5 Reasons Pre-School Years Are Prime Time For Learning

Our family has some pretty strong thoughts on the importance of pre-school learning. Both of school-age kids attended pre-k programs, and we’re hoping the twins will start in April. Until then, we’re working on some learning activities at home and in the region. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Pre-School Learning

There is some compelling research about pre-school learning. The years before school age are vital to preparing – as a former teacher, I can attest to this! In our house, we are letting the girls explore toys like the Square Panda and Leap Pad to help with letter and number recognition as a starter.

News & Experts shared the information below with me, supporting our thoughts.

5 Reasons Pre-School Years Are Prime Time For Learning

Much of the discussion about education focuses on the K-12 years, but some early childhood education experts suggest serious learning can start even earlier and pay dividends for the child in years to come.

“Young children have the capacity at a very young age to be academically challenged, and we need to educate them strongly during those years instead of waiting until they are older,” says Alise McGregor, founder of Little Newtons (www.littlenewtons.com), an early education center with locations in Minnesota and Illinois.

“Children’s minds are like sponges when they are very young. Under age 5 is the most important time for development and our best opportunity to set up children for success. If we strongly educate children at a very young age, while their brains are so pliable, by the time they reach kindergarten, their brain capacity is much higher.”

Recent research confirms that the first five years of life are particularly important for the development of the child’s brain. Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child reports that in the first few years, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second, building the brain’s architecture.

This growth of the brain’s network establishes a fertile foundation for learning, thus an opportunity to be better prepared for grade school and beyond, experts say. One analysis of several studies, “Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-term Education,” showed that children exposed to high-quality pre-kindergarten education performed better academically in later years. Early education also led to higher graduation rates, fewer special education placements and less grade retention.

McGregor suggests five reasons parents should consider ramping up their pre-K child’s education:

• Socialization. Socialization with people other than the child’s family in a safe environment is an essential foundational element. “It’s important to introduce our children to other children and support their transition into their own friendship groups, and the earlier we do this, it helps children overcome shyness and gain self-confidence,” McGregor says.

• Personal experiences. These assist the brain’s organizational development and functioning in many situations, helping children develop learning skills as well as social and emotional abilities. “A good early-education center creates an environment where imagination, love and innovation all come together for a daily adventure,” McGregor says.

• Enthusiasm for Learning. Lessons can be given in a fun and exciting way that will encourage children to be effective learners. “Feeling inspired and excited to learn takes root in preschool,” McGregor says, “and can last a lifetime.”

• Learning respect for others. A fundamental building block for happiness, friendships and success in life starts early by learning how to share, cooperate, take turns and be nice. “By carrying on conversations, following rules, listening, accepting consequences of actions, the child learns early how to start getting along in the world,” McGregor says.

• Resilience. It’s important that early childhood educators and parents work together to develop resilience in children as early as possible. “By creating a consistent and stable environment with clear expectations and predictable consequences, children can develop skills in managing themselves and their emotions,” McGregor says. “They may experience bumps, bruises or losing a game, but this is the foundation for building coping strategies for greater challenges in life.”

“The first five years of life are the most critical,” McGregor says. “It is far easier to train a child than it is to fix a broken adult.”

 

Pre-School Learning in Pittsburgh

Yesterday I participated in a Twitter party for Trying Together, the Pittsburgh region’s advocates for early childhood education. They are committed to collaborating “with early care and education professionals, families, and other individuals to advocate together, partner together, and learn together, to create a future in which caregivers feel valued; children have access to high-quality, early learning environments; and families have the resources they need to support their children’s early childhood experiences”. If you are in the Pittsburgh-area and are passionate about pre-school learning experiences for our ‘lil ones, engage with them on Facebook or Twitter!

We need to remember that children are trying, too — trying to understand their feelings and their world, trying to please the people they love, trying to grow. When grownups and children are trying together, just about anything can be possible.

— Fred Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 1986
What’s your take on pre-school learning?

Back to School 2016

No idea how this happened, but the Bigs have made it through eight days of school already. Before things become like Ari’s last day of first grade, we present the official back to school 2016 photos!

back to school 2016

Okay, who stole our babies and told them it was okay to grow up and into a Kindergartner and Second Grader? I mean seriously. Thank goodness they think this is funny.

