Our preschool program is a structured, play-based and developmentally-appropriate program with a balance between child-directed and group activities. The program serves children ages 2 years 3 months old to 4 years 2 months (at the beginning of the school year). The group activities include circle time, story, and a healthy mealtime. Songs, stories, puppetry, movement, and artistic and domestic activities enable children to explore their relationships to themselves, each other, and the world around them. The program weaves daily and weekly rhythms around seasonal themes. The program is offered five days a week from 8:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Children may be dropped off as early as 8:00 a.m. for no extra charge. We offer two, three, and five day options. An optional extended-day program is available until 5:30 p.m.
The program strives to help children develop social and emotional skills, resiliency and physical independence through imitation, domestic tasks, free play and other rhythmical activities. Parent education is an important aspect of the work and teachers hold quarterly parent education meetings in addition to social gatherings and festivals. Both preschools come together with their families to celebrate festivals that are inclusive of all religions and cultures.
In the preschool, we strive to have many opportunities for children to imitate domestic and practical life tasks, as well as to have artistic and sensory experiences. Both classes have their own rhythm of the week. Activities include: washing and hanging our cloth placemats and napkins, folding, sweeping, washing dishes and preschool tables, grinding wheat, cooking, coloring, painting, using scissors, gardening, sanding wood, washing and preparing vegetables and fruit. Children are also involved in setting the table for snack and lunch, as well as serving and cleaning up. In preparation for festivals or holidays, children may felt with wool, sew, harvest and prepare flowers for use in sachets, garlands or scented water.
Our philosophy as teachers is to enter our work and artistic activities with joy and warmth in an attitude of invitation for the child to join. Teachers take time and allow the child time to be immersed in the activities. Teachers spend time talking together about what to bring to the children and why. Teachers are always aware of the importance of leaving ample time for imaginative play in the rooms and the garden and often have activities as an option, not as an imperative. Our teachers follow the rhythm of the year that is experienced out in nature, especially in the garden. Together, both teachers strive to keep things simple and calm, focusing on joy and beauty.
In the fall, children celebrate our apple festival. Together, both classes of children and parents press fresh, local, organic apples into juice. Children begin by washing the apples, chopping the apples and then squeezing out the juice. When they are done, there is a picnic on the grass with some fresh juice. This first group activity sets the mood for the joint festivals for the year.
Next, there is a harvest festival. Mother Earth comes and tells a lovely story and gives each child a bulb to be planted. For the last few years, the children have been planting the bulbs around the main office to be enjoyed by all. After planting the bulbs, the children all have a simple meal of soup and bread. Over the course of the winter and spring, the children visit the bulbs, watching and waiting. It is quite glorious in the spring when they explode into a rainbow of color, to the amazement of all.
The children celebrate Advent in a different way, which is quietly in the classrooms. The teachers emphasize this mood of quiet to our parents, too. Simple gifts from nature adorn our Advent wreaths and small gifts are crafted to bring home to our families.
Spring is celebrated in the lovely garden with picnics involving our parents. The teachers begin with a simple blessing, holding hands in a large circle and then have lunch in the garden. Generally, the teachers have two to three such gatherings in the spring, depending mostly on the weather that Mother Nature provides.
At the all-school May Faire, the children decorate our garden for the May Queen. The garden has a lovely bench in the shade for the King and Queen to sit. Following the May Pole dancing, the King and Queen rest in the garden and many small children sit at their feet. For the rest of the afternoon, the preschool teachers sit in the shade with parents, working on a simple craft while their children play in the garden. For some families, it might be the first visit to our school and for others, they return each year to this calm oasis.
The year is sprinkled with birthday festivals throughout, a simple little celebration with parents is celebrated in each class, with the emphasis on the joining together for such a joyous occasion. The teachers hope they are modeling for parents how young children can find such joy in the simple things.