Extended Care at Pilgrim – Everything You Need to Know!

Student playing in Pilgrim's extended care program

For some Pilgrim students, their time at school begins before attendance is taken in the morning and lasts past the time they close their lockers in the afternoon. 

When families enroll their children in extended care at Pilgrim, they should know that this “extra” time spent at school is structured around the same values that define every other aspect of a Pilgrim education. Whether it’s “Early Birds” in the morning or PAS (Pilgrim After School), students feel safe to learn, play, and grow. 

Here are some tips for helping your child make the most of their time at extended care:

For Early Birds:

Start with the most important meal of the day. Children should eat breakfast before attending Early Birds, but if busy schedules prevent this,  parents should ask the Director to provide a nice, cozy spot for your child to eat a prepared breakfast from home.

Let your child know what to expect during transitions. At the conclusion of Early Birds,  students in grades 1 through 8 walk to class when our regular school day starts. We walk PreK or Kindergarten students in Early Birds to their classroom at the appropriate time. 

Promote positivity. All of us hope to have a positive morning, and the Early Bird philosophy is that “EVERYONE should enjoy starting their day feeling loved, welcomed, and encouraged.” How we start our day often ends up setting the tone for the entire day. Our Early Bird staff work hard to provide a loving, nurturing, and safe place to stay before school begins.

Pilgrim students playing chess in extended care

For PAS (Pilgrim After School): 

Talk to your child about his or her activities. Each day, your child can choose from a diverse group of books, manipulatives, STEM building construction sets, play-doh, kinetic sand, arts & crafts, plus so much more. We also provide the option of open play time where children can play soccer, basketball, tag, and other gross motor activities. Weather permitting, we go outside everyday so that the children can enjoy running, climbing, exercising, and playing with friends. If a student has homework or projects, they are able to work on that as well. We have electronic and computer activities two days a week where children may play E rated, school appropriate games on their own tablets or devices. They may also play strategic, problem-solving age-appropriate computer games that PAS provides. Children especially love playing old favorite computer games such as Pajama Sam, Freddie the Fish, Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo plus many more! 

Encourage them to stop for a snack. During PAS, we offer a healthy fruit snack option every day, but children are free to bring their own, peanut/nut free snack options from home as well. Snack breaks are important to keep up energy during a long day. 

Take advantage of special classes and clubs. We also offer opportunities for children to sign up for other activities such as Chess, Yoga, Soccer, Cooking, and Art Club as well as other activities throughout the school year. If a group of PAS students want to try something different, parents should alert our PAS Director. Over the years, we have offered instruction in French, German, guitar, robotics, and dance, based on student interest and desire to learn.

Realize it’s ok to just unwind. Children often just need time to decompress after a full day at school. PAS offers each child a safe place to relax, work on homework, play with friends, and have the option of engaging in a wide variety of age-appropriate activities.

Pilgrim student building a tower in extended care

More about Mrs. Arlene Calderone, Pilgrim’s Extended Care Program Director

Mrs. Calderone started working at Pilgrim when her children attended school at Pilgrim many years ago. Pilgrim was their top choice in schools and a long waiting list did not deter the Calderone family. With much prayer and patience, Mrs. Calderone’s son was accepted and their family’s Pilgrim journey began!

At first, Mrs. Calderone volunteered in different areas at school and then the school asked her to assist with Pilgrim’s Extended Care Program. The Extended Learning Programs really ignited Mrs. Calderone’s love of working with children. After working as the assistant for five years, Mrs. Calderone stepped into the role of the Director of Pilgrim’s Extended Care Program. She has run the program for ten years, and is honored to be such an important part of so many children’s lives. Mrs. Calderone lives out her philosophy for Extended Care: every child is important, every child is welcome, and every child is loved.

Extended care students building a tower and bridge in extended care

Pilgrim’s Pre-K Named “Best of Chicago” for Second Time

With its play-based philosophy and “whole child” approach to learning, Pilgrim’s Early Childhood Education Program is designed to be exceptional. But don’t just take our word for it. Once again, Pilgrim’s PreKindergarten has been named as “Best of Chicago” – having previously earned the distinction in 2018. 

Pilgrim Principal Chris Comella and PreKindergarten Teacher Mrs. Joanne Conway with Students

Each year, the “Best of Chicago” Awards are given to local schools and businesses based both on the recommendations of people in the community and third-party data. The Chicago Award Program honors the achievements and accomplishments of organizations that make the Chicago area a great place to live, work and play.

