Little lambs may find their way to Hilltown day-care center
EAST BERNE — Jamie Lynn Kennedy wanted to be an earth-science teacher when she graduated from Hunter College in New York City in 2011. After following a winding path in education she has returned to her home on Main Street to open a day-care center.
“I really want to get to them really early,” said Kennedy of children under her watch at Little Lambs Day Care, explaining that she is discouraged by the movement in recent years towards more teacher evaluation in the state and the nation.
In June, Kennedy received her license as a day-care provider and is now enrolling children for Little Lambs at 45 Main Street, located in the house where she grew up.
“When she was young, I was the Hilltown baby-sitter,” said Kennedy’s mother, Barbara, owner of Winding Black Creek Farm, where she boards horses on the same property. Local children would come to sled down their hill in the winter.
Eight or more children would get off of the school bus at the Kennedy house after school, Barbara Kennedy said, when the state’s Office of Children and Family Services didn’t regulate licensing, as it does now, for anyone watching more than two children on a regular basis.
Now, her 28-year-old daughter has taken 30 hours of training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, health and safety, business, and nutrition, as well as ongoing classes through the Capital District Child Care Council. The two meals and two snacks at Little Lambs will follow state guidelines for vegetables, fruits, whole milk, and moderate amounts of sugar.
Kennedy attended Berne-Knox-Westerlo when she was younger. At 16, she graduated from Greenville High School, where she credited her science teachers with inspiring her to have fun and confidence in school.
“For me, it was where I went to feel amazed,” said Kennedy. “It was where…life was happening for me.”
She remembered Julie Christine Lewis, a teacher with fascinating stories of skiing and rowing trips that helped her to fall in love with weather and climate. Kennedy is still in contact with Lewis, who she now calls “Christine.”
“Science was my best friend, and so was she, and that’s why I graduated early, and then why I went to Maria,” said Kennedy.
In Albany, Kennedy studied liberal arts at Maria College, where, she said, she had difficulty adjusting.
“It’s kind of like closing the barn door before the horse gets out,” said Kennedy, who interrupted her pursuit of a college degree to study at Orlo School of Hair Design and Cosmetology. “It helped me grow a little,” she said.
After studying more at Maria, Kennedy moved to New York City to be a hairstylist, but was attracted again to school.
When she graduated from Hunter, she told Lewis, “I just want you to know that I did this all because of you.”
“If I can make other kids feel the way she made me feel, that’s when I know I’ve changed the world,” said Kennedy.
She continued to cut hair in the city, but it grew tiring.
“It wasn’t as fulfilling as seeing a child learn something for the first time,” said Kennedy, who worked as a day-care instructor at a gym in Albany from September until March this year.
From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, Kennedy will oversee up to eight children, from six weeks to 12 years old. Two slots may be for before and after school day-care, and two slots may be for babies.
Kennedy stressed that the house is a consistent, safe place for children to develop routines, like eating healthy foods and doing physical exercises throughout the day.
“We will be doing hand-washing all the time,” she said.
When children first arrive, Kennedy said, they will have free time, to play with each other and with her, and to be independent.
They will get meals and snacks made from fresh ingredients, in a crockpot.
“And those are so easy to hide vegetables in,” said Kennedy of the slow-cooking device. She noted that many children have daily meals with frozen or canned foods.
“That’s how I grew up, too. Sometimes it was just easier,” she said. She added, “I want to take care of that.”
Aside from naps and physical play, Kennedy said children at Little Lambs will do activities with arts and crafts, with monthly themes, like the ocean, or the farm. She will play kids’ songs, rather than turn on a TV.
They will apply what they’ve learned about colors, shapes, and numbers to arts-and-crafts projects.
In reading to the children, Kennedy says, she hopes to show them the routines of children in other countries.
“Things aren’t as easy everywhere else,” said Kennedy.
For one activity, Kennedy said, she wants to show a West African udu drum she first saw during a street fair on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Kennedy says the name of her new enterprise comes from her fond memories of bottle-feeding Mary Brown’s lambs as a girl. She wants to guide Hilltown children who, like herself, could otherwise grow up distanced from a wider world.
“I didn’t realize there was a lot of life outside of Berne. I want to be that gateway,” said Kennedy.
Little Lambs Daycare & Learning Program is located on 45 Main Street in East Berne. Contact Jamie Lynn Kennedy by phone at 872-9613, or online at . Weekly tuition will be $175 for students who enroll now; later, the fee will be $200. For children attending just before and after school, tuition is $120. Parents will receive financial and attendance reports. All major credit cards, cash, and check are accepted.