By Erin Marsh and Laura Eliason
Benefits of Preschool
Sending your tiny 3-year-old to preschool may be daunting, but study after study reveals the same finding: children who attend public preschools are better prepared for kindergarten than those who don’t. Experts in the field of early childhood education compiled their research into one cumulative report:
“The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects,” and the authors include big names from the early childhood world, all of whom work for prestigious universities, such as Duke, Vanderbilt, and Georgetown.
They break down their findings into the following:
•All children benefit from preschool, but poor and
disadvantaged children make the most gains.
•Children who are dual-language learners make larger strides in their English-language proficiency and other academic skills when they attend preschool.
•Children are immersed in a diverse atmosphere when attending preschool, which has social advantages for children of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
•Not all preschool programs are alike.
•Do your research and ask around. Preschools with a “well-implemented, evidence-based curriculum” who hire qualified teachers and then continue to train those teachers have a higher
success rate in general.
Preschool vs. Childcare
While the terms preschool and childcare are used interchangeably, and despite the fact that they share similarities, they are decidedly different.
Preschool programs aim to prepare toddlers for school, with a greater emphasis on early learning and academics. Preschool typically only accepts children ages 3 to 5 and tends to have more teachers with training in Early Childhood Education. Preschool curriculums generally follow the school calendar, which means they are closed during holidays and summer vacation, and they maintain typical school hours, usually something like 8 to 3 with the option of half days.
Childcare refers to any setting where a child is looked after — from a nanny to a daycare. Daycares generally leave plenty of time to explore and incorporate play-based learning, and many daycares now also include structured early learning and pre-academics. Childcare centers generally accept infants up to school-age children with the option of extended care before and after school hours for working parents.
Bemis Farms Childcare and Preschool
77 W. Bemis Rd., Saline | 734-944-1709
As a NAEYC accredited program, Bemis Farms offers childcare and preschool for children ages 6 weeks to pre-kindergarten. They also offer before and after-care for school age children with transportation to and from Saline schools. Located on 18 tranquil acres with multiple age-appropriate playgrounds, Bemis Farms provides a complete program using the HighScope Curriculum that focuses on active participatory learning. Staff members are professionally trained, and committed to providing personalized attention and care to each child.
Vineyard Children’s Center
2275 Platt Rd. | 734-929-0300
Vineyard Children’s Center provides childcare and early education for children from 6 weeks to 5 years of age. They focus on responsive and individualized learning experiences using Creative Curriculum and Teaching Strategies Gold Assessments to tailor daily activities for each child. We are committed to providing children with a safe, nurturing and interesting environment that promotes development in all area’s of their life including socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually. Offering the most affordable and flexible enrollment options in Ann Arbor. Visit our website for a comprehensive pricing list for each program. We are currently enrolling for every classroom including infants, toddlers, two’s, preschool and pre-k.
Creating Brighter Futures
4201 Varsity Dr. | 734-926-0740
Creating Brighter Futures provides center-based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and speech therapy services for children with autism or other developmental disorders, ages 2-18 years old. Their goal is to provide the skills, teaching environments, and learning opportunities necessary to improve the quality of life for each client in a center-based setting.
Stone School Cooperative Preschool
2811 Stone School Rd. | 734-971-4820
Stone School Cooperative Preschool promotes children’s natural curiosity of exploration, discovery and play while celebrating the uniqueness of each child. They offer a 2-day or 3-day half day program (am or pm), a 3-day all day program, aftercare and an assist buyout program. All classes are mixed-aged for three to six year olds.
Types of Preschool and Childcare Options
Montessori: Montessori, a program developed over 100 years ago by physician and educator Maria Montessori, emphasizes nature, creativity and hands-on learning with gentle guidance from teachers. Students are allowed the freedom and independence to explore in order to develop their character, life skills and academic ability.
Parent Co-ops: Parents are actively involved in the education of their little one and work closely with the classroom teachers. Parents and children learn together in this hands-on approach, teaching cooperation and how to resolve conflict. Some co-ops request daily parent participation while others require classroom visits once a week or once a month.