Arianna will be taking on the last grade that I taught this year. Let that one sink in. She is in the grade that I was teaching when she was born.

second grade

And in ten years, back to school will be her senior year and this shirt will fit her. Sigh.

river hawks

And then there is Evan. He was so excited for full day Kindergarten + free breakfast and lunch this year (what a great score for our district!). Although he was nervous that his bff from Pre-K Counts wouldn’t be in his class (he’s not), he was still ready to give it a try.

BackToSchoolEvan

And the Armstrong River Hawks Class of 2029 is sure blessed to have him as part of their own, aren’t they?

Riverhawks2016E

We are so proud of you, Bigs!

BackToSchoolSigns

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And an even bigger shout out to Greg who took this task on all by himself. I was away for work and got to join in via Skype, but he took care of all the details and photos. Thank you for making their days so special! xoxo

Summer Bridge Activities

*articles may contain affiliate links* This post, Summer Bridge Activities, is one such post. Thanks to Parenting Healthy for this information and giveaway of activities for the summer. Take it away! 

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summer bridge activities
Giveaway Hosted by Parenting Healthy

This is the time of year to get your summer learning plan together. Ughh…summer learning! Don’t they deserve a break? That was always my thought before my son was school age. They do get a break because keeping that summer bridge learning does not involve dropping them off at 9am to a school for 6.5 hours 5 days a week. I have my son do 1 hour of learning activities in the mornings-after some cartoons but before the appropriate time to knock on neighbor friends doors to play for the day. In the evening we do a fun learning page in workbooks or I have him write about his day in 3-5 sentences and we do that together as part of our bedtime routine. That time means the world to keeping his brain working at his grade level and keeps his retention strong.

The Carson-Dellosa learning activities for summer have everything you need to put a regimen together in you home whether you have a preschooler or one heading to High School. If your child is older, Carson-Dellosa has learning aids for the High Schoolers as well. It’s all there and you can search for learning books by age, need/subject or themes.

 


Summer Bridge Learning Selections

  • Summer Bridge Activities: Pre-K to Grade 8
  • Summer Bridge Explorations: Pre-K to Grade 4
  • Summer Quest: Pre-K to Grade 8
  • Summer Bridge Workbooks: Pre-K to Grade 6

This post is all about Summer Bridge Activities for that gap between grade changes. My son is heading into third grade so I have grade 2/3 activities books for him. It has some refreshers from second grade learning and prepares him for 3rd grade skills. They also include a summer reading list with suggested titles for books at this grade level. Reading is a great daily activity and I highly recommend at the very least you have them read 20+ minutes a day so they do not fall behind as statistics show they will-up to 2 months behind. However, adding the ongoing practice of comprehension activities and math and science, they can feel as confident as ever when that new year begins and learning continues.

Right now you can save up to 25% on these learning tools so visit the links now!

1 lucky reader will win one Summer Bridge Activity learning set from Carson Dellosa. It includes the grade level of your choice in the following 3 books: Summer Bridge Activities, Summer Bride Explorations and Summer Quest Workbook. If the winner has children in higher grades, we can accommodate.
Enter below. Ends on May and open to US. Good luck!

Cultivating Healthy Learning Habits for the New School Year


Once more, it’s time to head back to school and hit the books. Returning from vacation and buckling down to lectures and homework isn’t fun, but there are ways to make the most of it. Whether you’re an enthusiastic, type A student or a leisurely type B one, here are some essential learning habits you should cultivate for the coming academic year.

Active Listening

To get the maximum benefit from your education, develop healthy communication habits—both as a sender (talker) and as a receiver (listener). One of the most important habits you should develop is active listening. Sure, you will hear countless bits of information in your classes throughout the year, but how much actual listening will you do? The truth is, not as much as you think. Listening is an active process, not a passive one.

Here’s the difference: while hearing entails picking up sound waves when another person speaks, active listening requires paying attention to what’s said. You must think about the speaker’s message and process it. Detecting the sound of a person’s voice isn’t the same thing as interpreting the message imparted to you. Throughout the school day, ask yourself if you’re just hearing voices or actively listening to what those voices have to say. Then make adjustments as necessary. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

To avoid missing key points in class, prevent distractions such as conversing with classmates or daydreaming about plans for the weekend. Instead, focus on your instructor’s lectures, making sure to ask pertinent questions on occasion. Active listening habits will pay off when you take the final exam and can recall the required information without a moment’s hesitation.

