A preschool program dedicated to providing

Quality Early Childhood Education

with an extra touch of T.L.C.


Frequently Asked Questions

What ages of children do you serve and what is the teacher-child ratio?

We have one multi-age classroom for 3 and 4 year olds (and 5-year-olds who do not make the K age requirement or who choose to postpone kindergarten for a year). We are licensed for a maximum of 15 children, and there are 2 teachers and a director on site and hands-on at all times.

With this exceptional teacher-child ratio, we are able to individualize our instruction and meet the varying developmental needs of all our children.

Click HERE to learn How A Multiage Classroom Benefits Students.

What are your hours of operation and tuition rates?

Families can choose a schedule of 2 or 4 days per week, as follows:

2 days/week (either M, W or T, Th) 9:30 - 1:30 each day Tuition $299/month
4 days/week (M, T, W, Th) 9:30 - 1:30 each day Tuition $598/month

Where are you located?

The location is wonderful! We are in Columbia, in the Village of Oakland Mills, in the Talbott Springs Neighborhood Center. The address is 9660 Basket Ring Road -- easily accessible from Oakland Mills Rd., Broken Land Parkway, or from Rt. 175 near Highway 29.

There are 2 classrooms in the building. One is used for our center areas, and the other serves as an auxiliary space for lunch, music & movement, gross motor skills on rainy days, etc. Adjacent to the building is a large, fenced-in, and well equipped playground

When does your school year begin and end?

Our school year typically begins the Tuesday after Labor Day. We follow the Howard County Public School System for holiday and inclement weather closings. Our final school day for the school year is usually the 3rd Thursday in May.

What does a typical day look like at your school?

Our daily schedule includes a rich variety of learning experiences with a balance between teacher-directed and child-initiated activities; independent, small group, and whole group activities; fine motor and gross motor activities; and quiet and lively activities.

Because we want children to feel secure and independent, and to move from one activity to another with ease and confidence, we maintain a consistent daily schedule.

Click HERE to view Our Daily Schedule.

Please note: The Learning Cottage has been recognized as a Healthy Childcare site by Healthy Howard. As such, we provide a nutritional daily snack consisting of whole grain crackers, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Parents are responsible for providing their child's lunch each day.

Who will be working with my child?

The Learning Cottage is fortunate to have two exceptional teachers and one director who “team teach”! All are certified and experienced Preschool Teachers who have attained the Maryland State Department of Education Child Care Credential. The teachers are committed to providing meaningful learning experiences in a loving and nurturing environment, and work closely with the director to ensure the success and happiness of each child in our care.

What is the owner/director’s background?

Ms. Ann Marie’s teaching background began over 20 years ago. She has 2 Bachelor of Arts degrees, one in Psychology from the University of North Carolina, and the other in Elementary Education from Elon University. Since 1988, she has devoted herself to working in the field of education. She has taught and directed in numerous educational settings; including, school age childcare, special education in public school, tutoring centers, and preschool.

Throughout her career, Ms. Ann Marie always dreamed of owning her own school, and since The Learning Cottage's opening in 2008, the reality of her dream has been beyond even her own expectations!

How academic is your program?

Our philosophy is that children at this age learn best through play and social interaction. Through hands on experiences and lots of interactive dialog, we foster each child's natural sense of wonder and provide them with the necessary skills to be ready to enter kindergarten.

Ms. Ann Marie and the teachers are certified in the techniques of the Maryland Model for School Readiness. Together, the director and teachers plan daily, weekly, and monthly activities that encompass all areas of growth and development -- social & emotional, language, science, social studies, mathematics, physical, and the arts.

From the teacher's perspective, activities have a purpose and planning is intentional. In the eyes of the children, school is a fun and welcoming place to explore and create their own play with their friends!

What is your discipline policy?

Click HERE to view our Behavior Guidance Plan.

Can I come to the school for a visit?

Absolutely! We encourage interested parents to visit the school in person and to bring their child with them. This will allow you to see the teachers in action and to observe your child in the school’s environment. Please call or email the Owner/Director (Ann Marie Irby) at 410-740-5538 or thelearningcottage@verizon.net. She is always happy to meet parents in person or to talk on the phone to answer further questions.


Thank you for your interest in

We hope to share in the wonder and excitement of your child's education!