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The Carpenter's Shop Christian Preschool

Building Kids God's Way

By Michelle Martin

Donna Harris, owner and director of The Carpenter's Shop preschool in Canton, has always had a deep love for children. Before opening The Carpenter's Shop in 2007, she ran an in-home daycare for approximately 15 years, taught kindergarten in Cherokee County School District, and served as preschool director for a local church. Caring for young children is more than her career, though; it's her calling. "I have always considered caring for children as a ministry," she says. "My desire has always been to serve and support families, especially full-time working mothers who want to give their children a Christian foundation from an early age."

The Carpenter's Shop is an all-day, Christian-based preschool program, open 6:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m., for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years. "We developed The Carpenter's Shop with working mothers in mind," Harris says. "Most preschool programs that have a Christian background are only half-day programs. The Carpenter's Shop preschool allows working mothers to have the best of both worlds all-day childcare and education, based on Christian principles and biblical teachings they desire for their children."

At The Carpenter's Shop, children learn about God's love and teachings through a variety of activities. They pray every day, learn a new Bible story each week, and learn a new Bible verse each month through song. "It is an incredible feeling to hear a class of 2-year-olds reciting John 3:16 together," Harris says, "and so rewarding to know they'll remember that verse for the rest of their lives." Children also attend weekly chapel, an interactive worship time that includes puppets, music and the pledge to the Bible and to the American and Christian flags. "Our mission is to make children feel loved, to know that God loves them and they can have eternal life through Jesus," Harris explains. "We want God's love to touch their lives so that they carry God's word with them in their hearts always."

The Carpenter's Shop uses the A Beka Book curriculum, a Christian-based educational program that includes phonics, reading, language arts, math, science, social studies and other early childhood subject areas. "The A Beka curriculum prepares children very well for public school," Harris says. "Most children are two years academically above children in other preschool programs. Some of our kindergarteners are reading on a 4th-Grade level." All classes are structured to change activities and subjects every 30 minutes to help keep children engaged. In addition, children ages 3 and up have in-classroom computer learning; pre-K classes have weekly Spanish lessons from an outside teacher; and a music teacher from In Harmony Pediatric Therapy leads a 30-minute music time for each class once a week. The Carpenter's Shop also offers an all-day summer program, "Camp Adventure," for ages 3-10 (through 3rd Grade).

According to Harris, the student-teacher ratio at The Carpenter's Shop is lower than state requirements four teachers in nursery classrooms and two teachers in all other classrooms, which allows teachers to provide more individual attention and care. "Every child learns at a different rate," she says. "Our teachers meet children where they are. It's wonderful to see children get excited about learning and to see how far they have come since the beginning of the school year."

The Carpenter's Shop is licensed by the Georgia Dept. of Early Care and Learning. Most teachers have a Georgia teaching degree or associate's degree, and all teachers are required to complete 10 hours of continuing education each year. In addition, Harris says all teachers and staff at The Carpenter's Shop are certified in CPR and first-aid. The kindergarten class is led by Gina Chambers and Christy Stancil, both of whom taught for 30 years in the Cherokee County School District. Recently, kindergarten students at The Carpenter's Shop tested in the 98th percentile nationally. "I am so proud of our students. Their achievement speaks to the curriculum and staff here," Harris says. "I can't praise our teachers and staff enough. They are good, Christian ladies who love their job and it shows in how they care for and engage the children to reach their potential."

Children's safety and security are top priority at The Carpenter's Shop. Doors remain locked at all times and cannot be opened without a secure access code. Parents are assigned a unique code to ensure that only authorized persons can enter. "Not just anyone can come in; parents and authorized visitors have to use their own code, or ask one of us to let them in," Harris says. "In this day and age, that's very important." Children also practice safety, fire and tornado drills regularly.

Harris also believes it's important to teach children that "it is better to give than receive." Each week, children are encouraged to bring a small offering that is used to help local families in need. The Carpenter's Shop sponsors approximately 10 families for Christmas each year and supports community organizations, such as MUST Ministries, church food pantries and missions. "The Carpenter's Shop is a ministry, in every way in caring for the children and families who come here, and helping families throughout the community," she says.

Harris says she feels blessed to have the opportunity to teach and care for so many children over the years. "I am thrilled that parents choose The Carpenter's Shop because they know we love their children and provide a Christian foundation on which their children can build their lives," she says. "I pray every day that I use The Carpenter's Shop to glorify God and do what is best for our children, because it was God who gave me a love for children and opportunities to share that love. I have a blessed life, all because of the children."

367 Green Drive, Canton