“Our teachers and staff are determined to engage each early childhood and pre-Kindergarten student, and make them feel safe and valued as individuals,” says Pilgrim School Principal Chris Comella. “We deliberately keep our early childhood class sizes small and ensure that every student is supported in achieving his or her own developmentally-appropriate goals.” 

Since there is no “one size fits all” approach to learning, Pilgrim offers Prekindergarten and Kindergarten students ample free time each day to explore and develop their unique interests.  Other distinctive components of a Pilgrim Early Childhood Education include:   

  • Themed-based activities that help children to learn about their world 
  • Regular social-emotional exercises focused on growing social skills, and identifying and dealing with feelings 
  • Spanish language instruction utilizing songs, stories, and puppets
  • Exposure to the fine arts through music and art lessons
  • Faith Formation with a focus on grace.

“Pilgrim’s approach to Early Childhood Education inspires children to grow, learn, and be leaders in every facet of their lives,” says Comella. “Receiving the 2021 ‘Best of Chicago’ Award is an honor, and kudos are due to our teachers and staff for making ‘Academic Excellence with a Heart’ a reality!”

Pilgrim is still accepting applications from prospective students for the remainder of this school year, as well as for 2022-23. 

To learn more about our award-winning pre-Kindergarten program, visit www.pilgrimchicago.org – or sign up to attend an in-person open house or weekly virtual coffee session at https://tinyurl.com/PilgrimProspectiveFamilyEvents.

PilgrimFest 2021: Fun, Friends…and Food

Last Sunday’s block party was an amazing celebration of community! We were blessed to gather in beautiful weather, and enjoy the fellowship of school families, church members, Hot Meals guests, and our gracious neighbors. Kids enjoyed bouncing down the giant inflatable slide, feeding adorable animals in the petting zoo, and – or course – taking their turns on the dunk tank seat! The grown-ups in the crowd relaxed with burgers and hotdogs fresh off the grill, and took in the tuneful sounds of the talented St. Jams Band. It was certainly an afternoon to remember. And, we give an extra-loud shoutout to our many dedicated volunteers, who pulled together to make sure everyone could have a joyous time!

A New Beginning!

“I’ve always loved the first day of school better than the last day of school.  Firsts are best because they are beginnings.” – Jenny Han

Yesterday was indeed a day of beginnings for Pilgrim students!  They waved goodbye to parents, reunited with friends, and walked to their classrooms with a mix of excitement, anticipation – and maybe a bit of nervousness.

The first day of school holds inherent promise.  Achievements will be earned in both academics and athletics.  Students will grow in character and spirit.  New interests and talents will be discovered. 

During this week of beginnings, we’re grateful to welcome the entire Pilgrim student body back to the classroom for full-time, in-person instruction – after last year’s Covid mitigations required changes to protect health and safety.  We give thanks for the resiliency of our students, teachers, and staff during a time that was challenging for all. 

After taking a brief summer break, we plan to update our blog regularly with news, stories, profiles, and tips that will give you an inside look at the many ways in which Pilgrim Lutheran embodies academic excellence with a heart.  We look forward to the 2021-22 school year with hope and enthusiasm. Please join us on this journey!

Principal Chris Comella 

Private School 101: Answering Common Questions

By Chris Comella, Principal of Pilgrim Lutheran School

Ask most parents in Chicago, and they’ll probably tell you that choosing where their children attend school can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and downright anxiety-provoking!  

For families who are fortunate to have a variety of options, the first major decision to tackle is whether to select a public or private school education.  Both offer specific benefits, and both can provide the “right fit” – depending on a child’s individual strengths and challenges.   

We want to help families just starting the decision-making process – or considering a switch – so we’re providing answers to some frequently asked questions about private schools! 

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A Child’s Work is Play

By Polly Smith, Pilgrim Kindergarten Teacher

Summer break is here! For many, it’s a sigh of relief after what feels like a longer than normal school year. For children, it’s a chance to have fun, explore, and play! 

In many ways, play was put on pause this past year as in-class learning gave way to online classrooms. However, if there was ever a year where students needed play-based learning, this was it. Stress, anxiety, and unknowns were high for all. Amidst the challenges, early childhood students at Pilgrim spent the past school year engaged in play in the classroom. 

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