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This is What School for Three-Year-Olds Looks Like

Posted By Lauren Evans, Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Early Childhood Philosophy

Play is an important part of what we do in EC, but we are not a play-based program. We have a developmentally appropriate academic curriculum, designed specifically for our three- and four-year-old students. That does not mean that we hand out textbooks and assign homework. But it does mean that we have three experienced teachers who plan lessons, develop concepts, and use scaffolding techniques to move our students toward a deeper understanding and greater mastery of certain key skills. This distinguishes us from daycare centers and, although we fall into the “preschool” category because of the age of our students, we believe that this is what school should look like for three-year-olds.

Our daily routine is an important part of our overall approach. Providing clear transitions, and engaging the students as they move from task to task or room to room, helps them to adjust mentally and emotionally to the rhythms of the day. Having such a well-developed structure provides clear and attainable goals for students who may struggle early in the year managing their cubby or sitting quietly during circle time. As the year progresses, we are also able to adjust the routine – by having, for example, longer time in our small groups – depending on the children’s interests and development.

We are always cognizant of the fact that the Early Childhood Program belongs to the children; it is their world, not ours. We teachers are careful to show that we value them and want their input. We do not simply offer hollow praise – “What a pretty picture!” – but instead ask questions like, “What colors did you use?” and “What is this person doing?” Rather than imposing rules, like forcing the students to gather quietly in a straight line, we ask them to think about their choices and how their actions impact others. This approach empowers the students and establishes a sense of trust between teacher and student.

Because many of our students have perfectionist tendencies and heightened sensitivities, they can become frustrated, for example, that their fine motor skills cannot keep up with their active imaginations. If what they are able to draw on paper does not come close to the image that they have in their mind, they may become upset or even shut down completely. We are keenly aware of this and constantly look for ways to make the students feel valued and safe. When we teachers make mistakes, we make sure to acknowledge them and model appropriate responses in order to show that it is okay to stumble or struggle. Resiliency is a difficult life skill to learn, but it is important to start early, especially for our highly sensitive students.

Our small class size and low student-to-teacher ratio allow us to offer individual attention to each student. If a child shows interest and is ready for the next step, whatever that may be, then he or she is ready, regardless of age. Likewise, if another child needs some extra time, we can provide that as well. Each student is different but our goals are always the same – to provide a safe, happy learning environment for confident, well-adjusted learners. Children have an innate curiosity; we want to help develop that into a true love of learning. We are not in a race to finish first; we are on a quest to do our best.

It is always a joy for us to watch our former students progress through the grades at ACS and to know that their educational journey began in the Early Childhood Program!

~ Lauren Evans,
Early Childhood Teacher


Tags:  early childhood education 

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