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Joytime Closing After 60 Years in Lake Forest

Lake Forest preschool center has served three generations of some families.

Editor’s Note: Joytime Preschool was started by Joy and Earle Hodgen 60 years ago and has been a staple of southeast Lake Forest ever since, according to three generations of graduates. The Hodgen’s daughter, Kathleen Hodgen, has run the school since 1999.

People will gather from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the school to remember. The following story is provided by Nancy Collins.

By Nancy S. Collins

After 60 years, this June 8th will be the final time scores of children and generations of alumnae who’ve gone to Joytime Preschool in Lake Forest will be saying and waving good bye.

Joy and Earl Hodgen built the little neighborhood school on Maywood Road in 1953 on a half acre of land nestled into the Northmoor subdivision next to South Park.  It began as a nursery school and by 1962, became a preschool. It is National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredited and has always been family run.

Kathleen Hodgen, (known to the children and alums alike as “Miss Kathleen”) Joy’s daughter, began working alongside her mother at Joytime in 1973. She took over as Director and then lead teacher after Joy’s death in l999.  Kathleen’s father, Earl, a teacher himself continued to do the maintenance, paperwork, lawn mowing, and, among other roles, was the “Popcorn Man” at Joytime celebrations until his death in 2010.

The feeling of family and traditional values is why parents have sent thousands of students across three generations to Joytime.  It has always maintained a low-key and relaxed atmosphere in it’s approach. Kathleen continued her mother’s teaching of fundamental character building values to the children every day.  “I loved being able to continue my mother’s legacy and beliefs in helping children enjoy being children, while learning respect for others and responsibility and care for ourselves and our surroundings.”   She and her teachers through the years taught the children ways to be friendly and how to resolve conflict. As Kathleen says, “Rule #1:  Never hurt anyone on the outside, and never hurt anyone on the inside.” She said, “Aggressive behavior towards others is discouraged, however, aggressive feelings are recognized and vented in many various ways. We believe that children need to learn how to interact with others in a positive, non destructive manner.” Whether it be 1953 or 2013, she said, “Children have the same needs as ever—love, support, and positive reinforcement.  We always tried to instill a feeling of well-being and respect for others.”

When asked what parents have told her why they’ve sent their children to Joytime, she said “I believe our Joytime parents valued our philosophy and liked the idea of a “homey” environment, with lots of outdoor running room.” Indeed, Joytime has it’s own spacious park setting playground with gardens for digging and planting, a hill the children call “Joytime mountain” for climbing, a merry-go-round,  and lots of space for the imagination.  “Also at Joytime”, Kathleen said, “keeping a sense of humor is important—we do a lot of laughing---when children feel comfortable enough to express feelings, they are on their way to feeling good about themselves.”

The decision to close Joytime was a difficult one.  “It is bittersweet for me,” she said. “But the timing is right.  We’re calling it our Diamond Jubilee Year.  I thought 60 years is a good time. The years have come and gone so quickly—seeing parents who themselves came to Joytime now entrusting their own little ones with us makes my heart sing. All the years of care, support and loyalty from the Joytime families makes me feel we were able to build a good foundation in the lives of many children.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  I will truly miss Joytime myself.  Thank you, thank you, love to all alumni everywhere.”

Joytime will host an Alumni Open House Grand Finale on June 8th from 11 AM to 5 PM.  Fred and Teddi Koch will perform from 1-1:30 PM.  There will be popcorn, lemonade, and fun activities for the children.  Current and alumni families are invited to drop in, visit with old friends and say and wave good bye to Joytime teachers as they close it’s doors for the final time.  
Vicky Kujawa June 05, 2013 at 12:41 AM
My son had a great experience attending Joytime. Best wishes to you Kathleen!

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