Author Archives: Marla Segal

Pre-K: Which environment is best for your family?

by Marla Segal, Pre-K Project Manager

Recently, pre-K has been a hot topic in the State of Indiana. Studies have shown that pre-K can have long term benefits for your child’s development1. It helps prepare them for kindergarten, and it helps their social-emotional growth.

It can be overwhelming to find the right pre-K program for your child. Where to start? Look for one that the State of Indiana considers to be high quality. This means they are a Level 3 or Level 4 on the Paths to QUALITY™ program. These providers follow certain standards, no matter the type or size of the program. They follow a curriculum, complete 20 hours of professional development, and have certain education levels for their staff.

In Indiana, the search for a pre-K program can also be overwhelming because of our mixed-delivery system. You can find pre-K classes in family child care homes, child care centers, ministries, public schools, and private schools. Through my work as the pre-K project manager for Marion County, I see wonderful learning environments within all these programs. So, how do you know which one to choose?

As a parent, take some time to understand both your child’s and your family’s needs. Then, make your pre-K decision based on which environment fits best.

FAMILY CHILD CARE HOMES

If your child needs a small group setting, she may fit well in a family child care home. If your child gets overwhelmed in a large group, consider a home. Some people think a family child care home can’t prepare your child for kindergarten because it is not in a “school setting.”  However, if the program is a Level 3 or 4,  they are following a developmentally appropriate curriculum.  Family child care homes can have up to 12 or 16 children, depending on the type of license they have. Homes usually run a year-round program.

Family child care homes can have mixed age groups, which means you may have an infant and a pre-K student together. When meeting with the owner/director, ask how he or she manages such a wide age-range. Mixed age groups can be a great learning environment if it’s done appropriately.  Children can develop skills and learn from one another.

CHILD CARE CENTERS

Many Level 3 and 4 child care centers wrap their pre-K programs in with their all-day services. This is meant to help working families. Child care centers have classrooms separated in age groups. The ratio of teacher per student is one teacher to 12 students. Programs may have up to 24 children with two teachers.  Child care centers usually run a year-round program.

MINISTRIES

Level 3 or 4 ministries are on the Voluntary Certification Program (VCP), therefore meeting the same guidelines as a licensed child care facility. Ministries are housed in a facility operated by a religious organization. They follow the same ratios as a child care center and usually run a year-round program. Many ministries offer part-time programs. This may be ideal if your child may not be ready to be away for a full day program.

PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Many public school systems in Marion County offer pre-K and can also participate in Paths to QUALITY™. Lawrence, Warren, Wayne, Perry, Decatur, and Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) all have Level 3 or 4 programs. Most public school programs require their pre-K teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. Some even require a teaching license. For most public schools, there is a weekly fee for pre-K services. If you live in the IPS school district, they offer pre-K for no charge. If you are interested in your district pre-K, call to see what type of programs and services are offered.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Many private schools offer pre-K. An approved On My Way Pre-K private school is not required to be on Paths to QUALITY™, but the pre-K program must be accredited by a regional or national approved state board of education. If they are an accredited program, they must follow developmentally appropriate standards.  Private schools tend to be smaller in size than public schools. If you are looking for that “school” environment, but are hesitant to be in a large setting, then a private school may meet your needs.

CHOOSE A DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT

No matter the type of program you choose, a quality program should foster your child’s development. It should also integrate learning in a developmentally appropriate environment. All the programs we discussed should have learning centers and developmentally appropriate learning materials. Preschoolers need to feel that they are in a safe, comfortable environment that allows them to explore and grow. If you see that in your child, you can feel comfortable in that pre-K program and know that you chose the right path for your child’s future.

1 Center for Public Education: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Pre-kindergarten/Pre-Kindergarten

Cover image by Flickr user Donald MaxwellCreative Commons license.

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

by Marla Segal, Child Care Answers Pre-K Project Manager

The time has come; your child has turned five and soon will be heading off to begin a new journey into kindergarten. This life event can be exciting and scary for both you as the parent and your child. As a Pre-K Program Manager, a common question parents ask me is “What does my child need to know for kindergarten?”

