How to Choose and Excellent Preschool Program

A truly excellent preschool program is not a miniaturized version of elementary school.  Early Childhood educators know that a sure way to create school burn-out in young children and to turn them off to learning is to try to teach a standard kindergarten or first grade curriculum to Pre-K students, including piling on homework.   A good preschool program does not have little children sitting in desks doing worksheets.   Rather preschool needs to be a play and movement centered program that appeals to the natural learning styles of most small children.  For students to be prepared to undertake the academic challenge of elementary school, Pre-K needs to emphasize the social-emotional skills of sharing, caring, conflict resolution; self-control, listening, and following directions. This important learning must come first for future academic success.

Math manipulative are used to teach correlation, sequencing, patterns and other age appropriate math skills.  The Handwriting without Tears” curriculum, instead of forcing children to write at such an early age ,uses clay, painting, markers and crafts to develop the small muscles needed to hold a pencil properly and cut with a scissors accurately, and thus is more age-appropriate.

Every study that’s been done on teaching reading to children comes up with the same conclusion: between 92% and 95% of children learn best with a phonics-based program. A tiny percentage of children have exceptional memories and are sight readers.  But for most children, learning the sounds the letters make in order to build words is critical to becoming a good reader.  This can and should be taught in Pre-K.  Using a kinesthetic or movement based program like Jolly Phonics, children learn the sounds with a memory-connecting movement attached, which makes the learning fun and playful.  The children don’t even know they are learning!  How a child is taught, is the critical component, not just the curriculum content.

It’s important to honor the individual developmental pace of each child.  Parents and teachers must have realistic and varied expectations based in part on each child’s aptitude, interest and readiness.  Just as some children walk at 9 months and others not until they are 18 months, they all learn to walk. Some children are ready to learn pre-reading skills by three years of age while other may not be ready to read until they are five or even six.

Know and honor the child and their personal pace.

Preschool children need ample opportunity for imaginative play, arts and crafts, music, dance and unstructured free play both indoors and out.  This provides the opportunity for self-discovery learning, which is the first step for those who will someday become future engineers, scientists, inventors and innovators.   Children require opportunities to figure out how things work, how to fix things that aren’t working, and how to problem solve for themselves rather than have adults direct and manage all their activities.  This level of learning is one of the most important aspects of early childhood education and ties into the “primacy of self discovery”.   It cannot be emphasized enough how important free play, imaginary play, outdoor nature exploration, facing challenging and new experiences,  and field trips are for young learners.

Living the Dream: Content of Character Counts Most

From Pre-K through high-school, students at New Hope Academy are guided to consider issues, to question, and to contemplate the steps for making intentional choices. Students and staff are encouraged to examine: who I am, how I live, how I make my life choices, how I take responsibility for my choices, and to consider how my choices impact others. Integrity and commitment to values is interwoven into the curriculum and consciously modeled in interpersonal relationships within the school community. Education is defined as life-long learning through continued self-reflection, leading to autonomy and self-mastery.

A commitment to volunteerism and Service Learning fosters student’s awareness of how to substantially create a peaceful and loving world.   By providing opportunities for older students to mentor and work with younger students, children learn leadership, empathy, mutual respect, and how to nurture others. Virtues are examined through weekly themes using stories, personal experiences, videos, and guided discussions.

Problems are seen as opportunities to grow and simple techniques are modeled to help everyone develop skills in consistent conflict resolution.  We provide an environment where children can take safe risks, face challenges and even fail, enabling them to develop perseverance and resiliency.

Making Global Citizens

To gains skills with inter-cultural competency, which are needed to successfully navigate our global community, educators must model and encourage students to consciously experience and embrace diversity.  At New Hope Academy we explore many levels of diversity from ability, race, nationality, age, ethnicity, religion and culture. We share food, music, literature, dramatic arts and dance from many cultures and religions.

Students learn languages beginning in the preschool with American Sign Language (ASL), and move on to study both Korean and Spanish, eventually concentrating on one language within a semi-emersion environment. New Hope Academy has the most comprehensive Korean foreign language program in the U.S. A. today, teaching K-12th grades.   Qualified Upper School students may participate with Youth For Understanding to study abroad.

Around 20% of our upper-school is comprised of international students from a variety of countries. We have created a unique English language and culture intensive program, to support our international students English acquisition needs.

For 20 years annually, The New Hope Gambia Project sponsors a 3 week humanitarian aid venture to The Gambia with student, faculty and parent volunteers. The New Hope community sponsors scholarships for over 50 Gambian students per year to attend schools in The Gambia, the smallest and one of the poorest countries in Africa.  An upper-school elective, the International Development Class, provides students with real-life experience by acting as agency staff resourcing and securing surplus medical equipment for hospitals in The Gambia. Students learn professional and business skills needed for global community effectiveness in the not-for-profit sector.

True empathy comes through understanding and appreciating the value of people who are different and the deeper realization that we all share common hopes and dreams. Personal exposure to ideas, values and beliefs of others are needed to create true connection and friendship with others. Interacting with other people and understanding their situation also helps children feel gratitude and appreciation for what they have, and empathy for those who have less.