Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Addie & Carter's New School.

Many family and friends have have asked how Carter and Addie's new school has been and I have been a little hesitant to write anything until the first few weeks of real school were done before I officially reported in.
After a several emotional and thoughtful weeks and months, we made the very difficult decision to take Carter and Addie out of their daycare that we had known since Carter was ten months old. We were looking for a more of a real pre-school circulmn and overall different environment and although the early Spring was filled with tons of emotions, parent-director conferences and tours of new schools, we ultimately started a new accredited program back in May.
First Day - August 2011
The transition was too good to be true and their summer was filled with group swim lessons every single day and re-learning what a positive school day should be like... fun and engaging. Although the days of swimming are over, they are filled now with music classes and motor skills each day.
Although there are downsides, like getting in the initial habit of having to pack a lunch every single day, there is the payoff of knowing exactly the well-balanced meal they are eating. Every AM and PM snack is a fresh fruit or vegetable, which has greatly increased their exposure to items I don't buy on a regular basis.
After the first two weeks, Carter finally quit telling me, he "didn't get in trouble," as soon as I picked him up. Those comments were quickly replaced with explanations about the stages of the moon and how they correlate to a new month. ;) Now, that is what a four year should be excited about learning!
Carter - 4 1/2 years old
One of the things I am most excited about in Carter's class is this notebook that comes home each Friday. Inside, is a detailed letter, laying out exactly what the class did during the week and how the class reacted to different lessons. For instance, this was a small portion for this past week..

"In small groups we have been working on AB and ABC patterns. We used beads, fruits and unifex cubes to reinforce this concept. We are also working on grouping. In addition to those activities, we have been using our brand new felt boards to identify the letters of the alphabet and numbers. Using those letters, we have started spelling some simple rhyming words such as cat, hat, mat, etc... Also using the numbers we have been doing some simple addition and subtraction problems."
Sure enough, as I read this letter, I quizzed Carter and he excitedly went into every little detail about how much fun they had learning and he even spelled CAT, HAT and DAT for me. :)

With this composition book, I have the opportunity to write notes back to the teachers and ask questions, pose concerns or just encourage them to keep up the extraordinarly good work. I often am given pictures of him from through out a normal day...

The artwork is incredible and the school is 100% opposed to cookie cutter print off coloring pages. As an example, Carter regularly comes home with pictures of him doing experiments like painting while blind folded. The lesson was discusing the importance of sight but also to show them a different experience. (They had a picture for me however, I have misplaced it.)
He even got to be the model for how to properly wash his hands. I love how all children are expected to wash their hands as soon as they enter the room in the morning and before they leave each afternoon! They even have their own toothbrush to use after lunch every day.
His three full time teachers, Ms. Erika, Ms. Andrea & Ms. Lindsey all have their undergraduate degrees in early childhood education and really have pride in their class room and know every little thing about each of the children.  They a great way of keeping the classroom in a peaceful order, in a four year old pre-school kinda way and are always hands on with the kids all around the room. I also love how both Addie and Carter have a male teacher in the afternoons. Two steller young gentleman that show them how different ways of interacting and leaning. Addie always comes home and tells me FELIX is soooooo funny!!! They have a cooking part of class every week and I see the benefit as Carter cracked 6 eggs this past Saturday morning for breakfast, better than I do! WOW.

Over the last 2 1/2 months, with the hottest summer in the history in full force, their school as an incredible facility where they can have a major change of scenery and play frisbee, basketball, hoola hoops or anything to burn off some four year old energy. At 5:15PM Monday, when I was picking up the kids, Andrea was putting on a kid version of Pink's Raise You Glass and she was in the middle of all the kids jumping up and down dancing. I love how at even late in the day, the teachers are 100% engaged with the kids. That same day, when I walked into Addie's class, the children were circled around a juicer making apple juice and as Blake picked them up the very next afternoon at the same time, they were enjoying the 100% green Granny Apple popcicles from the juice they had squeezed the afternoon before.
There have been two meetings over that last couple of weeks, first with Carter's entire classes' parents discussing the exchange program that Carter's class gets to participate in. This is where they get together with a sister preschool from a completely different part of San Antonio, to encourage tolerance and accepting the fact that everyone is different... a life lesson that I feel everyone in the world should partake in. This Cultural Friendship Exchange is such a unique program and the kids get to develop friendships over the school year by spending a day with eachother once a month. I look forward of volunteering on the outings this coming school year. The first one is in just a couple of weeks.
There are dozens of enrichment classes at school (for a very reasonable extra fee.) Carter got to try out a Karate class, a multi-sport class and tennis. We initially had him signed up all summer to do the Fall YMCA route with T-Ball in order to see his old friend, Cash. But the more I heard about the sports programs at their current school and after meeing their sports director, it was silly not to partake in such a well organized machine and give Carter the opportunity to practice not just once a week, but twice. They take him straight to practice at 4:00, dressed and ready to go and we meet him there! His games are on Sunday afternoons, which a I am loving, since it doesn't wreck any weekend plans by being in the smack middle.

