates, biographies and other information on the website.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Progression Climbing

What it is:  A few weeks ago we heard about a new rock climbing spot in Chapel Hill, so I had to take my two little monkeys over to check it out.  We drove over on a rainy Saturday to visit their Saturday kids' time.  It was a little tricky to find it hidden behind the Ram's Plaza shopping center.  It's actually on the road behind the shopping center on Legion Rd.

Once there, we headed in and signed our waivers.  We could have chosen to rent shoes, but they didn't quite have them little enough for my young boys.  I do think they would have been helpful in climbing the walls though, and for only $3 a pair, that might have been worth it.

When we headed in, we noticed that it was a little different than other rock climbing places we had been to.  There were no harnesses.  The reason given was that none of the walls were too high.  Plus, they had a bouncy floor, similar to a floor at a gymnastics studio that cushioned people's falls or jumps somewhat.  There was one wall on each side of the gym with countless holds and routes up the wall.  One wall was basically straight up and down while the other was angled inward to make it more difficult to climb.

When my boys got in there they weren't quite sure what to do, but they soon got into the swing of things and started having a ball.  My youngest, at three, was perhaps to young to get as much good out of the place because he was too small to reach many of the hand and footholds.  My 5 year old on the other hand, was big enough to do some climbing, but the lack of a harness threw him off.  It took him a little while before he was brave enough to climb up high on the walls because he had to climb or jump back down.  Once he did find his courage, he had to climb his favorite routes over and over again.  It was nice that we didn't have to wait to hook into a harness every time he wanted to climb.  

There was also a slack line set up in the middle of the room which is like a thick tight rope.  My youngest had a ball with this.  He couldn't get up by himself, but he loved walking and bouncing along as I held his hands.  

What we liked:  We loved how Progression Climbing is really trying to cater to kids.  They have the special "kids' climb" time on Saturdays from 11am-1pm where adults are welcome, but kids are encouraged so that they can climb and socialize with other kids.  They also welcome playgroups any weekday from 11:30am-4:30pm.  You can also reserve the facility for birthday parties or sign up for their summer camp this summer.  It's a great place to go to get kids excited about rock climbing.

What we would change:  As with any climbing gym, at $10 per kid, the price is a little high for a regular play outing, but the kids definitely enjoy it.  Plus, you can buy a ten visit punch pass for $90 to make it a little more affordable. The lack of harnesses was both a negative and a positive.  As I said, it made my son more hesitant to climb up high, but you didn't have to clip in to a harness every time you wanted to climb up which made it much easier and less of a hassle.  Also, it is not the best for younger children.  I would say kiddos 5 and up could get their money's worth

Website and other important information: 

Address: 1713 Legion Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27517

Cost: Youth (under 18): $10, Youth with Parent: $21, Rental Shoes: $3


(a look at the whole gym)

(the easier of the two sides)

(the other, more-slanted side)