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The Lasting Benefits of Preschool

Why Early Education Matters

October 01, 2010
There are a handful of things I remember about kindergarten—everything from cutting a circle the right way, building cardboard faux-brick block towers and running as fast as Super Woman at recess. I'm wondering if my parents lost sleep over my preparedness for such accomplishments. Today's schools have not only parental expectations to meet, but also great expectations from the community at-large.

According to S.C. Worthham, author of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, the 1980's brought about standardized testing; the 1990's schools improved on ground-level scores, but were still low performing in 2000 and 2001. With initiatives created during the Bush administration, the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law on January 8, 2002, had a positive impact on testing required by individual states.

What does this mean for my three-year-old?

The Early Childhood Head Start Task Force was formed in April of 2002. Now, early childcare and education is universally regarded as an important component of basic education. During The World Conference on Education for All held in March 1990 in Thailand, the concept of "learning begins at birth" was widely accepted and promoted. When most parents find it difficult to play a significant role in the proper development of skills and ethics of our future, it became important to take stock of emerging trends in Preschool education.

In the twenty-first century, Early Reading First, Special Education Preschool Grants and Head Start programs provide the funding, teachers and early education professionals, therapists and innovators who have since created some of the most outstanding preschool programs, including franchises and not-for-profit church organizations, both of which have educated children for decades are now continuing to get better each year as parents have higher expectations.

What are the benefits of preschool?

In Indiana, 59 percent or 297,302 children under the age of six have either both parents or their only parent in the workforce, and are, therefore, in the care of someone other than their parent(s) during the work day. Too often, they are in "child storage" (for instance, parked in front of a TV set), instead of in a quality early learning environment.

A study by the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Indiana made up of an anti-crime organization of more than 3,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors nationwide reported that 66 percent of kindergarten teachers said children who attended pre-kindergarten are "substantially better prepared" to start and succeed in school. Research also shows pre-kindergarten programs later result in lower drug use, higher graduation rates, fewer families receiving welfare and lower crime.

"Ten years ago, if a child entered kindergarten able to write part of his name it was considered success, let alone being able to identify half of the letters of the alphabet. Today, children are expected to come to kindergarten not only recognizing and writing letters (not all) and identifying sounds, but also to be able to participate in many phonemic and phonological awareness activities," said Jodie Bolinger, director of Faith Montessori Preschool in Noblesville. Aside: Maria Montessori was an Italian doctor who devoted herself to educating the children of Rome's ghettos. She became famous for her visionary methods and insight into how children learn. Her teachings spawned an educational movement which is enormously popular throughout the world.

According to their Web site and Amy Ashley, assistant director of Faith Montessori School, "Some preschool programs assume that because the standards have increased the only way to teach is to hand a child some crayons and a worksheet. If a child comes home with more than one worksheet from preschool per week, it's too much. When worksheets are presented as a choice, programs run the risk of enabling children to be passive learners, taking the easy way out. After all, the children most likely to choose worksheets are those who find the narrow task comforting."

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs states: "Teachers who are knowledgeable about child development and learning are able to make broad predictions about what children of a particular age group typically will be like, what they typically will and won't be capable of and what strategies and approaches will most likely promote their optimal learning and development. With this knowledge, teachers can make preliminary decisions with some confidence about environment, materials, interactions, and activities." They go on to say, "A hallmark of developmentally appropriate teaching is intentionality. Good teachers are intentional in everything they do — setting up the classroom, planning curriculum, making use of various teaching strategies, assessing children, interacting with them and working with their families. They are able to use a variety of strategies. Intentional teachers are purposeful and thoughtful about the actions they take, and they direct their pedagogy toward the outcomes the program is trying to help children reach."

Is your child's teacher intentional with your child, a blossoming person?

"At Faith Montessori Preschool, we believe that children learn best through hands-on experiences and activities that engage higher level critical thinking skills. We provide learning opportunities that promote phonemic and phonological awareness across the curriculum in all content areas, provide for shared reading a writing activities, hands-on math and science activities, and provide practical and invaluable opportunities for children to learn self-help skills like buttoning, lacing, zipping and preparing and cleaning up snack at an early age," said Bolinger. "We promote small class sizes to ensure that activities and projects are done in small groups for meaningful experiences. Pencil and paper activities are used rarely and only when a child is ready and always in a developmentally appropriate activity. We follow the NAEYC guidelines in regards to developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs."

At the Jewish Community Center (JCC), Judy Sosin, JCC associate executive director, points out that teachers and students engage in Montessori methods of learning through the use of cognitive, physical and social development, mathematical skills, critical thinking and emotional development. Students graduate from school having learned several skills including fine motor development used to increase small muscle development.

Teaching character, nurture, independent learning, confidence, exploration and practical life skills are responsibilities that used to fall primarily on parents— and they still do. However, preschools have recognized the enrichment opportunities beyond using scissors, stacking and gross motor skills by creating programs and preschool centers that provide children with the satisfaction of learning their young minds are hungry for while also preparing citizens for the greater good of their community.

Nikki Keever is a freelance writer living in Noblesville, IN with her husband and three children.

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The Children's Museum of Indianapolis announces the opening of the new Children's Museum Preschool.

The brand new preschool at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis consists of a dynamic curriculum for children ages three through five by utilizing the resources of the world's largest children's museum. The preschool will invite children to explore, discover and create using the museum's galleries while also having fun and making friends.

"The new Children's Museum Preschool is another extension of our mission to offer unique family learning opportunities," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, museum president and CEO. "Attending preschool within the museum allows children to be immersed in our world-class exhibits dedicated to the arts, sciences and humanities. The program will offer each child an unparalleled experience and prepare them for lifelong learning success."

The Children's Museum preschool program will utilize the principles and practices of Maria Montessori and Reggio Emilia with a curriculum backed by Indiana's early learning guidelines. Certified, experienced teachers will guide each child's preferences by asking questions and encouraging discussions to explore topics and skills that interest them. Class time will take place both in dedicated classrooms and within the museum's galleries to offer children a wide range of hands-on learning experiences.

"Children are naturally curious and by encouraging each child's own interests, they will begin to use critical thinking skills which will increase their confidence, self-reliance and socialization. Development of math, language and problem-solving skills will happen naturally and logically through play and interaction with others," said Patchen.

Stand-Alone Preschool Classes

If individual classes are a better option for your child instead of a longer preschool program, The Children's Museum offers stand-alone classes for children ages two to five. For the two-year-olds there are Playscape Toddlers classes and for children three to five there are Playscape Preschool classes.

The Playscape Toddlers classes offer activities such as learning how autumn leaves change colors, how to make jack-o-lanterns, and how to decorate holiday cookies. These classes are specifically designed with your 2-year-old in mind, and offer a way for your little one to explore, play, and learn. These classes start in September and run through December.

The Playscape Preschool classes are designed for children who are ready to learn with other classmates in group settings. These classes promote discussions among the children and are centered on developmentally appropriate activities. Kids discover the creatures that live in ponds, learn about the different techniques artists through the centuries have used, and make holiday gifts for their loved ones.

Tags: Education, In This Issue, Preschool

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