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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Adventures of a BELA Kid....

The end of the school year will be here before you know it and we intend to soak up every bit of sun and fun we can before then! Field trips, park days and playing with friends...... all captured here in this photo blog.....
























Monday, March 26, 2018

Preschool Myths Busted & FAQ's Answered


The BELA team has evolved immensely and learned a great deal over the last 5 years! One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that we can never tire of continuing to promote and educate our fellow community members about the importance of early childhood education!

This year, I have had the unique experience of becoming a BELA parent, in addition to being a part time staff member, and let me tell you I can now undoubtedly see the value through both lenses........

Year after year the same questions, concerns and fears come to us from new parents. We’ve heard it all, and many of you may have had these thought run through your head as well. I’m here address those FAQ's and clear up common early childhood education myths and misconceptions!

1. “They’re too little for school!”

I’m barely passed counting their age in months, I still sing lullabies at bedtime and kiss their booboos, and I’m expected to send them to school........alone??

“There’s lots of time for school..........my baby is too little!”

Here’s the good news! The very basis for our preschool program is centered around the concept of “Let them be little”. Play based learning at it’s finest, allows for our littles to be just that...little; while also taking full advantage of those pivotal years from birth to age 5. The late, great Dr. Fraser Mustard stresses the importance of the early learning: the years before 5 last a lifetime. Our Educational Director, Jody Rutherford’s blog explains more about the importance of early learning including further research Drs. Mustard, Heckman and many others in recent years, that have given voice to the importance of the early learning years and providing the very best learning opportunities we can to children in the, birth to age eight years, in order to fully capitalize on their optimal learning years.



2. “Daycares/Dayhomes/Babysitters and Pre-Schools are the same thing”

To put it bluntly, this simply isn’t true. There is a growing awareness in our society of the importance of early childhood education, vs. child care, both of which are very important. However, there is a difference, between caring for a child’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, safety and interaction and play; and providing educational learning opportunities which are planned purposefully, and implemented by staff who have educational background/experience in the early learning years. As Jody explains here no matter how fantastic the skills of the caregivers, and many of them are just that, fantastic; there are just so many benefits to children attending a preschool where their learning opportunities are tailored to align with the kindergarten curriculum, to maximize their potential. I want what’s best for my little people, I think we all do! Even though it isn't always easy, I've tried to find a balance between the full time childcare we need and still providing the preschool experience and learning that I feel is the best fit for my son.



3. “I can teach them everything they need to know.”

At BELA we see the parent as the child’s first and most important teacher! It’s at preschool that the foundations that have been built at home, serve as important building blocks for all future learning. Expanding your child’s exposure to other caring and nurturing adults in a positive learning environment only serves to strengthen that brain architecture, further promoting their ability to be lifelong learners, as outlined in this amazing video by the Brain Story through Alberta Family Wellness Initiative. As the momma of a sensitive little man, I can’t say enough about the importance of expanding my son’s bubble beyond close family and friends. I know for certain that putting him into pre-school will make the transition into Kindergarten that much easier. It would have been easier and more comfortable to keep him at home with his familiar caregivers, but then we would have both missed out on this important opportunity for growth! Can’t explain how proud I am to give him a hug and watch him (most days ;) ) confidently walk to the carpet and pick out his name and answer the question of the day, giving me a little wave and a smile “See you later Mom”. Expanding his circle of trusted, caring, nurturing adults, early in his life has only added to the important groundwork we have worked so hard to lay at home the last 3 years. I can’t wait to see the growth the next year and half brings! In addition, there are also skills that need to be learned outside the home. Social/emotional skills are difficult, if not impossible, to learn without the context of a group setting with one’s peers, as Mrs. Parenas explains in her blog about emotions among preschoolers. So I urge you let the staff at BELA cultivate the seeds you have planted with your little ones, and watch them flourish!



4. “Preschool is too expensive.”