Play-based: Most preschools are play-based or child-centered, allowing children to choose activities based on their interests. Classrooms typically have multiple play/learning centers, such as a kitchen, science area, sensory table, reading nook, building station, etc, and preschoolers are free to choose their preference. Teachers facilitate play and social interactions so that students can grow in their social and emotional intelligence, which is a key component of preschool.
Academic-based: Teacher-directed preschools lead the students in a structured way to complete the activities the teacher planned for the day. The goal of an academic preschool is to prepare children for the kindergarten setting. Classroom time is devoted to learning letters and sounds, identifying shapes, telling time, and other academic skills.
The Discovery Center
775 S. Maple Rd. | 734-663-7496
The Discovery Center is an early childhood program for 2.5-5-year-olds that has been serving families in the Ann Arbor area since 1974. With a highly-educated and experienced staff, a modern building designed specifically for their use, and a nurturing, flexible program, the staff at The Discovery Center believes the environment created there for young children is ideal. The Discovery Center has been an accredited program through the National Association for the Education of Young Children since 1993. The Discovery Center provides an environment that encourages each child to approach optimum physical, social, emotional, aesthetic, and intellectual growth. Their programs are based on an open classroom approach with emphasis on a hands-on, experiential environment. The classroom environment encourages each child to explore “discovery centers” set up by the staff and to participate in a full range of activities occurring throughout the day. The program is also enhanced by outside specialists who provide Spanish, music, and storytelling enrichment activities.
Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor
2775 Newport Rd.
734-995-4141 | steinerschool.org
Rudolph Steiner School of Ann Arbor’s philosophy is that young children learn best in a warm, homelike environment where the curriculum is imparted naturally through daily activities, and where play is central to the program. They intersperse this play with vibrant storytelling, gardening, cooking, and art activities. They lay the groundwork for literacy with our daily Language Arts circle. Poems, songs, stories and movement games deepen vocabulary, increase overall language facilities, and strengthen listening and concentration. Their classes also participate in German and Spanish immersion classes led by native speakers. Additionally, Parent-Child classes are offered for parents and children from infancy to age three.
Washtenaw Intermediate School District – Head Start and Great Start Readiness Programs
The Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) is the grantee for the federal Head Start Program and Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), pre-kindergarten programs for low to moderate income families. WISD partners with all local school districts, along with a number of community-based preschool providers, to ensure that high quality classroom-based programs are available at 30 sites in every community of the county. Programs are completely free for eligible three and four year-olds. Detailed information about program eligibility, program schedules, transportation, and specific site locations is available at washtenawpreschool.org.
Families can submit an interest form for the 2019-20 school year through the website beginning March 1. If you have additional questions, please call WISD at 734-994-8100 x1551.
Early Learning Center Preschool
3070 Redwood Dr. | 734-973-7722
The Early Learning Center believes that young children learn best through exploratory play. They offer a variety of both directed and non-directed activities to encourage children to develop a strong sense of curiosity, self-esteem, and independence. The NAEYC accredited school is a traditional half-day preschool program that serves children that are 2.5-5 years of age. They are run by a parent board of volunteers so families have an active role in decision making in the program. Each classroom is composed of two teachers with Bachelor’s degrees in Education who team-teach and work together to make sure that each child is getting a well-rounded preschool experience.
Questions to Ask When Visiting/Interviewing Preschools and Daycare Centers:
o What does an average day look like?
o Is the curriculum play-based or academic-based or Montessori?
o What kind of support does the school offer for children with special needs?
o Does the center offer half days and/or full days?
o Does the center have early drop off and/or late pick up for working parents?
o Is lunch provided for children who stay a full day?
o Is the location and program a good fit for your child and family?
o What is the adult to child ratio?
o What training/certifications and experience do the teachers hold?
o How long has the school been operating?
o What kind of diversity does the school offer?
o What sets this school apart from others?
o Think about your child’s personality & ask if the school would be a good fit for him/her?
o What is the school’s Step Up to Quality star rating?
o Ask for a parent referral so you can talk about the school from a parent’s perspective.