Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Parents: Take the time to choose a good preschool

Einstein never used flashcards and almost everyone in the student body at Harvard Law School didn’t have heavy duty academics and homework forced on them at age three!

If you are looking for preschool for your child in Salt Lake County, be more diligent than simply attending the one the neighbors go to or being enticed to the chain school that claims to teach your four year old to read. There is a whole lot more to Early Childhood Education than just the three R’s. Kids are best served when they have a very deliberately balanced preschool experience that contains the developmentally appropriate elements that science (and your instincts) say are right for a preschooler

There is cult of achievement that has sprung up in Utah that is attempting to sell you as a parent on the need for your preschooler to be plopped at a desk and drilled in an accelerated fashion to compete in this world.

The science of how children learn best concludes just the opposite… and there is a significant body of work that proves it.

Don’t get drawn in as parent by the accelerated learning industry’s advertising. It is not beneficial to “drill and kill” your preschooler to become an early reader. If you do, you run the risk of having a 1st grader that hates school. By third grade all his peers have caught up and you end up with a child that’s emotionally scarred, stressed out and has a fragile self esteem that depends on how he ranks versus his peers.

Here’s a quote from a book* written by a distinguished panel of Early Childhood Ed. scientists on the subject:

“In sum, treating children like empty vessels whose heads can be filled with knowledge because we select what they will learn and teach it directly leads to problems in two domains. First, studies show that children in these programs often learn less academically than their peers who are not being taught concepts directly but in a more playful manner. Second , these programs have the unintended social consequences of creating students who are less likely to experience empathy with their peers , more likely to show evidence of stress-induced hyperactivity , and more likely to engage in delinquent acts.”

Don’t do that to your child!

Take some time to look around, there are preschools that do have their act together and know how to properly portion out academics along with the arts and play.


Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth

Dorothy G. Singer, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth. (Oxford University Press, USA, 2006). Page 10.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Best Age To Teach A Child To Read


What age is the best age to teach kids to read? Are there any studies on teaching children to read at age four or five? Do children that learn to read at preschool show an advantage over kids that learn in Kindergarten? I’m getting advice from friends that say if you teach too late he/she will be behind other kids.


As a parent, be at Peace!

Kids will learn to read when they are ready. Forcing artificial standards on them prematurely will only make them dislike the task. My view is that there is no one right age to teach a child to read.

Before I go further you might want to check out Brian Ray's research at the National Home Education Research Institute He's done a lot of research from the home education point of view and would have more resources than I. Also check out the work of a book called Einstein Never Used Flashcards by an Early Childhood scientist Dr. Roberta Michnick Golinkoff.

As to an advantage to early reading... the research I’ve read shows clearly that any advantage gained by really drilling a four year old with flash cards and worksheets on reading skills is short term. Children, who learn to read conceptually as they develop, tend to be more interested and more competent readers in the long term.

The age children become emergent readers varies greatly.

My two daughters were both reading by age six, my son didn't get it until about age eight. This isn't unusual for boys, they have "other things" to do, but it certainly isn't a hard and fast rule. I've known my share of girls who just weren't ready to read until they were older.

For me, it didn't click until I was nine and I became a voracious reader in elementary school.

I have two nieces the same age. At five years old, one taught herself to read (now reads beyond her grade level at nine). The other girl basically said "I don't need to know that yet. I will learn that in school next year" and she learned how to read at six.

My oldest child could recognize many words at four and at five and taught herself to read. My baby is almost three and is recognizing letters and many words and memorizes books and repeats them back to us. That’s all happened because those two kids have been exposed to books as literature, not as part of formal reading drills.

Kids learn to read when they are interested. I found with my kids, the single biggest thing that inspired them to learn was being exposed to computer reading games, on their own timing. We set up the program so they could simply play on it. I do mean PLAY. If you position computer educational games as WORK, it causes a child to turn off to the idea. There is a particularly good web site now for reading: This site really walks kids through the phonics and makes reading fun in creative ways, with songs, stories, games. I think it is helpful for kids to learn at their own pace, and this kind of site can make learning so much fun.

Some of the research shows that the best way to get children interested in reading is by seeing mom/dad read. The other thing that continually gets mentioned in the research is that the real key to stimulate kids to read is to read to them and with them.