At first glance, tuition may seem like a dealbreaker, a barrier, or just simply more than what you’re willing to pay. But let's take a step back and look at what you’re actually getting….At BELA you are getting a curriculum developed by an early childhood educator with a masters degree and almost 40 years of experience, delivered by amazing teaching staff with combined experience of over 100 years, and educational backgrounds and experience ranging from education, to psychology, to educational assistants with specific training working with children with ADHD, FAS, Autism & Aspergers, as well as speech and language development…. All for $6-7 an hour! Wait that can’t be right? You can get this calibre of education for your child for less than or equal to what most daycares/dayhomes/babysitters are charging? Yes you can. At BELA we do a lot of work to keep our program accessible. What do you pay your teenaged babysitter per hour? I know I pay mine more than what I pay per hour for Burke to attend BELA and while we love her and she's amazing - she isn't an experienced and qualified early childhood educator. Plus BELA offers a number of different payment options to suit your family’s needs and can tell you where to access subsidy, if finances are tight! We all want what’s best for our kids...and the best is found at BELA!



5. “It doesn’t work with my schedule.”

This year I made the transition to full time working mom, and can definitely see the challenges associated with drop off and pickup times during the day. Over the years we have seen our parents make this a priority, and get creative time and time again! Mom’s who walk their preschoolers to and from BELA with two other littles in the rain or shine; parents who reach out to neighbours, parents, aunties, cousins to arrange for carpooling and pickups, or throwing it out there to other BELA parents...let’s trade a drop off for a pick up, so both parties can make it to work on time at their respective jobs! On top of all that, the BELA management team is constantly looking for ways to improve access for our families, including the addition of early drop off and pick up times this year, which has been invaluable to some of our families! Plus, we are currently surveying current and future families, to adapt start and end times, as well as class time length to align with as many varying parent work schedules as possible! At BELA, we do our best to meet the different needs of our families, still knowing we would never be able to fit all the many and varied work schedules out there! So be sure to watch the website to find out what class times will be offered next year. Or call the school if you are trying to make it work but need some guidance!



It’s been an eye opening year for me in many ways, as I transitioned from being a BELA staff member to being a BELA mom! The experiences I’ve had: watching my son grow and learn under the staff’s tutelage, volunteering in class, receiving Burke’s first Learning Outcome Checklist and attending Family Learning Celebrations have given me an even deeper appreciation for the knowledgeable, hard working, caring staff we have here at BELA. I know that everyday they are building on what I started at home with my son and he is getting the solid foundation he needs for success in school and in life!



~Ashley Williams

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Let's Pretend!


I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite memories from my childhood, are of pretending with my brothers, and my cousins! Little did we know, as we explored and searched for adventure, we were honing a wide variety of skills and knowledge, which would serve us well in our adult worlds later on in life.

For us, pretend play encompassed so many ideas and scenarios.  In a matter of about 10 creative minutes, we could design and build an airplane, made out of a saw horse, some planks, and a tin pail. As we collaborated and problem solved we gathered blankets, boards, cardboard, and a variety of broken down furniture, to create an amazingly strong and safe fort to defend the ‘western frontier’. Playing school involved organizing a wide variety of ‘school-like’ activities and always required some type of performance, whether for the Christmas concert, or other show providing chances for leadership and helping develop our confidence. Our childhood was a smorgasbord of pretend play choices: stores, hospitals, winning/loosing the ‘big game’, treasure hunts, museum building, hunting bears, sea voyages on our rafts down the river, and camp-outs at the beach, filled our days, enriched our lives, and unbeknownst to us, helped to prepare us for later success in life.


Pretend Play, or Make-believe Play, is an integral component of early childhood development. Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, Jerome Singer and Dorothy Singer define pretend or make believe play as “the acting out of stories which involve multiple perspectives and the playful manipulation of ideas and emotions. They add  that this play “reflects a critical feature of the child’s cognitive and social development. The article provides a summary of some of the research related to the Need for Pretend Play in Child Development. The authors quote psychologist Sandra Russ, indicating she has identified a number of cognitive and affective processes that are associated with pretend play. The authors state that over the last seventy-five years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the values of such imaginative play as a vital component of the normal development of a child.




An article provided by Scholastic, describes the learning benefits of pretend play; stating "Young children learn by imagining and doing. They use objects to represent something else by giving it action and motion."  The author states "this pretend play is not as simple as it seems, and the process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas, such as: social and emotional skills; language skills; thinking skills; and nurturing the child’s imagination".

