Times have changed. In past generations, kindergarten was often a child’s first school experience. However, the prerequisites to kindergarten (both actual and assumed) include much more than just building block towers these days. As parents, what can we do to prepare our children for kindergarten success? Pre-kindergarten programs may help to fill any gaps.
Tresax Bowmaker, kindergarten teacher at Fisher Elementary in Moore puts it this way, “It is crucial that children have a solid pre-kindergarten foundation before entering kindergarten. It is very important to have your child participate in some type of curriculum-based program to master the skills they should possess before entering kindergarten.”
It’s imperative that parents have the right tools to foster educational development, even in the first years of life. There are many state and local agencies designed to help and in fact, Oklahoma has received national recognition for providing strong early education efforts. The following are some options to consider.
Oklahoma Parents as Teachers
Oklahoma Parents as Teachers (OPAT) is a free parent education program with a mission to give children the best start in life. The program’s philosophy is that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. The goal, in an effort to lay the foundation for school success, is to maximize a child’s development during the first three years of life.
• personalized visits from trained parent
educators from your public school.
• parent group meetings.
• resources and referrals.
• developmental screenings.
• early partnership between home and school.
Expectant parents and parents of children ages birth through three years are eligible (within participating school districts). To enroll, call your school district.
With the help of many partners, Smart Start works to inform others about the importance of the early years by promoting school readiness solutions and supporting families of Central Oklahoma.
Services include a partnership with local districts to promote programs such as Early Birds and Reach Out and Read, which provide parents and children informative literature and tools to get a jump-start on learning. Dr. Stacy Dykstra of Smart Start explains, “We have scientific evidence that early experiences affect the architecture of the brain, both good and bad. Research suggests a child’s access to books and other reading materials leads to positive outcomes for the child, including an understanding of reading basics, more time spent reading, a more positive attitude towards reading and learning and better reading performance.”
Oklahoma City Educare
A community partnership, Educare opened a year and half ago to serve 200 disadvantaged children, ages birth to five years. The newly-appointed director Marlana Means is committed to improving the lives of young children. The program offers year-round early childhood education programs to help young children grow up safe, healthy and eager to learn. Serving children who are at-risk for school failure, they provide an outcome-based learning program. The Educare facility is designed with the child in mind, from spinning wooden blocks on the wall to a natural playground, the design lends itself to many developmentally-appropriate, teachable moments. They hope to instill in their children an excitement for learning that will follow them to their education in Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Head Start programs vary in an effort to tailor-fit solutions to the needs of the community in which it serves. There are two basic types of Head Start programs: a center-based program in which a child attends Head Start with other children, and a home-based program in which families and children receive a full range of services. Although they work to meet the unique needs of the community, Head Start adheres to the Head Start Performance Standards which govern administration and include four core components: health, education, parent involvement and social services.
A program mandated by federal and state law, SoonerStart is an early intervention program. It is designed to meet the needs of infants and toddlers with special needs or developmental delays and prepares them for a more successful school experience. Infants and toddlers through 36 months of age with developmental delays could be eligible for services.
There is no cost to families, and services may include:
• diagnostic and evaluation services.
• case management.
• family training, counseling and home visits.
• certain health services.
• nursing services.
• nutrition services.
• occupational, physical and speech and language therapy.
• special instruction.
Services are provided in the child’s natural environment (home or daycare).
Public School Four Year Old Progam (Pre-K)
Offered in a public school setting, prekindergarten classes are curriculum based and taught by a certified teacher. Typically a 10:1 child to teacher ratio, many classes are instructed with an additional teacher’s aide. Social skills, creative skills, language arts, math, motor skills, science, social studies and thinking/problem solving skills are taught throughout the course of the year.
For information and enrollment, contact your school district. Classes tend to fill quickly, so it’s important you stay informed of specific enrollment dates which vary district to district.
If you’re unsure about your child’s preschool or kindergarten readiness, it may be helpful to start with your child’s pediatrician to learn about which available programs may best fit with your family’s needs.
Julie Dill is a National Board Certified Teacher from Oklahoma City and mother of two.
Oklahoma Parents as Teachers:
Smart Start of Central Oklahoma:
Oklahoma City Educare:
Oklahoma Head Start:
Cleveland County, 405-321-4048
Oklahoma County, 405-271-9477