Let the kids develop at their own pace; it will work out much better in the long run. The best age to teach reading is when the window opens up in the kid's brain. It's like walking.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Draper Preschools: Developmentally Appropriate Practices

Effective preschools in Draper and Sandy should follow sound Early Childhood Education principles. The directors of preschool programs should be well versed in developmentally appropriate practices for educating children ages 3-5. So, what does that mean and how do the preschools in Draper and Sandy stack up? Read this article to help you understand the reasoning behind this concept.

Critical Issue: Organizing for Effective Early Childhood Programs and Practices

Pathways Home

ISSUE: All programs in early childhood education are not equally effective in promoting the learning and development of young children. The overall effectiveness of an early childhood program is dependent upon several factors: quality staff, suitable environment, appropriate grouping practices, consistent schedules, and parent involvement. Decisions about these factors often are made early in the planning and organizing process for an early childhood program. These decisions have important ramifications because they affect the child, the family, the classroom, the school, and the community.

OVERVIEW: The benefits of early childhood education have been established through research and publicized nationally. Yet these benefits do not necessarily occur in every early childhood program. Schweinhart (1988) notes:

"Long-term benefits result only from high-quality early childhood development programs--ones characterized by a child development curriculum, trained teaching staff, administrative leadership and curriculum support, small classes with a teacher and a teaching assistant, and systematic efforts to involve parents as partners." (p. 7)

The planning and organization process for an early childhood program exhibiting these characteristics begins with the establishment of a task force of educators, parents, and community members. After identifying best practices in early childhood education, this group can help provide input on decisions regarding the details of curriculum, assessment, staff selection, school climate and environment, and parent involvement. Community collaboration is essential in setting goals and providing focus for an early childhood program.

When a community plans a new early childhood program or seeks to improve its current program, a series of questions need to be asked: Who will staff the early childhood program? How will the classroom look? What is the best way to group the children? What will the day be like for the children? What will be the role of parents? The answers to these questions are important in determining the quality of the program. Decisions made about the organization of the early childhood program must have a firm foundation in the growth and development of the young child. These decisions should be based on the following premises:

* Young children learn best through active, engaged, meaningful learning.

* Young children learn best in an early childhood program that is developmentally appropriate.

David Burchfield David Burchfield, a first-grade teacher at Brownsville Elementary School in Croset, Virginia, talks about developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood classrooms. [436k audio file] Excerpted from the videotape Developmentally Appropriate First Grade: A Community of Learners (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1993). A text transcript is available.

* Young children learn best in an early childhood environment that is appropriate for their age and stage of development.

* Young children benefit from a consistent routine or daily schedule in the early childhood classroom.

* Young children learn best when the school develops a sense of community for all participants.

* Young children function best in early childhood programs that value and reinforce continuity.

* Young children benefit from early childhood programs that provide a careful transition from preschool to kindergarten and from kindergarten to the primary grades.

* Young children learn best when they are with teachers who consider them and respond to them as individuals.

Using these premises as a foundation, planning and organizing for an effective early childhood program should emphasize five factors: quality staff, suitable environment, appropriate grouping, consistent schedules, and parent involvement.

The first factor in planning for effective early childhood programs is quality staff who have training and experience in teaching young children. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (1990) notes quality indicators in staff selection: "The staff is composed of people who have taken coursework not only in elementary education but in teaching young children" (p. 46). Specifically, teachers and administrators who work with young children should have a background in Early Childhood Education or Child Development; these courses of study emphasize child development, the learning style of the young child, and the need to develop partnerships with parents. In addition to coursework, teachers and administrators should have completed supervised training in working with young children. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (1991) has outlined recommended staff qualifications for various early childhood positions.

David BurchfieldDavid Burchfield, a first-grade teacher at Brownsville Elementary School in Crozet, Virginia, discusses the teacher's role in early childhood classrooms. [504k audio file] Excerpted from a videotaped interview with David Burchfield (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1992). A text transcript is available.

Early childhood teachers also need adequate time to focus on and interact personally with children and their families. If teachers are unable to spend time interacting with individual children, the benefits of their expertise will be limited. The teacher-child ratio and group size are important planning considerations. The younger the child, the more important it is to have adequate numbers of staff in the classroom. Appropriate staffing patterns will vary according to the age of the children, the type of activity, and the inclusion of children with special needs. Appropriate teacher-child ratios encourage the bonding of children and teachers. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (1990) recommends the following student/adult radios: 20:2 for three- to five-year-olds; 15:1 for six- to eight-year-olds; and no more than 15:1 for at-risk children.

