Peace of Mind Early Education Center is more than a day care.
"We're the school training ground," owner Nikki Robbins said.
From its library and infant sign language and literacy time to its spacious grounds and pre-kindergarten classes based on science, technology, engineering and math, family-owned Peace of Mind's curriculum is meant to prepare children for next steps in life.
Robbins and her husband, Gary, opened Peace of Mind Oct. 23, 1993, in 10,000 square feet of space at the Woodgate Business Center in Woodbury. Three years later, what started as Robbins' graduate school capstone project was bursting at the seams. The day care was constantly changing, with lots of remodeling.
As children grew older, parents began asking for preschool and school-age programming, which led to expansion - first at Valley Creek Mall, and then also from 2000-2010 at Woodwinds Health Campus.
In 2003, Peace of Mind bought a 35,000-square-foot building and converted it to use as a private day care and school. The property has 165 enrollees, 8 acres of land, numerous playgrounds, a library, a lunchroom, spacious halls and some classrooms with lofts remodeled from the former church's sanctuary. When Unity Church moved out of the building, and Peace of Mind moved in over a weekend without shutting down operations for even a day, the church body left Post-it notes throughout the facility, with words of blessing - joy, love, happiness and the like.
Peace of Mind's mission is to offer peace of mind, by protecting and educating infants, toddlers, preschoolers and pre-kindergarteners, Robbins said. The day care is family focused, open to parent consultation, education based and structured with intent to ensure children reach their potential. The importance of early childhood education isn't lost on the school's owners.
"Peace of mind - it's really what I always wanted," said Robbins, whose children Jordan, Madelyn and Kathryn are now 21, 18 and 15, respectively.
Nearly 25 years after its inception, Peace of Mind continues to operate as a day care, preschool and pre-kindergarten, with K-6 summer camp, before and after school offerings, and leadership camp for sixth- to ninth-graders.
"We've always tried to create an environment that feels like home to kids, but has that educational component to it," Robbins said.
In 2005, Peace of Mind implemented Core Knowledge, a national curriculum that provides a solid foundation for 3- to 5-year-olds by identifying learning goals, setting high expectations for all students, and teaching content that will help children be successful in kindergarten and beyond.
"We were ahead of the curve," Robbins said. "We treat each child as an individual learner."
Students follow a sequence in: movement and coordination; social and emotional development; language; visual arts; music; math; history and geography; and science.
Preschool children go to classes, gym and the cafeteria, just like they will do in kindergarten.
Yet, the school is open to parents.
"Your kid's here," Robbins said. "Come anytime."
The website for the day care and preschool calls Peace of Mind a "home away from home" for many children. Peace of Mind is also home to Christ Redeemer Church services, a Parent Aware office, and on the woodsy grounds a family of foxes.
Some of Peace of Mind's other unique features:
• So-called BabyTown, within Peace of Mind, is one of the larger infant day cares in the state, with 32 infants and low teacher-to-child ratios, Robbins said.
• In the cafeteria, toddlers use a "little people's gym," a large motor space that's a little softer for them than the gymnasium, Robbins said.
• Chinese language classes are offered for preschoolers.
• A huge mural by a St. Paul artist surrounds the school's main staircase.
Peace of Mind is located at 9025 Tamarack Road. For more information, visit peaceofminddaycare.com or call 651-731-2608.