Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Benefits of Play-School

My camera lens is working intermittently. The focus is off for sure but sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm still trying to decide if I should risk sending it back before Spain)

As I have mentioned before on the blog, our kids go to a play-school, which is basically a preschool with a play-based philosophy. They do circle time, and have set art activities/stations, but the bulk of the time is free-choice in a room with 4 centers set up - dramatic play, blocks, art and science/creation. The centers change at least every 2 to 3 weeks so there is always something new and interesting to do. They do not spend a ton of time learning to write letters, numbers or other "school-work" types of stuff. There is a writing table, they are encouraged to write their names on everything and when they do art or make cards, they are encouraged to write what they can on it or dictate what it is about. In Pre-K, their last year before Kindergarten, they do a few more structured activities and work a little more on counting and letters, but it's still not the main focus.  

When Miss E started school, she was 2 and I found the only preschool around that would take 2 year olds in a part time program, which was 2 1/2 hours a day, 2 days a week. I didn't pay much attention to the TYPE of school so we did kind of fall into the play-school thing. As the kids got older, we just loved it so we stayed. Miss E did three years of preschool and so will Mr. T. Each year they go for a few more hours but it's still not a lot of time. This year is Mr. T's Pre-K year and he is going 3 hours a day for 3 mornings a week. 

As Miss E neared Kindergarten I started to worry about the freedom, the lack of structure, the play style. I wondered if she would be behind when she started kindergarten and how she would adapt to structure. I started to have doubts about the play-school model. It was fun for the kids and all, but really, how was it getting them ready to learn? But, we carried on and hoped for the best. Miss E was always a smart kid who was interested in letters and writing and liked structure so I kind of figured it would be OK. Mr. T on the other hand, I became concerned about. He never had quite that same inclination and to boot, he is younger for his grade than Miss E.

Now that she is in kindergarten and I have seen what it's like, I am a whole-hearted supporter of the play-school model. Kindergarten has SO MUCH structure and worksheets and really an appalling lack of free and creative time. Some of this is due to the half day model - in 2 and a half hours a day, the kids have to learn a TON of stuff, but some of it is just due to the bureaucracy of the school system and the curriculum. I like Miss E's school a lot and her teacher has grown on me to the point that I am a huge fan of hers as well, and Miss E is blossoming like nobody's business in Kindergarten but oh, I am so glad that she had 3 years to play in the sand, paint what she wanted, if she wanted, glue all kinds of crazy stuff together and just generally learn that school is FUN and explore her imagination and learn to interact with kids her age. 

Now that I know what to expect in Kindergarten, I know that Mr. T will be fine. Better than fine, he also is going to excel in Kindergarten and I am glad that he has this year to dig in the sandbox, be in love with his teacher, skip the art he doesn't want to do and build block towers up to his shoulders. At home, when he asks to, I pull out the Pre-K workbook I bought for him and he gets to practice his letters and numbers. But I would hate to think that for the 3 hours he's in preschool with his friends he's doing worksheets. Ick. There is enough time for that in the future. The kids learn so much through play in these early years, I really think it lays a huge, strong foundation for their continued success. In hind sight, we could not have made a better decision for our kiddos. And that feels good. 


  1. wow, just wow. i will so miss you and your family at T.P.I. i will always remember your beautiful children. please please stay in touch!! much much love, susie

  2. So glad to hear that your kids thrive in their environments.