A second factor in planning for effective early childhood programs is a suitable environment for the learning styles of young children. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (1990) notes:

"Children in the three-to-eight range acquire knowledge in ways that are significantly different from the way older children learn. Younger children learn best through direct sensory encounters with the world and not through formal academic processes." (p. 2) "Young children acquire knowledge by manipulating, exploring, and experimenting with real objects. They learn almost exclusively by doing, and through movement." (p. 8)

The physical environment--which includes the classroom setting as well as the outdoor setting--should provide opportunities for the children to explore and learn. An appropriate indoor environment can be created by subdividing a large classroom into learning areas or centers. The room arrangement of shelving and furniture clearly designates these centers and also provides a spacious area for group gathering. Furniture is child-sized, sturdy, and comfortable. Manipulatives, puzzles, and other learning materials are displayed on shelves that are easily accessible by small children. Decisions about the classroom design are made in the early stages of planning and should take into consideration traffic patterns, access to sinks and bathrooms, activity areas and quiet areas, a group meeting area, and a message center. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (1991) states, "The quality of the physical space and materials provided affects the level of involvement of the children and the quality of interaction between adults and children" (p. 43).

The outdoor setting also is important in early childhood programs. Children need space outdoors for play, exploration, and social interaction. Specific times during the day should be set aside for recess and outdoor activities. This time can be used for physical movement, climbing and playing on playground equipment, digging and planting, and individual play.

A third factor in planning for effective early childhood programs is effective grouping practices. Research indicates that nongraded, mixed-age grouping is particularly appropriate for young children (Gaustad, 1992). Within the classroom, teachers can use flexible grouping--ranging from whole class to small groups to individual work--to facilitate learning.

David BurchfieldDavid Burchfield, a first grade teacher at Brownsville Elementary School in Crozet, Virginia, discusses the grouping strategy he uses to promote a learning environment in his classroom. [247k audio file] Excerpted from a videotaped interview with David Burchfield (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1992). A text transcript is available.

A fourth factor in planning for effective early childhood programs is a consistent daily schedule. Dodge and Colker (1992) note the importance of consistency in the daily routine:

"Young children feel more secure when they can predict the sequence of events and have some control over their environment. They delight in reminding the teacher that 'snack time comes next' or telling a visitor that 'now we go outside.' In addition, predictability provides children with a rudimentary sense of time, as they begin to learn what comes first in the day, second, next, and last. A consistent schedule also helps build trust in the environment." (p. 37)

In addition to the daily schedule, plans should include decisions about the school's yearly calendar. Some early childhood programs operate on a 12-month basis, with vacations spaced evenly throughout the year instead of one long summer vacation. Some programs also have before- and after-school care as well as educational activities for parents and children during the evening.

A final factor in planning for effective early childhood programs is parent involvement. Schweinhart (1988) recommends that early childhood staff should form a partnership with parents through home visits, frequent communication, and a welcoming attitude toward volunteering and classroom observation. (Refer to the Critical Issue "Creating the School Climate and Structures to Support Parent and Family Involvement.")


* Teachers in the early childhood program have knowledge of child development as well as skills in teaching young children.

* Teaching staff provide the necessary amount of interaction, monitoring of development, and individualization of planning for each child to learn.

* The program has an early childhood environment that enables children to learn according to their own development.

* The program uses effective grouping practices that enable each child to grow and develop to the best of his or her ability.

* The program has a daily schedule that provides the children with continuity and security.

* The program involves parents and families as partners in the education of young children.

ACTION OPTIONS: A schoolwide task force (composed of program administrators, teachers, parents, and representatives from community agencies that provide services for families with young children), administrators and superintendents, and teachers can take the following steps to develop effective programs and practices for young children:

Task Force:

* Identify best practices in early childhood education.

* Determine the early childhood curriculum and grouping patterns according to guidelines on how young children learn, continuity, sense of community, and developmentally appropriate practice.

* Ensure that the teacher/child ratio in the classrooms is at the recommended level.

* Ensure that the physical environment is conducive to the learning styles of the young child and provides for all areas of development.

