When Assita Huchette went back to work after having her first child, she found it extremely difficult to leave her 3-month-old at a daycare center.
“It’s like heartbreak to leave my baby in the morning. He was the youngest baby in the daycare. Every morning when I left my baby I would just cry,” she said.
Instead, the former advertising project manager decided to open her own daycare, and she gave it a twist: At Le Jardin de Louise, the kids get a dose of French along with their story time and free play.
Huchette, 32, grew up in Burkina Faso, in West Africa, where the official language is French. After teaching French to elementary school children for several years, she moved to Paris at 21, where she earned a bachelors and master’s in business and went into advertising.
She and her husband, comic book illustrator Anthony Huchette, moved to New York about six months ago, first staying with friends in Park Slope and then moving to Ditmas Park because of its green space and family vibe.
“We took the train over and we said, ‘Wow we want to live here,’” she said.
After a stint in a rental on Coney Island Avenue and Newkirk, the couple found the perfect spot for both home and daycare, a free-standing house for rent at 390 Stratford Road, between Cortelyou and Dorchester.
The first floor is the daycare, with a music/art room, a free play room, a kitchen and a quiet-time nap room. The backyard is equipped with a swing set (see photo gallery).
The business is named after Huchette's niece.
The children will be divided into three groups. "Little Bears" for 6-month-olds to 2-year-olds, "Pandas," for 2- to 3-year-olds and "Dolphins" for 3- to 4-year-olds. The daily schedule includes breakfast, lunch and snack, all of which will be made on-site with organic ingredients when possible; circle time, art, outdoor play, yoga, music, and science.
The daycare will be dual-language, not immersion, with about half the activities in English and the other half in French, Huchette said. In addition to Huchette, two assistants will also work with the children, both of whom will be native French speakers as well.
Le Jardin de Louise is slated to open in April. It will have space for six full-time children, six morning children and six afternoon children. Fees are $1,600 a month full time and $900 a month half-time.
Huchette said that while parents are drawn by the French element, they generally decide to sign up because of a number of factors including the atmosphere, location and philosophy.
Such is the case for Yoon Choi, who signed up her son, Oliver. While she liked the French aspect, she also liked that the daycare is run by a "local mom" who "seems to have a wonderful vision of how she wants to run her daycare."
Huchette said one of her biggest priorities is communication with the parents. Finding out in the morning how the children’s night went and giving parents the blow-by-blow at the end of the day.
“I want to work with parents and make sure we collaborate to do the best for the children who come here,” she said.