Lauren Lowry, a Hanen Certified Speech Language Pathologist provides us with the How and Why of Encouraging Pretend Play.  Ms. Lowry describes the connection between pretend play and language. She states pretend play is also known as ‘symbolic play’ because it involves the use of symbols. "When we use something to stand for something else, such as when a child is playing and uses an object to stand for something else (e.g. using a spoon as a hairbrush or a tablecloth as a cape)." Lowry clarifies that, "this type of symbolic thought is also needed for language, as our words are symbols. Our words stand for our thoughts and ideas. Therefore, pretend play and language both involve the same underlying ability to represent things symbolically." In addition, language development is closely linked to learning to read and comprehend what has been read. This author provides information about why we should encourage pretend play, the stages of the development of these skills, and she includes valuable ideas for ways to encourage pretend play.


Pretend play is so important for so many different reasons! Some of the positive benefits of pretending include: helping children to gain practice using symbols, strengthening your child’s pretend skills, language skills, and later reading skills; exposing children to new vocabulary that they might not be exposed to in everyday life.  When you play with your child, you help them learn to play with others. Eventually your child will start to pretend with other children, where he will learn to take turns and collaborate. When children take on a pretend role, they imagine what it is like to be another person, which helps develop their ability to take another perspective and develop empathy.  Pretend play is fun! When you play like a child letting your imagination lead, you and your child will never run out of things to play. Can't you almost hear your childhood playmates calling you to come and play!? Join your little one as they pretend........magical, not to mention immensely valuable experiences await! 
~JR

Friday, January 26, 2018

Celebrating Your Child's Learning...Photo Blog!

Twice a year we invite our families to join us at BELA in the evening for our Family Learning Celebration. This is a chance for our parents to spend some time learning from their child about life at BELA and experiencing their daily routine. The children have a chance to share their Learning Portfolios with their parents. This collection of work samples, collected over time, allows parents to gain information about their child’s developing skills and knowledge. Parents also have a chance to look through the class Science & Math Journals and see photos and descriptions of what our students have been learning.

 Our students are always so excited to have their parents attend! Your participation as a parent helps show your child that you value their education and are interested in their school. Parent involvement is directly linked to children's success in school. 

Thanks to all our BELA families for your participation! We hope you enjoy this photo blog of our Fall 2017 Family Learning Celebration....















Thursday, April 20, 2017

Buckets Full of Fun! ~ Photo Blog

Earlier this year, we were very honoured to be the recipient of the Brooks & District Chamber of Commerce - Community Spirit Award! This award recognizes businesses that have a high degree of community involvement, show support for seniors, youth and culture and act as community leaders by building on strengths within Brooks & area.

At BELA, we strive to give our students real world experiences that build on our Bucket Filling Philosophy!  Character Development is a building block of our program and we are always happy to make new friends, help other organizations and find fun ways for our students to bring smiles and happiness to others in our community.

We wanted to take the opportunity to share a post hi-lighting some of the community work we do with our students, that led to us being recognized as a leader in the area of Community Spirit!

Christmas ornaments & new books for our Kindergarten friends in Fort McMurray, the BELA Run for Reading,  food drives for the Brooks  Food Bank Foundation, helping plant flowers at our home in South Shore Centre, delivering cookies, flowers and notes for  RAK Day (Random Acts of Kindness), visits to Newbrook Lodge,  & spending time with our new friends from Eastbrook Elementary ; its all here in this photo blog of community minded projects past & present!


























Thank you to Scotiabank & the Chamber of Commerce for this wonderful award! We were truly honoured to win in this category because character development is such a big part of our program. Thank you to our teaching staff for taking the 'bucket filler' philosophy and integrating it into our program every single day; for taking ideas and translating them into real world learning experiences for our students.  Thank you to our parents for helping with all these activities and for allowing us to share your children with our community.  And most importantly, thank you to our students for the opportunity to teach the value of community and for reminding us everyday to find the joy in the little things, help others , share and be kind!!

~CP