* Research the extent of need for before- and after-school care and for day care during the school's vacation periods.

Administrators and Superintendents:

* Develop a school district plan to increase the number of prekindergarten, kindergarten, and primary teachers who have credentials that fulfill recommended staff qualifications and experience in early childhood education. Provide incentives for teachers to add early childhood certification to elementary credentials.

* Provide professional development, consultant assistance, and support to teachers who are trying to become more developmentally appropriate in their teaching.

* Study the daily schedule of the children to see if blocks of time are available for integrated, in-depth study. Reorganize the schedule so that times away from the room or with specialists can be grouped together.

* Establish before- and after-school care at the school or with a collaborating agency to reduce the number of places and people in a child's daily life.

* Provide an opportunity for prekindergarten, kindergarten, and primary grade teachers to discuss the transition of children from one program to another.


* Study the theoretical principles of child development and learning.

* Develop practices and programs that are developmentally appropriate for young children.

* Establish a daily schedule to foster continuity and provide large blocks of time so children can do complex, integrated, in-depth study.

* Encourage creativity in early childhood classrooms by giving children extended time to work on projects, a pleasant environment in which to work, appropriate materials, and a supportive climate.

* Develop a plan for the transition of children from prekindergarten programs to kindergarten and primary programs.

* Encourage parent and family involvement in the school. (See the Critical Issues "Supporting Ways Parents and Families Can Become Involved in Schools" and "Creating the School Climate and Structures to Support Family Involvement.")

IMPLEMENTATION PITFALLS: Many individuals are affected by decisions to change organizational components such as school schedules, grouping patterns, or staff selection procedures. These people may have questions and complaints when changes in programming differ significantly from the traditional school model. Changes in scheduling and grouping patterns (which might separate children from the same neighborhood) may cause problems for working parents. To ensure the cooperation of the schoolwide community, people should receive communications on the changes being contemplated and should be invited to become involved in the decision-making process.

If the school day is extended to include evening activities for parents and children or if the school adopts a 12-month calendar, teacher commitment and enthusiasm are essential. Teachers unions and other staff associations may be resistant to changes in teachers' hours, schedules, duties, and procedures for selection and hiring. To ensure their cooperation, these groups need to be involved and consulted when such changes are first being considered.

Changes in the calendar year, especially if a school adopts year-round scheduling, require changes in support staff (such as maintenance, warehouse, and secretarial services). New positions, such as before- and after-school care, require clear job descriptions. These jobs will need to fit into current classification systems of the school district for compensation scales and benefits, or new contracts will need to be designed. Transportation can be a major issue in changes in grouping and daily scheduling. Individuals responsible for scheduling buses need considerable lead time to make adjustments.

Teaching practices and classroom environments that are developmentally appropriate may require the purchase of classroom equipment and manipulatives. Current equipment may be modified, such as grouping together flat-topped desks to form tables. Some new equipment, however, may be required. If a concrete, problem-solving approach to math is initiated, teachers will need manipulatives such as Unifix cubes, Cuisenaire rods, or Math Their Way materials. A variety of materials and equipment--such as scales, rulers, graph paper, and tagboard--will be beneficial in learning centers. Parents, businesses, and civic organizations can be solicited to provide recyclable materials and scraps for concrete learning.

DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: Some parents and community members may believe that changes in the organization of the school and the classroom are not desirable. These individuals are satisfied with their own educational experiences and want the same experiences for their children. Parents may see hands-on learning merely as fun and not relevant to the acquisition of school skills and knowledge. Some groups have advocated a return to the basics, which they feel emphasize drill and practice. Consistent with this viewpoint is the idea that young children need structured instruction in school skills, such as reading flashcards, doing workbooks, and listening for extended periods of time. These groups often are very vocal in their concerns about what they see as a lack of extensive practice in reading, writing, and arithmetic skills.

Some parents and community members may express concern that the school is taking over the role of the family when it provides prekindergarden experiences, especially if the schooling is a full-day program. Individuals with this concern may believe that the provision of early childhood programs in schools encourages both parents to work outside the home, rather than providing what they consider to be appropriate family care.

If the school provides on-site before- and after-school care, home providers and staff from child-care centers may view this day care as a competitor to their own programs.