Proofread Your Assignments

Proofreading your work is also a healthy learning habit. Once you’re finished writing a report or research paper, always check its spelling, grammar, punctuation, and style. Grammarly’s online grammar checking service is a quick way to double-check for errors. Make proofreading a routine, and you’ll not only hand in better reports, but also improve your grammar skills in the process.

Take the Initiative

Next, be proactive about your learning. Your teachers have an obligation to help you learn, but it’s up to you to take advantage of the information they provide. Make a consistent effort to remain engaged in all classroom activities and labs. Interact with your instructor on a daily basis and ask questions when necessary.

Don’t understand a particular concept? Take the initiative and delve deeper until the subject matter is clearer to you—don’t just gloss over concepts that present a challenge. You might think you won’t need to use that knowledge in everyday life, but you could be wrong.

Finally, the best thing about cultivating healthy learning habits is that you’re also preparing for your future vocation. Active listening, checking your work, and taking initiative are applicable to any work environment, regardless of industry. The same habits you use in school will come in handy years later when you make your entrance into the regular workforce. Might as well get a jump-start now!

By Nikolas Baron

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Bio:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in elementary school, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at Internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

Back to School Tip: Label Daddy

We still have a month until the big kids are back in school, but it’s never too early to start thinking about getting ready. A few months ago, I was sent Label Daddy labels to review / use for back to school prep…and I let the summer get away from me.

When the big kids go back to school, their clothes, coats (ugh), and backpacks will have a personalized label. Say goodbye to using markers on your kids’ clothes thanks to Label Daddy!

IMG_20150809_133730To get our labels, I went over to labeldaddy.com and picked out the extra small labels (so these will work in our twins’ extra small clothes, too!). I simply put our last name and an icon that reminded me of “us” (a starfish) and it will be enough for teachers (and Daddy) to confirm the missing things are ours. (Because our kids are totally all about losing stuff, aren’t yours?!?!) I sprung for the laminated protection because it’s best for things like coats and sports equipment (that might be exposed to sunscreen). My tip for success at this is to press the labels into your kids’ clothing tags as soon as they get out of the washing machine. This way you don’t have to worry about the “Helpful Hint” to not wash them for 24 hours. Wait – we are putting labels on clothes that can be washed?!?!! Uh, yup! IMG_20150809_133614

Arianna and Evan were pretty excited when they helped me put the labels on…but they asked why I didn’t get ones with their first names, too. Maybe the next round. (The pack we got has 75 labels in it – while I can’t imagine running out any time soon, we probably will.)

How about you? Are you ready to start prepping your ‘lil ones for Back to School?

You can Save 20% on Label Daddy labels for all your Back to School needs!  This is THE BEST deal available on Label Daddy, the number one solution for labeling your kid’s belongings!  Remember to label all clothing, sports equipment, electronics, and other personal belongings your kids bring to school, camp, sports leagues, day care, vacation, and other places.  Label Daddy labels keep them from getting lost or mixed up with others.

 

These labels are super durable peel-and-stick washable labels — they’re washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant!  Label Daddy labels are also fun and attractive.  You design your own labels!  Pick from tons of colors, sizes and logos, including Disney and Marvel characters, MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos, other sport and fun logos, and more.  Their exclusive laminated coating gives labels an extra layer of protection and is a must for camp!  These labels are made in the USA and shipped directly to you worldwide.

You can save 20% on your entire Label Daddy order when you use code USFAMILY20 at checkout:  http://www.usfamily20.labeldaddy.com

What would you label? Are you ready for back to school?

label daddy

Support Pre-K with #IAmPreK

As a former teacher of a four-year-old program and kindergarten, I can tell you that early childhood education is super important. Because of that, I want to do everything I can to support my state’s program to ensure ALL kids get quality pre-k education. The “Pre-K for PA” campaign is dear to our hearts because our kids are reaping the benefits of people dedicated to this cause (THANK YOU!).

Next year, Arianna will be enrolled in kindergarten. She is more than ready, and I have to thank her years in Pre-K for that. This is her third year in pre-k. I’ll be up front and tell you that we stretched our budget for two years and had her enrolled in a private preschool program. While it was a quality program, we really were at the top of our spend limits. This year, she got to enroll in our school district’s “Pre-K Counts” program, a free program to families within a set income level. This program helps families like ours get a jump start on kindergarten.

