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Head Start and Pre-K offer youngsters and families more than ABSs and 123s

By: Bonnie Davis Guy
Freelance Writer

Spring is here and with it comes school registration for young children entering school for the first time. Parents and their young children are looking forward to a whole new chapter in their lives. But for many families it’s a time of unknowns and concerns. Is their four-year-old too young to attend a school program such as Head Start or Pre-K? Are they making the right decision or will it be too structured for their child? Here are some encouraging facts to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety that all parents face when it’s time for their child to head off to school.
Head Start has been going strong in Johnson County for 50 years. During that time it has grown from a partial two-day a week program to a full day/ full week program. All the teachers with both Head Start and Pre-K are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. A certified Education Assistant certificate is required for all assistants in the classroom. So what does that mean and how is that different from a K-6 teaching degree? Teachers with an Early Childhood Education degree focus on the young child below grade three. In addition to standard teaching methods learned by all educators, they also learn the psychology behind how young children learn and can be taught most easily. This allows the teachers to build their curriculum in various ways that peak young children’s interest.
Head Start and Pre-K classes do focus on such things as learning to write your name and your phone number. Additionally, letters, numbers, addresses, math, and science are also required standards. The students are so young the primary method of teaching is not done with schoolbooks, paper, and pencil. It is achieved through play, small group activities, reading corners, games, and educational videos. Children have so much fun with the activities that the learning just happens naturally with no pressure. Every class is set up to help each child achieve personal success. The teachers and assistants get to know the children and their families so well they expertly navigate most issues and special circumstances with ease. The children have routines and they are taught through repetition what is expected of them so they can feel secure in how the day will go. The classrooms may be high energy but the daily routines and expert teaching methods used make the atmosphere very comforting for the students.

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