We have a Morning Preschool class of eighteen children approximately 2.6 through 3.11 and an Afternoon PreKindergarten for 4- and 5-year-olds. Several four-year-olds whose families need extended care can attend mornings. By the same token, a number of two- and three-year-olds can attend afternoons for full days. We do, however, enroll the two- and three-year-olds with the fours and fives on a case-by-case basis. Our teacher-to-child ratio is one-to-six in the mornings and all but an hour of the afternoons. We take care to make our groups as gender- and age-balanced and as diverse as possible.
- Core Program: 8:30 am to Noon
- Early Bird Time, 8am to 8:30am
- Quiet Time, Noon to 2pm
We suggest that parents bring their children to school as close to8:30am as possible so that friends, places, and activities are immediately available to them. However, sometimes it may be more important that children spend extra time with parents in the morning. We will help you determine what is best for your child.
Since we feel that young children need school to be a place in which to determine their own rhythms, relationships, and interests, the program and the staff provide sparing, judicious amounts of routineroutine, direction, teacher-directed groups, and emergent projects. We do make sure that the children understand that responsibilities accompany their freedom to make choices: they are expected to learn and practice diplomacy with everyone in the class, and they are expected to care for the environment, too, cleaning up their play areas (with our help) as they go. The morning play period lasts for two-and-a-half hours.
During this time the children can come to our indoor or outdoor lunch tables to eat. A teacher is nearby to help them develop self-care and social skills (washing hands, moving for another child, recycling compost, etc.)
If there are enough extended care children to warrant extra staffing, they and a teacher may sometimes leave the school to take walks to nearby parks, the library, the fire station, the nursery and roof garden at Alta Bates Hospital, the bird store, the café, and the grocery store.
Meanwhile, back at school, the part-day 3-year-olds have another half-hour of play time. At 11:15am we clean up, put on shoes, and either finish lunches on the patio or use table manipulatives in the playroom.
Our Group Time at the end of the session provides each of us opportunities to get a little acquainted with everyone else. We sing and dance, hear and act out stories, practice making conversation, examine the materials and the artwork, play games that build cognitive and physical skills, practice yoga postures and breathing, dramatize and discuss solutions for common school problems, and evolve a group spirit.
- Noon – 2pm
The small daily groups of extended care children who stay all day have a Quiet Time between Noon and 1pm. This interlude enables the children to sleep or daydream or look at books in solitude. Harnaam Kaur’s considerable skills at training children to be conscious resters and picking appropriate music from around the world enriches this time for everyone.
- 1– 5 pm
At 1pm the children who “stay late” are joined by a new group of four- and five-year-olds for our play-based Afternoon Prekindergarten. At a musical signal the children assemble for a twenty minute Group Time. In addition to working all together on all the developmental challenges that face four- and five-year-olds (please see our PreKindergarten link), they practice the group skills necessary for primary school; taking care of their bodies’ needs and their belongings before coming to Group; taking turns listening and talking; learning to articulate their rules and standards in order to help govern their community; deciding on activities together; learning to follow short series of actions; and balancing their temperaments through group process (i.e. speaking up if reserved and learning to wait if loquacious). 3-year-olds, generally asleep during this time, are welcome to join when they awaken.
From 2pm until about 4:15pm each day the children have free play and projects that stem from individual and group interests. They are naturally interested in developing relationships, practicing skills, and implementing their ideas; and if they are allowed time to do so, they become self-confident and socially aware individuals able and eager to play together in big groups. 4-year-olds are interested in sustaining themes from day to day and week to week; they envision more parts in their play themes than formerly, and they need more players; they want to make their own props; they put on plays and shows and gravitate to setting up institutions like stores and schools, where divisions of labor and working in teams are required. They stop to eat at designated tables when they are hungry. Their handwashing, table etiquette, and clean-up habits are built in from the previous year.
At the end of the day we gather inside, turn out the lights, light a candle, and have Reflections, celebrating our day together by reflecting on its high and low marks, singing to each other, practicing breathing and meditation, and hearing stories.