Evan isn’t left out! Both he and Arianna receive additional programming thanks to a head start home based weekly program. And next year? He’s going to be going to school 6 hours a day with the program.

Pre-K for PA
Source: Pre-K for PA

Did you know that 70% of PA children cannot access high-quality pre-k? To help change this, the Pre-K for PA Campaign needs our help.

Kids can’t vote, so it’s up to us to voice our support for early learning. 2014 is an important election year in Pennsylvania, and we must raise the visibility of early childhood education so that every candidate – from governor on down, understands the wisdom and urgency of ensuring access to high-quality pre-k for all of Pennsylvania’s children.

Here is how you can show your support right now:

  • Smile, snap a picture and share it using the hashtag #IamPreK.

  • Share the above infographic on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Help us pass 2,000 supporter petitions this week. Ask your colleagues, friends or family members to join Pre-K for PA at www.prekforpa.org.

We gladly support this campaign. Will you join us?

#IAmPreK
#IAmPreK
#IAmPreK
#IAmPreK

 

A Win for Families in Pittsburgh: #ppsafterschool

Disclosure: This content has been compensated as part of an Early Childhood Education promotion for Pittsburgh Public Schools. However, all opinions remain my own. #ppsafterschool

062813 PPS Early Childhood 046
Source: Jason Cohn

What’s the main reason Greg and I maintain a working mom / stay-at-home dad family balance? Because balancing work, child care, and soon school are not the easiest jobs in the world. We’re lucky that I’m able to work to provide for the family, but not everyone has that flexibility. As you know, we went back and forth in the spring about what to do regarding Arianna’s (pre-)schooling, and finally settled in on a public school program that fits our family’s needs.

Our decision would have been a whole lot easier if we lived in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district. Their Early Education Childhood Department “provides children, ages birth to five, with a comprehensive, educational program” with some of the programs being at no-cost to income eligible families.  There’s even a “Ready Freddy” program designed for kids Arianna’s age (4 going on 20, I mean 5) that is part of the PPS’ “Transition to Kindergarten” outreach. With programs like this, her October birthday never would have been an issue. She would have stayed in the preschool program for ages 3-5 then transitioned to kindergarten in 2014.

(Like any parents, we know think our kid is a genius. She went to pre-3 for 2 years at a private school, then we hoped to test her into private kindergarten. The school wasn’t really supporting our decision, so this year she’ll be in a public school program and start kindergarten when her same-age peers do. Let’s hope she can be tested for gifted SOON!)

062813 PPS Early Childhood 157
Source: Jason Cohn

The Early Childhood Program supports learning at an early age to help children avoid the “start behind, stay behind” paradox. As a former teacher, that’s why I pushed so hard to ensure my kids had access to programs like this. With me spending the majority of my time away from the kids, I want to be sure they have resources to prepare them for school. (Greg is amazing with the kids, but when it comes to working on writing, reading, and math, we agree that we’ll be relying on teachers for help with this area.) If our children have this background, they will start kindergarten at or ahead, setting them up for success down the line (like when it’s time for standardized tests).

Beyond the fact that the Early Childhood Education Program is offered five days a week, six hours a day, includes breakfast and lunch and at no cost for many families, Pittsburgh Public Schools will be offering an incredible win for families of Pre-K to 5th grade students this year–an after school care program. (This is exactly why I fretted so much about school for Arianna, I was going to have to rush around either before or after school to have her in an “all day” preschool program.)

For families with children enrolled in Pittsburgh Public Schools (Pre-K to 5th grade), there are five schools offering this program–Pittsburgh: Brookline, Colfax, Crescent Early Childhood Center, Morrow, and Phillips. Students will be able to enroll in part-time or full-time care (provided until 6:30 PM, daily) at a low cost ($28 per day for 2 days a week to $13 per day for 5 days a week). In exchange, they will get homework help and participate in thematic programming and partnerships with local organizations like the Carnegie Science Center, Gateway to the Arts and Jump Start. The students will be in a safe environment and work on age-appropriate activities.

