Why preschool ?
It’s more than just a place where kids first learn their numbers and letters, it’s a safe space where they can hang out and play with their peers, recognize their feelings and hone interpersonal skill. Bowen Island’s early childhood educators share their views about the benefits of attending preschool.
Ann Silberman, executive director of the Bowen Children’s Centre, says that there are currently three programs available for parents looking to sign their kids up for preschool: the Bowen Children’s Centre, the Bowen Montessori School and Monica Senn’s Kid Programs. “Families use all three programs and we have different approaches, different skills and different focuses but there is a common thread and that is to help get children ready for kindergarten,” Silberman said. Another bonus for parents who send their kids to preschool comes from the fact that they are likely to get feedback from educators. “A child comes with no more instruction than your blender so it is nice to be able to fall back on someone who has experience and training and who brings a larger perspective,” she said. “Our educators have worked with many children. They can answer questions and offer support to the parents for challenges in early childhood.”
The Bowen Children’s Centre’s strength is that it covers all four developmental areas, according to Silberman, who says, “We cover social and emotional learning as well as cognitive and physical well being. All of the island’s preschool programs work in those areas even if our approaches are different.” Silberman explains that the differences lie in the facilities, teaching staff, philosophies and teaching styles but all programs offer education to young children and support for families.
The preschool years are valuable years, says Silberman, adding that “in a human’s evolution, the years from birth to age six are the most critical for developing the brain and personality traits. To be able to expose children to different experiences is key for them during the early years in terms of language, physical fitness and cognitive development. But what’s even more important is the social emotional development.” Silberman explained that in preschool and schools, children develop social emotional skills, “Research has shown that if children can function well with peers and are comfortable in a group setting, they do much better when they enter school.” She added that the Children’s Centre, the Montessori School and the Senn’s Kid Programs all work with the Bowen Island Community School (BICS) in order to ensure that the children are comfortable when they enter the school system.
“One of things we do together is the Ready, Set, Learn program,” Silberman said. She believes that attending preschool can really make a difference for helping children adapt to attending school and has had similar feedback from kindergarten teachers and parents.
Helen Davenport is a teacher and administrator at the Bowen Island Montessori School (BIMS) and she sees preschool as an extension of family. “Parents choose preschool because they are finding that the home environment is not meeting their children’s growing needs,” she explained. “And the preschool is meeting social, emotional and intellectual needs and often broadens the interests of the children.”
“Preschool is the logical step for children who are ready to spend some time in a group, outside their home,” Davenport says. “Going out into the bigger world is a new step. There is this magical time for kids to take the next step when it is easy for them. When they step out the gate, they feel confident,” She adds that this time might be different for every child.
“Preschool is first journey from home. Children get the sense of growing and wanting to experience new people, new settings and new activities,” Davenport says. “And they discover that there are people outside of their family who love and care for them.” Davenport also speaks about older children reaching out to younger ones and inviting them to sit beside them when they look sad. “At that age, they have an openness to the world and a twinkle in their eyes,” she said.
Monica Senn, a Swiss certified kindergarten teacher, is running Monica’s Kid Programs for pre-schoolers, kindergarten kids and pre-teens. “Benefits of preschool are that it gives kids a chance to learn about the world around them, outside of their homes,” Senn said. “They can benefit from experiences that can’t be taught at home, such as learning in a bigger group, learning to wait and listen to others, playing and interacting with children the same age, conflict solving without the safety of the parent around and experiencing new personalities and family structures.”
Preschools guide children to gain independence, self esteem and self confidence, support children’s intellectual and language development and enable children and their families to connect with others, according to Senn.
“Preschool also builds a foundation in functioning in group learning, which is an important building block in later learning,” Senn said. “It prepares the children for entering kindergarten, especially by building friendships. The start of kindergarten is another big step and having friends around can make the transition to kindergarten more safe, pleasant and fun.”
While Senn sees preschool as a place where kids have a chance to grow and make new experiences, she doesn’t believe it’s necessary for each child to attend preschool if they have a stimulating environment at home, engaged parents and a chance to socialize with other children. “I think there are certain personality types that don’t thrive in big groups and functioning in a busy preschool might be overwhelming. I find if a child doesn’t seem happy at preschool and is just waiting to go home, a later start might be more beneficial,” she says.
Davenport believes that Bowen Island is a close-knit community that makes it easy for parents to become engaged. “We have the Mother Goose program and Family Place for younger children, there is a lot of information-sharing there,” she says. “And we are fortunate to have many skilled child care providers.” Silberman also praises the Bowen Island Family Place as a valuable resource. “We are very fortunate that we have a Family Place coordinator who holds a diploma in early childhood education and has a background and understanding of early childhood development,” she said. “It is a great resource that supports families during the early years.” For more information, please see www.bowenislandfamilyplace.com.
Registration for Bowen Island’s preschool programs is ongoing and details are available at www.bowenchildrenscentre.ca, bowenmontessori.ca and bowendaycare.com. The Ready, Set, Learn event is scheduled for Saturday, February 23, from 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. BICS invites three and four-year olds and their parents to attend a morning of music, stories and learning resources. Call 947-4337 to confirm attendance.