Parents, teachers, and community members may be resistant to changes in the school calendar. Sometimes year-round schools experience resistance from families who use the summertime for extensive vacations and enrichment activities. Teacher groups sometimes join in this opposition. Tourism and leisure businesses often take issue with changes in the vacation periods. Open communication with parents, teachers, and community members helps ensure the focus on children's learning and development. Diverse points of view provide new information and outlooks. Communication can be increased if individuals with opposing viewpoints avoid the use of educational jargon.


Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center, Peoria, Illinois

Stark County Early Childhood Collaborative Initiative, Stark County, Ohio


Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)

11501 Georgia Ave., Suite 315

Wheaton, MD 20902

(301) 942-2443 or (800) 423-3563; fax (301) 942-3012

Contact: Marilyn Gardner, Director of Conferences and Marketing



National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

1509 16th St. N.W.

Washington, DC 20036-1426

(202) 232-8777 or (800) 424-2460; fax (202) 328-1846

Contact: Pat Spahr, Information Services Director



National Association of Elementary School Principals

1615 Duke St.

Alexandria, VA 22314-3483

(800) 38-NAESP; fax (800) 39-NAESP

Contact: Gail Gross



National Early Childhood Technical Assistance System (NECTAS)

500 NationsBank Plaza

137 E. Franklin St.

Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3628

(919) 962-2001; fax (919) 966-7463



Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center

800 W. 5th St.

Peoria, IL 61605

(309) 672-6810



This Critical Issue was researched and written by Judy Harris Helm, president of Best Practices Inc., an educational consulting firm in Brimfield, Illinois, and former coordinator of professional development at Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center in Peoria, Illinois.


The Newcastle Preschool in Draper, Utah is an outstanding preschool in the Salt Lake County area of Utah. This school utilizes developmentally appropriate practices in Early Childhood Education

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Preschool Pricing in Salt Lake County

Preschool pricing in Salt Lake County preschools can be confusing and sometimes misleading. This article at tells you why:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Preschools In Salt Lake County

Our world is changing rapidly, and our education system is struggling to keep pace. Demand for a highly skilled and educated workforce is growing, 20th-century jobs are falling by the wayside, and the global marketplace is a reality. But, as educator, I know we are losing too many kids and wasting too much talent. Nationwide, about one in three students drops out of school before graduation, and many graduate unprepared for college and work.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, a nonprofit education organization, proposes a whole child approach that ensures each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Common sense and research tell us hungry kids can’t learn, scared kids can’t think, and bored kids don’t thrive. Putting students at the center and aligning resources to their needs engages them in learning and prepares them for a bright future.

Good work is underway. The Newcastle Preschool in Draper, Utah, The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah and Channing Hall Charter School in Draper, Utah operate on comprehensive educational platforms that focus on whole child education.

Schools can’t do this work alone. All community members, from parents to business leaders, must help educate the whole child. Join us in this effort and go to to learn how you can help.

Whole Child Educator

What does "well rounded" curriculum mean?

According to the Association for Supervision of Curriculum Development it means:

"Well-Rounded Curriculum"
: Schools should give students a general education, which includes basic skills but goes beyond a narrow interpretation of "the basics." A balanced curriculum includes music and fine arts, the humanities, vocational education, and student activities.

For Salt Lake County parents that might mean looking for educational choices other than parking children at a desk and repetitiously exposing them to a disproportionate menu of reading and math - particularly children in preschool and kindergarten

There are schools in Utah that are "well-rounded" and there are some that are academically accelerated programs designed to challenge children to memorize words and take tests.

Very few Ivy league college grads had a preschool experience that included flashcard facts - their brains were developed in a much broader fashion.

Salt Lake County Parents have viable alternative choices for the Early Childhood Education of their children.

Parents may have to look a little deeper than the guys running the biggest ads in the yellow pages or paying the most pay-per-click advertising revenue to Google.

Newcastle Preschool "Whole Child" Curriculum

Newcastle Preschool in Draper, Utah has a comprehensive curriculum that educates the whole child, not just one part.

This balanced process requires a great deal of expertise, resources and hard work. The Newcastle preschool experience contains very deliberate doses of all the essential building blocks of Early Childhood Education. Newcastle has a time tested age-appropriate pre-kindergarten academic curriculum that includes pre-reading, social studies, math and science with a strong music, art and social development program. Newcastle also includes daily outdoor physical activity.