Frequently Asked Questions
The following is a list of questions we commonly receive via our contact form, answered to the best of our ability and with a link to the relevant page on this website, if applicable.
Where is Ami-Ami located?
Our childcare home is located in a quiet residential neighborhood just east of the 5 freeway between the Birmingham and Santa Fe dr. exits, in Cardiff-by-the-sea, at the Southern border of Encinitas. For more specific directions, click here.
How many people work there?
Ami-Ami is a one-woman operation. This personal choice stems from a desire to provide a home-like environment for the children with the educational quality of a preschool. The size of our home lends itself best to a group of up to 5 children, which allows for frequent one-on-one teachable moments and for the creation of strong, meaningful, long-term bonds of mutual affection.
How much experience do you have?
I have been running Ami-Ami for over 12 years, but I have worked with children in one capacity or another for more than 25 years, starting with baby-sitting in my teens. Since then I have been a nanny, a teacher, and a mother. I hold a degree from France in Teaching French as a Foreign Language, and in the US I have studied developmental psychology, multiculturalism in the classroom and other early education subjects. I am also fully CPR-1st Aid certified.
What about special needs children?
I have personal experience raising a child with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. Ami-Ami welcomes applications for special needs children. The only things taken into consideration for enrollment other than sheer availability are whether our setup is safe and adequate to meet your child's physical needs and whether I am personally equipped with the right tools, knowledge and experience to meet their emotional and developmental needs.
Do you currently have any openings?
As of May 2018, fall availability is as follows: 1 FT spot and 2 PT spots W-F
For specific information, please fill out our contact form with your questions.
Please be advised that spots get filled fast and it is recommended to apply in advance for future school years to secure a spot on our waiting list.
Can I just stop by for a tour whenever?
Because I am a one-woman operation with a small group of children I do not randomly allow strangers into my home during work hours--I will not even answer the door if I am not expecting anyone.
If you wish to come visit Ami-Ami, please use the Contact Form to request an appointment and we will find a time for you to stop by outside of work hours with your child, so that I can give you my full attention, answer your questions, and move around the premises for the visit without having to disrupt anyone's play or activities. It also ensures that your little one can feel free and safe to explore our fun space with just you, in case they are a bit shy around unfamiliar faces.
If you subsequently wish to return during business hours, we can then find a mutually convenient day for you to come spend about 45 minutes with us (typically between 10:30 and 11:15am). It will give your child time for some free play and a directed or semi-directed activity, and a good idea of how much fun and excitement there is to be had at Ami-Ami!
Can a child be disenrolled/enrolled mid-year?
Ami-Ami enrollments are for the entire school year, however life events such as a move or loss of employment can cause a family to withdraw their child at any given time. Note that we do require a 2-month notice for withdrawal (exception noted below)--this is to ensure that our applicants are all committed to long-term enrollment, which contributes to the success of our program.
If this happens, we turn to our waiting list to check with families (in the order they applied) whether the upcoming opening meets their needs. If a wait-listed family is able to take over the spot sooner, the 2-month notice for the disenrolling family is reduced to end on the first day of attendance for the new enrollee.
If you are just finding out about us in the middle of the school year, we still encourage you to apply if just to secure your own position on the wait list--it is always possible that an unforeseen opening may not meet the needs of anyone currently on it.
Do you provide meals? What about milk?
Ami-Ami serves both morning and afternoon snacks, which are typically made from organic/locally grown ingredients. Examples: fruit, raw vegetables, homemade sprouted grain crackers or homemade yogurt from organic milk.
Lunch is the parents' responsibility in order to ensure that allergies or special diet needs are not an issue. It will be refrigerated/reheated as needed. I do not discard leftovers so that you know exactly what your children ate and how much.
In terms of beverages, we normally only serve water. There is absolutely no fruit juice, soda, or any other sugary drink in our home. Milk is not offered to prevent potential inadvertent cup "borrowing" by children who may be lactose intolerant and because it makes it easier for parents to keep track of daily servings when milk consumption is reserved for home.
However, if it is truly important to you that your toddler still drink milk at preschool, you can supply it in a sippy cup for the day. It will be given to your child only at snack time and lunch time and kept in the fridge the rest of the time.
Does my 3-year-old have to be potty-trained to attend?
No. I do not consider potty-training a milestone to be achieved on a specific schedule. All children are different and some may show all signs of readiness at 18 months while others are still not ready at 3. It is perfectly fine.
I have assisted with potty-training more than 40 children over the years and I will be more than happy to help you figure out when your child is both physically and psychologically ready. Once they are, it is truly a team effort but if we all follow the same dedicated protocol at home and at preschool it is usually a quick, painless, and actually quite rewarding process.
Does it matter if we do not speak French?
Not at all! Exposure to a second language at an early age is an incredible advantage that should be sought out regardless of whether your household is monolingual. Toddlers in immersion programs learn the second language naturally, the same way they learn English, and even without reinforcement at home they will reap many benefits from that experience thanks to the creation of numerous neurological pathways at an age when brain development is most critical.
We will be on a family trip for a month. Do we still have to pay tuition?
Tuition at Ami-Ami is not attendance-based, but for the specific opening you are reserving for your child for the school year. Therefore, your monthly dues remain the same whether your child attends or not, until formal disenrollment.
Can you provide us with references?
