Ask any American educator, "When should a young child begin school?" Or, "Are the benefits of early childhood worth the expenses and parental effort?"
You will get the same answer. There is little doubt that a child's formal education should begin with preschool to give the young mind the opportunity to begin several complicated processes. The expense and considerable parental effort are outweighed by long-term benefits and effects.
There is substantial evidence supporting entry in early childhood programs from numerous studies since the 1960s. Those studies support the notion that the earlier a child begins school, the better the child's performance in their remaining formal education and social adjustment working with others.
Preschool stimulates these young minds to make varied connections with their world. The socialization process of making friends and learning acceptable behavior is nurtured in preschool. Children learn how to express their needs verbally, how to express emotions and feel confident in building a relationship with adults other than parents and immediate family. The results indicate that children attending high-quality preschool performed better academically, experienced more success in school and demonstrated more social responsibility compared with their peers that did not attend preschool.
Some of the longitudinal studies (following children through adulthood) indicate that children attending preschool are less involved in criminal acts when they mature, more likely to complete high school and attend college, less likely to abuse substances and generally expressed greater satisfaction and happiness in life.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my day is spent observing our three- and four-year-olds in - what I consider to be - a model preschool program. Whether they are in the garden or in the computer lab, these children are excited about learning and ask hundreds of well-formulated questions. The Maui Prep Preschool strives to educate the whole child and create an early basis for loving learning and school. Each child is viewed as an individual and exposed to everything from music, art, drama, computer technology, word formation, letters and numbers, simple math concepts, imaginative play, cooking, puzzles, character development and social manners to personal health and hygiene and physical education activities. Children are exposed to all disciplines through a fun, student interest-driven environment. This year's interest started with the students growing a garden with their parents and teachers... and has now led to an investigation of bugs and insects!
Our preschoolers also have exposure to four specialist teachers in physical education, technology, art and music/drama throughout the week. These specialists are able motivate on numerous levels and give an amazing introduction to developing skills.
Our preschool program is a wonderful mix of field trips, visits by community helpers (doctors, police officers, firemen, etc.), visiting animals, celebrations and experiential experiences (baking, painting, gardening, etc.). The intellectual and social growth is incredible as they forge real friendships and understand what that means, handle disagreements, learn to share and work cooperatively, begin to associate phonics to written language decoding and develop trust in peers and teachers alike. Each day is a mixture of activities that challenge and expand each child's horizon.
Another thing that sets our preschool apart is the fact that it is part of the larger Maui Prep 'ohana. The preschool participates in school-wide events, including International Day and May Day. Lower School classes often interact with our preschool by doing read-alouds and various other interactive activities. Beyond that, they see the older students throughout the day, really lending to the family-like feeling you get when you are on our campus.
An important component of any model preschool program is the background, training and quality of the teachers. We are extremely fortunate to have an amazing preschool staff led by Director Pamela Reader and lead teachers Jenny Ford, Erika Huck (on medical leave) and Celia Helliar. Each brings a wealth of experience, love of young children, understanding of developmental stages, dedication to designing very creative and inspiring experiences in units of study, as well as acting as real partners with parents in dealing with the individual needs and development of each individual child. The impact of this amazing faculty, combined with an array of engaging, meaningful experiences on our beautiful campus, makes for an exceptional early childhood experience.