Now For A 3 Year Old School Update For Miss Addie:
Addie's class is small with just nine three and four year olds in it. She is by far the youngest in her class, which I love!!! I love that she is being challenged and has older children to look up to at this stage in her development. Her teacher, Ms. Jennifer, each day hand writes notes about special things Addie tried and things she said. I find sheets like this in her cubby. I LOVE knowing exactly what she is doing during each school day so we talk about it all week at home.

Many days, I have a picture of her with her daily sheet showing me one of her favorite activites of the day.

Each Wednesday morning, they go down to the large gymnasium to have Motor Skills. The gym is filled with obstacle courses, hoola hoops and other contraptions to climb on to work on their eye-hand coordination. Every class also meets two times a week in their music room where I have been told Addie loves to "shake her booty."
Depending on the time, each day when I drop her off, Jennifer already has the small group involved in a completely hands on activity. Several weeks ago, they were weaving their own spider webs as they spent an entire week learning in depth about spiders, the letter "S" and the number "8." since spiders have eight legs! Their focus was Eric Carle's Very Busy Spider.

The week before was all about A House for Hermit Crab, also by Eric Carle. The room got two new hermit crabs and they learned the process of voting and democratically named them "Bertie" and "Etan." Addie's vote was for her own proposed name of "Princess Belle." She also learned the important life lesson, that you don't always win.

The main hall at school is lined with boards showing off each room's lessons and art and it is updated constantly. Last week, there was a poster showing off their math skills they were working on as well as some unique foil art of Addie's.
Her room has an extensive dress up department and Addie loves, especially the gorgeous yellow satin Belle dress. Her other favorite place in the room is the loft that she and her friends get to climb up in to read.
They used a ven diagram that week to name the differences of crabs and caterpillars. What in the world?!!? I about fell over when I heard that. Early in the summer, each child got to plant a flower in a put they each picked out and decorated. Over three months later, Addie's is still going strong in the little garden area right outside her room.

I have loved Addie's questions over the last month have evolved. A few of weeks ago, she was asked, "Mom, when are we having another baby?" "How did I get in your tummy?" "Why did God make me?" A day later, it was "Mom, what are those hooks on the back of that car for?" (She meant the antennae and I explained it was to listen to the radio.) She quickly replied back, "How does the radio station get in the antennae?" Just last week as we were walking in the house around 6PM, she looked up to see the moon while it was light out. She stopped and pointed, "There's the half moon, I need to tell Miss Jennifer I saw the moon and it was still daylight.... mom, it's okay, that sometimes happens."
Addie - 3 years old
Art is an area in the last three months, that I have seen Addie completely fall in love with. When at home, she wants to be coloring, stamping or drawing majority of the time. I definitely see where this comes from after the dozens of art work master pieces she comes home with each week... probably 10X more! I love how they never directly write on the artwork as they don't want to mess up the child's art. Instead, they name the artwork and attach it to the paper. It is amazing to see unique materials they regularly use and I believe Addie's imagination with art has benefited from the constant variety of materials. For example, they have access to water colors at anytime.
They talk about using different objects like their own hands to use as stamps.
I was surprised to see several art pieces that included multiple colors and widths of colored tape. I love the variety.
Even some art pieces that don't look that impressive at first glance are remarkable when you find out that they used objects from the ocean, that was incorporated from their day's lesson, to stamp. They are great take home items that allows Addie to tell me all about what she did at school that day.
Since May, Addie is coming home with drawings she has made of complete people and using them to tell stories.

One of the other perks is that there is an extensive line up of extra circular classes that they can partake in in the afternoons which takes the level of craziness of the evenings down a couple of notches which is always a positive. This semester, Addie got to try out Nia/Yoga and Dance and chose Dance. I loved when Addie came home showing me Yoga moves.  An instructor from a local dance studio comes and teaches the children in the dance studio every week throughout the semester.
At our school wide parent meeting tonight, I was blown away again by our director and the passion she has for  her school and each and every teacher and student. I love how she has high expectations of her staff, the parents and the kids and leads by example. She is clear in setting the expectations and wants us all to be a united team for the kids. She expects parents involvement through class projects and volunteering. She communicates with us consistently over email each week. Overall, she is the change I was so desperately craving while looking five months ago and although I believe no place is perfect, our new school and environment has proven perfect for the four of us.
I know it won't be long until they are sitting on this very porch waiting for the big yellow school bus to take them to "big school," as we call it.
In the mean time, we are more than thrilled with the both the kids development and environment and are beyond happy we made the move for these reasons.

1 comment:

Jessica Tondre said...

Great post! Sounds like this was a very positive change! So great that there are so many diverse opportunities for them. I will want to know more about this school when I get Carleigh started at 3 or 4!

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