Real Life Day Camp at the "Main Eating Area" on the Farm
Jim and Mary Ellen Fraser
The Real Life Nursery School & Kindergarten is a family-owned and operated business.
During World War II, American culture shifted as thousands of women entered the workforce. And when the war ended, many continued, creating a new need for professional child care services throughout our country.
In 1948, Jim and Mary Ellen Fraser seized the moment and started a summer Day Camp program for children in their community. Jim would personally pick up children in his station wagon and drive them to the Frasers' 10-acre plot of land in Dearborn, Michigan. There he had relocated an old farmhouse that once belonged to Henry Ford, and it now served as a child care center in a home-like setting.
Unfortunately, the historical farmhouse eventually had a fire and burned down, but Jim determined to build a new building that wouldn't burn. He used the same cornerstone, and the new Real Life Nursery School was constructed in 1956.
Real Life Nursery School
Farmer Jim's "Real Life Day Camp" would meet in Dearborn and then field-trip out to 60 acres on Strawberry Lake Road in Hamburg Township where children learned horsemanship, swimming, and other outdoor activities.
The new 60-acre property in Canton was purchased on November 24, 1963, significantly shortening the drive for the daily field trips. There, in the summer of 1966, Farmer Jim hired a team from Kentucky to help him build the Big Red Barn.
Farmer Jim and Ms. Mary Ellen's six children--Jimmy, Don, Scott, Greg, Mary, and Ellen--worked daily (alongside their extended family) to care for animals, fix structures and equipment, and cultivate the land to make the best farm experience possible for those who visited. During this time, a young "Farmer Don" started driving the camp bus at the age of 18.
After Farmer Jim's passing in 1986, Don and Mary Ann Fraser took ownership of the Real Life Day Camp and Farm, operating school field trips, hayride parties, and the summer day camp.
There has never been a summer since 1948 that the Real Life Day Camp was not in operation.
For quite some time our family felt the need to expand our business to a year-round school. The surrounding development and access to sewer and water hookups made this dream a possibility. Ground was broken at the front of the farm property for the new Real Life Nursery School & Kindergarten in 2001.
Jim and Mary Ellen Fraser with schoolchildren
With Aaron Fraser ("Farmer Aaron") taking responsibility at the farm in 2017 and his sisters, Sara Maldonado and Robin Thomas, taking on more responsibilities at the school and farm as well, our family business is now in its third generation. It is a joy for our family to continue the legacy of providing quality child care and education in the Canton community.
Today, thousands of families in and around Canton, Michigan, have visited our property, fed our animals, ridden our horses, and discovered all the fun and experiences Real Life Farm has to offer.
It is our desire to make a significant difference in the lives of the children and the families we serve through our year-round school and summer day camp. We maintain strong commitment to this goal and a genuine desire to serve our community. We are proud of our heritage and will strive to continue to provide high-quality child care services.
We look forward to having you and your child join our family.