After working in an early childhood setting for more than 11 years, I have watched many children transition into kindergarten. Yes, your child may know how to spell his name, count to a certain number, or know his phone number. However, I think there are two key traits that you can help develop in your child to be ready for the big day.

SOCIAL SKILLS

Involve your child in some type of social environment, whether that’s child care, pre-school, pre-K, or play groups. These types of group settings will help support your child in preparing her for the social environment of kindergarten. This is where your child can learn how to communicate, listen, and take turns. These environments can also help your child come out of her shell and be willing to speak up for help when she may need it.

SELF-CONTROL

This trait can be difficult at age five – goodness; sometimes it’s difficult for adults! Nonetheless, your child should have a good sense on how to transition into different activities, follow rules, and respect property and materials.

SOME TIPS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION EASIER FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD:

CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL

Call the school and see if there is a day to visit and meet the teacher. Many school corporations offer kindergarten round-ups or jamborees. These events can provide guidance on enrolling your child, but they also provide some great interactions for your child. He may be able to step on a school bus, tour his new classroom, meet his teacher and make new friends.

GET A HEAD START ON YOUR CHILD’S NEW ROUTINE

Begin your child’s morning routine about a month away from the first day of school. Change of routines can be tough for anyone. If you begin early, it will hopefully be less hectic when the important day comes.

READ UP!

Read books about the first day of school to your child as the day approaches. When I was a pre-K teacher, I began reading books at the end of the year to prepare the students for their next journey. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate are all books that I had on rotation during this time period. These are great books to start the discussion with your child about how they are feeling with the transition to kindergarten.

Children begin kindergarten from all different backgrounds and experiences. You as a parent know your child the best and need to make sure you’re her strongest advocate. Throughout your child’s education, make sure you are engaged, focused, and a participant in your child’s schooling.

Options to Help You Afford Preschool

by Marla Segal, Pre-K Project Manager

Working in the early childhood field, the most common comment I get from parents is how expensive it is to send their child to preschool. I definitely agree that it can be, but there are a few options that may help.

Several of these funding sources for preschool are geared toward low income families:

  • Head Start is a federally funded program that focuses on the healthy development of low income families. To qualify, families must make less than 100% of the federal poverty guidelines ($24,300 for a family of 4 in 2016). Head Start also provides services for families experiencing emergency situations. Programs may be half-day or full-day, depending on the community.
  • On My Way Pre-K is Indiana’s pre-K pilot program. It is offered in five counties in Indiana: Allen, Lake, Vanderburgh, Marion, and Jackson. Families must be below 127% of the federal poverty guidelines ($30,797 for a family of 4 in 2016). There is an application process for families that occurs once a year, typically beginning in mid-January. Funding is limited, so, depending on the number of applications received, a randomized lottery may occur in your county to select families. Children must be four years old by August 1st of that year to qualify, however, Marion County also accepts three-year olds.
  • The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) is a federally funded program that helps low-income families who work or go to school. CCDF allows parents to select a child care of their choice that participates in the CCDF program. This means parents can research those high-quality child cares that may also offer preschool programing within their curriculum. Unfortunately, several counties may have a waitlist for families to receive funding.

Title I is another federally funded program that is given to public schools that have high percentages of low-income families. Some school districts support their own preschool programs with Title I. Call your local school district to see if they offer Title I to preschoolers and find out their requirements.

For those families that are not officially considered low-income, a few programs are available to help lower preschool costs.

  • Preschool Co-Ops are preschool programs whose tuition can be a little friendlier on your wallet, but it does come with some hard work. Co-Ops keep their tuition low because they look at parents as the key to running the program. If you begin looking into co-ops, investigate every aspect and make sure it will work for you and your family.
  • Tuition Assistance Programs are offered at some preschool programs. Typically the amount of scholarship you receive is based off on your gross monthly income. These types of programs also may require you to be working or going to school. Child Care Answers can help locate programs in your area that may offer tuition assistance.

No matter the funding source that may work best for you, the most important thing for parents is to research and visit the programs they are interested in to ensure a good fit for the family. Several high-quality programs accept different funding sources – Child Care Answers can help you locate programs in your area to help make the search a little less stressful.

Cover image by Flickr user kynan tait. Creative Commons license.