062813 PPS Early Childhood 253
Source: Jason Cohn

This sounds like a great alternative to balancing schedules and rushing around at the end of the work day, doesn’t it? For my family, a program that combines the Early Childhood Program and the After School Program would be a huge win. Just enrolling Arianna, we’d get after school care for $13 per day or less than $300 per month. (This would be in addition to the PreK program, which would be at no cost for income eligible families or about $650 for those who don’t meet the income eligibility.) Across nine months of school (since the program runs the school year schedule), the year-long spread of costs would never come close to the impact day care could have on a single income family. Although we chose to go the public school route this year, putting a low cost like this on education would be well worth it, in my opinion–when compared to other high quality programs, the value and cost are so worth it. Especially because the curriculum prepares the PreK students to enter Kindergarten classroom by aligning standards so there’s no gap.

If you have children in Pittsburgh Public Schools and are interested in applying, the application deadline is August 9, 2013 (which is next week!). Applications are available online at www.pps.k12.pa.us/earlychildhood or parents can request a hard copy by calling the Early Childhood Department at 412-325-4291.

I am participating with a number of other Pittsburgh bloggers to write about this incredible opportunity for Pittsburgh families. If you are interested in reading the other posts, I highly suggest searching Twitter and Facebook book for #ppsafterschool for more posts from us. 

Teacher Envy

This time of year, I have some serious teacher envy. I am on the “We don’t pay our teachers enough for what they do” bandwagon, so don’t think that this is about having time off at the holiday. I get off half a day on Christmas Eve, all day Christmas and January 1, plus a 2 hour “early dismissal” on New Years’ Eve. It’s my choice to go in to work in a quiet office where people are not responding to the things you are working on (until they come back happy and full from a fresh start to the year). It’s about the creativity and witnessing the wonder in the children.

 

Might I say, Pinterest is truly a teacher’s dream. You see, I didn’t have Pinterest when I was a teacher. Heck, I couldn’t even afford the internet at home when I taught (thank you friends, wifi cafes, and neighbors, ahem). The internet at the school, well, I was always scared that any search of “cool stuff to do with my students” would pull me into the principal’s office. Today, I think it’s a lot easier than whipping up some workbook page or inventing your own Smart Board lessons. There are a lot of great resources out there. And this time of year, it’s perfect for teacher to use.

 

Like all those cute foot and handprint paint opportunities. I wish I had the time in my day to create art work with the kids, but the time is really not there. Luckily, my daughter’s teacher has the time and has done some really neat paintings with her hands and feet (like a manager scene). Ok, so maybe I am not so jealous on this one because the paint mess doesn’t meet my house and I don’t have to explain to ‘lil Man how Sally, Ryan, and daddy did a fine enough job painting the kitchen, they don’t need his handprints added to the walls.

 

Then there’s that darn “Elf on the Shelf”. Admittedly, I am a little saddened that the teacher introduced this to the kids for several reasons. One, while I am not in the “it’s creepy” camp, I am in the “there’s a just the right age to start and end this” camp. I don’t think kids over 10 need one, and I don’t think kids under the age of 5 are really ready to “get the concept”. You know how you wait for time out? Same idea. Although Arianna’s teacher has one, I don’t think she gets it that she’s been bad if the elf doesn’t move. Two, as the teacher who had some really difficult students, do you punish the whole class if one child is bad every.single.day? (YES, it DOES happen, I am sorry.) How is that fair to the rest of the class? If I do chose to have an “Elf on the Shelf” in the next few years, each of the kids will have my own…and they will read and know the real rules in the book. Still, I am envious that she has the time to work on this project with my kid.

 

I’m not about being greedy or wanting bad chocolate, but I miss the teacher gifts. I got some pretty neat decorations from the kids throughout the years, and each one reminds me of those students. Like I’ll probably always remember the ornament from one of the most brilliant kids I ever taught because every year it hangs on my tree (even though it doesn’t go with my “theme”).

 

And you know what? The other thing I am envious of is that at the end of that long last week full of parties, movies, and programs, teachers get to send the students home to the parents full of sugar for two weeks. As a parent, I get to deal with that kid who wants to be back with her teacher during that down time of no alarms or pickup deadlines. Now the pressure is on me to make sure Greg keeps her busy and that the presents are “just right” on Christmas morning.

 

Thank you, teachers, for all you do to help keep working parents sane during the holiday season and beyond. You really do not get enough credit (and our gifts of coffee, gift cards, ornaments, and Bath and Body Works goodies will never be enough). Thank you.

Me and Arianna at her Christmas Program on Tuesday