If you happened to stumble across this, you are probably wondering “Why does my child need VPK?” Well, as a VPK educator and a parent, I would like to share my “Whys” of VPK.
After graduating from college and working as a substitute teacher for a few years, I joined Growing Room and soon found myself in the VPK classroom. There I had the immense pleasure of working with children of very diverse backgrounds. Some had been in a child development center from the day they turned 6 weeks old and some had never stepped foot into a classroom until they walked into mine. It was amazing to watch what these children learned each day and to be able to share milestones with their parents throughout the year. Above all, it was very rewarding (and a bit of a tear-jerker) to watch them walk across that stage at the end of the year, diploma in hand, knowing confidently that each child was set up for success when they started kindergarten in the fall. Teaching VPK has shown me first hand just how important it is for my child to attend as a student as well.
Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten is a FREE program offered by the state of Florida to prepare your child for kindergarten, if your child is 4 on or before September 1. There is also a “wrap around” option for full day learning. It is set up to transition a child into the years of formal education and is structured, but has strong roots in play-based learning. The pre-reading, pre-math, language, and social skills children learn in VPK are crucial to their success in kindergarten and beyond. Simply put, VPK is a free tool to you, a parent, to help start your child on the path of success for the rest of their life.
For a child who has never stepped foot into a classroom before, the first day of kindergarten can be frightening. VPK is a stepping stone into the world of formal schooling and a friendly transition in half day format. At Growing Room, our teachers plan engaging lessons for circle time, then carry on the theme to the play-based learning centers the rest of the day. The ideas introduced during circle time are reinforced through small group math, literacy, and science activities. Through learning centers, children are able to explore several different activities:
- Build a skyscraper in the block center
- Make a pretend healthy meal in the dramatic play center
- Paint a picture of mom and dad in the art center
- Explore insects under microscopes in the science center
- Receive a hands experience making a pattern in our math and manipulatives center
- Practice pre-writing skills and journaling
All this, before it’s time to go play outside in our Healthy Me! Gross Motor Activity time. There is never a shortage of fun learning activities here.
Kindergarten is quite a structured environment, so to prepare children for that, VPK is also structured. We follow the same schedule each day, so children know what to expect. The day starts with circle time, small group and learning center time, Spanish with Ms. Yolanda, Yoga and P.E. with Ms. Emily, then gross motor activity. We then say goodbye to our VPK-only friends, while those who stay for full day have lunch, followed by quiet time. Quiet time is followed by a snack, then we have another small group and learning center opportunity before returning to the playground for another activity. A 5 p.m. snack is followed by more small group and learning center opportunities before our friends say goodbye for the day. Children also are assigned a short homework assignment each week to help parents understand better what their children are working on at school and to prepare the children for more homework in kindergarten.
However, THE MOST important learning experience of VPK doesn’t fall into the academic category, it is their social emotional development. Children who attend VPK have an earlier start at some of the most important social and emotional developmental milestones they will face in school. They begin to learn crucial problem solving skills, when faced with peer-to-peer interaction, as well as introspectively when it comes to emotional self regulation. They will face problems of what is right and what is wrong, having conflicts with their friends, and being redirected by a teacher, and much more as they grow up. Growing Room incorporates Character Education topics each month to instill a strong sense of personal values in each child. These topics range from responsibility, integrity, caring, respect, fairness and more.
Children who have graduated from my class at Growing Room have grown so much in just one year, like learning to write their name for the first time, reading their first book out loud and counting on their own. As a teacher, I have the confidence of saying that VPK has prepared them for kindergarten. Which is reflected by our Kindergarten readiness scores; San Pablo earned 100% and Bartram Park earned 97%. As a parent, I recommend that you give your child the same opportunity – to truly learn and grow in a safe environment before kindergarten. Give them that extra stepping stone: a solid foundation to lead to a life long passion of learning and the tools they need to succeed in life.
Want to learn more? Call Growing Room today or stop by for a tour! A limited amount of spaces are still available for the 2016-2017 school year.