Absolutely! I have a long list of contact information for numerous families (locally, out of state, and abroad) who were once (or currently are) enrolled at Ami-Ami and who would happily vouch for the quality of my services. Once you have toured our preschool home, if you are interested in applying for enrollment feel free to ask me for references and I will email that information to you.
What is your illness policy?
As part of our contract of mutual respect and responsibility, I expect parents to be reasonable in assessing whether a child is able to attend preschool or not on any given day. Impractical though it may be to have to keep your child at home because they wake up unwell on a work day, sometimes it will be necessary.
Please be objective! What if one of your child's friends had the same symptoms? Would you be comfortable with them spending the whole preschool day together, hugging, sharing toys, touching faces? Would you be afraid your child may catch something? If the answer is yes, please don't send your little one to school!
For instance, if your child has a slight cough, with no other symptoms, and knows how to cough into the crease of their elbow, they are fine to come to preschool. If they have a runny nose with thick mucus and they tend to wipe their face with their hand or sleeve as a reflex, they should stay home. (Also keep in mind that if I get sick because you sent me a sick child, no one may get childcare at all for a few days, including yourself).
A child who arrives in the morning well enough to attend (e.g. a little lethargic, slight cough, no fever) may develop further symptoms while at preschool. If I deem that your child has become too unwell to stay, you will be contacted to pick them up within an hour. Please always have back up care/transportation arranged in case such a call comes and you are not able to come within an hour.
Our basic guidelines are that if your child is not well enough to have fun playing outside, they are not well enough to come to preschool. The rest is up to your sensible assessment. Symptoms which are prohibitive for a full 24 hours after the last occurrence are: fever of 100 or more, diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained rash, eye discharge.
Families who send a child to preschool for personal convenience when they are clearly not well enough to attend will get a polite reminder about our illness policy. Further occurrences may be grounds for dismissal.
Please see our Policies document for full details.
How do you handle discipline?
Please refer to the "Discipline" section of our Policies document for full details. In essence:
Our environment is set up so that the children's adventures are safe, efficient and accessible, and so that reasons to say "no" are scarce. However, "no" will still happen if needed--delivered in a gentle, simple, and concise manner, followed by showing the child what can/should be done.
Redirection and modeling proper actions and behavior remains the number one way in which I handle issues. Whenever a situation becomes emotional, your child will always see their feelings acknowledged and will not be shamed for experiencing them. Instead, I strive to provide toddlers with the proper vocabulary to understand what they are feeling, and offer solutions for coping with those emotions. Should it become necessary, I may remove a child from the problematic situation and give them a time out. Time outs are not a punishment but an opportunity to "cool down". I will sit with your child apart from the other children as long as necessary to solve the issue at hand in a calm, reassuring manner.
Positive reinforcement is abundant at Ami-Ami, without giving into the pitfalls of empty praises. Children are encouraged to feel good about their own experiences and achievements and to be proud of themselves rather than rely on external validation and approval. To that effect, I refrain from liberally distributing "good jobs" and pats on the back, and prefer to use enthusiastic, excited questions or constructive comments: "Did you just walk the entire balance beam without falling? How do you feel about that?!" or "You sure used a lot of colors on this picture! What is your favorite thing about it?"
Do the children watch TV at Ami-Ami?
We have one television in the living area, which is used scarcely and purposefully.
In order to expose the children to French dialogue (rather than the one-way delivery they get from me the rest of the time), we will usually watch one or two short (5-minute) episodes of a cute cartoon after lunch. They are typically things such as Barbapapa, Petit Ours Brun, Emilie, Tro-Tro or Oui-Oui (I believe all of those are also found on Youtube).
Because those DVDs have many very short episodes, I can almost always find one that ties directly into our monhtly/weekly themes or a teachable moment we had that day. It helps reinforce vocabulary and concepts we have encountered. I use the cartoon as a basis for questions and conversation immediately following viewing.
Children who are dropped off early or picked up late are allowed to watch those DVDs if they so choose.
Can I send someone else to pick up my child if I am not able to?
Each family fills out a form with a list of emergency contacts and people likely to pick up their child from preschool at one point or other. I expect a written (/email) statement from parents letting me know who is picking up the child on a day they cannot--especially if that person is not on the list. For safety reasons, if I have not been warned in advance that someone else was picking up your child, I will not release him or her until I can reach a parent for confirmation--late pick-up fees may apply.
The first time I meet an "alternate", I will require them to provide photo identification--please make sure they bring one.
Please note that under California law I am required to release a child to either parent regardless of custody arrangements unless I am provided with a court order stating otherwise. I am also obligated by law to verify that the vehicle in which the child is to be transported has a proper car seat. I will not release the child if it does not.
Do you have celebrations with the children for religious holidays?
Ami-Ami is not a faith-based preschool, and my spiritual proclivities are irrelevant to our activities and curriculum. I typically favor using religious holidays as a basis for loosely-related activities (such as cooking) that do not assume belief or negate it.
I also strive to expose the children to the amazing cultural diversity of our world and I will make the most of any opportunity to explore interesting traditions from many places to show them how differences make our lives richer.
Will you accept a child who is not vaccinated on the recommended schedule?
No. By law, up-to-date immunization records are mandatory to attend any public or private school or daycare.
No exceptions can be made on the basis of faith or personal beliefs. Exemptions may be granted for medical reasons with a note from a pediatrician that details the specific reasons why the child cannot receive all required vaccines.