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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 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