ANDERSON, Ind. — Parents don’t actually have to bring their children to preschool, it isn’t mandatory, but it does “show a high value for education,” Southview Preschool Center Principal Shelley Wagner said.
And at Southview, staff use the Reggio Emilia method, a new approach in Anderson Community Schools’ preschool, Wagner said.
It’s “steeped in inquiry” and uses three teachers: the classroom teacher, the parents and the child’s environment — both nature and art.
It’s the first year for ACS’ localized preschool location, and while it’s tuition-free, the rest of Indiana is still debating state funding for the program.
Christina Buntin takes her son, Jadez Ferrell, to Southview because she wants him to do well in kindergarten, and a part of that is expanding his knowledge. Buntin reads to Jadez and said her son knows his ABCs, numbers and can make letters.
“I think it’s important,” she said. “They learn a lot.”
Her nephew came back from preschool writing his ABCs and numbers.
Buntin added that Jadez is very attached to her and that she wants to make the transition to full-day kindergarten easier by getting him socialized now in half-day preschool.
Wagner added that the school wants to make learning fun — kids learn through playing and manipulating things in their environment as they receive that foundation in reading, writing and math — while providing a safe place for teachers to try new things and share what is and isn’t working in their classrooms.
Southview, like other schools, is working with students from a wide range of needs. Some only have 10 words in their whole vocabulary while others can complete sentences.
With developmental delays, Jason Pickering’s son, Caleb, was in First Steps before staff suggested he head to preschool. He went to Erskine where he began physical and speech therapy before continuing to Southview.
“We’re here trying to get him kind of a jump-start,” Pickering said. “Being around the other kids has done wonders for him. He’s imitating and caught up in ways he was behind.”
He said he’s seen a big difference in his son who didn’t really start walking around until 2 years old, adding he’s caught up a year since he started school.
Speech is the next obstacle to tackle, but Caleb’s not on a path of needing special needs classes, Pickering added.
“He’s learning words,” he said. “They’re working with him one thing at a time.”
“Like ACS is doing with eight-step, we’re taking baby steps, trying to use our time for success, as well,” Wagner said, adding they take time for guided reading and writing each day.
Associating words with pictures, learning what they look like as they’re being said and copying them from a book are all methods of learning, she noted. Even scribbles and spaces show a recognition for how sentences are supposed to look.
“We’re thinking with the end in mind,” Wagner said. “We know where we want to be at the end of the year so we’re looking at how to get from point A to point B.”
She said they want the kids ready to be readers by the time the school year closes.
And parents can help by spending time reading with their kids at home.