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What Exactly IS 4K?

In Verona, the program is called PreK, but in other communities, it may be called 4K, or even 4 year old kindergarten. First of all, it’s NOT kindergarten. PreK, as I’ll refer to it here, is a play-based, publicly funded program to offer four year olds an early school experience prior to the kindergarten year.

PreK offers universal access, meaning it is available to all age eligible children in the school district, regardless of income or special conditions. The program is optional and families may choose to participate or decline, with kindergarten being the first mandatory school experience in Wisconsin. In 2015, out of 413 total public elementary school districts in Wisconsin, 399 offered a PreK program.  Enrollment in the programs has more than doubled since 2001. Many people feel the difficult economy over those years contributed to the growth, as fewer families could afford to privately pay for preschool classes.

In many districts, PreK is offered through a community approach, with the program operating within existing community sites who work in collaboration with their school district. In Verona, this is the case, with private sites employing their own staff as teachers for PreK. The focus is on a play-based curriculum with social/emotional skills a key part of the goals established for children. In addition, children are introduced to early academics to build strong skills which will be further developed in kindergarten and the early elementary years.

One of the best ways to explain PreK is to look at the vision statement for the program in the Verona Area School District:

“Effective 4-year-old programming needs to include hands-on learning, culturally competent instruction, developmentally appropriate curriculum, access to early learning experiences for all 4-year-olds, and continued community, family and […]

By |February 10th, 2017|Child Care|0 Comments|

Family Meal Time – “Pass the Potatoes, Please”

Does your kitchen table function as a dumping ground for “stuff” more often than it meets its true purpose? For many of us, we seem to spend less and less time eating around a family table and more time grabbing a bite to eat in the car, eating a meal in front of the TV, or spending meal time at a home or office desk. Eating a meal together around a table has become a rare thing for far too many people.

By not eating together as families, we are missing out on some valuable experiences we should be sharing with our children. Table manners are best learned at a table. Children who never have the experience don’t learn about basic matters of etiquette like sitting politely, trying new foods, not playing with our food, using table utensils appropriately, and asking to be excused when finished. Even more importantly, time spent enjoying a meal with family is bonding time. It’s the perfect time to connect with each other about what’s going on in our lives, what great things happened that day, or what frustrated and upset us. Keeping those connections becomes more and more important as our children become teen-agers. As parents, we need to know who our children are spending time with inside and outside of school. Being too out of touch with our children opens the door to them feeling they have no need to be accountable. Parents who seem disinterested send the message that kids are on their own and children aren’t always equipped to make responsible decisions.

Realistically, we all lead busy lives and it’s not always possible for families to eat together. By making a little effort though, we can use […]

By |January 23rd, 2017|Child Care|0 Comments|

The Shy Child

“He/She needs to stop being so shy!” If you’re the parent of a shy child, you’ve probably heard other adults say this about your child. You might have said it yourself. But, how much of a problem is it really? Children come in all shapes and sizes with all different personalities. If your child has been labelled as shy, you might want to consider their particular circumstances.How old are they? Many very young children just haven’t been around other children much and are overwhelmed by the experience initially.Do they have friends that they do interact with comfortably? Some children prefer the experience of playing in smaller groups where they are less likely to encounter conflicts over what to play and how to play it.Do they seem happy over all? Not all people are cut out to be exuberant and outgoing. It’s O.K.Does it keep them from participating in things they want to do? If so, they may need some coaching and help from you to develop a plan to slowly move past their current comfort zone. Start to talk with your child about how they see themselves and how they feel about that.Is it interfering with their school performance? Have an honest discussion with your child’s teacher about the situation and how you can work together to help your child.Is this a change from previous behavior? If so, you may want to do some digging to try to determine what has changed. Is there any teasing happening at school or home? Is your child self-conscious about something? Was your child a victim in some way and they are feeling scared or vulnerable?If your child is young, a great book to share to help you […]

By |January 3rd, 2017|Child Care|0 Comments|

A Twist on New Year’s Resolutions

Every year at this time we start to think about the parts of our lives that we wish we handled better and we set about writing resolutions about how we’re going to be better people in the new year. It always sounds good on paper, but then reality sets in and the lofty goals we had for the year start to fizzle and become more of a burden and a sense of guilt.

This year I propose something a little different. Many resolutions by nature have a negative feel to them – “what should I be doing instead of what I really am doing?” For 2017 I suggest you put a twist on the negativity and begin creating a family fun document called very simply, “The List.” This has to be a good old-fashioned paper document that you keep somewhere obvious – on the refrigerator, on a family bulletin board, etc.

So, what goes on “The List?” Do you ever hear about a fun new restaurant your family might want to try? Put it on “The List.” Heard someone talking about a movie their family loved? Put it on “The List.” What else? Parks you haven’t been to, small towns with interesting attractions, a new recipe the family might like to try, a card game or board game you played with your family as a child, a new exhibit at The Children’s Museum, a new animal at the zoo to go visit, a campground your neighbors raved about, a store you heard is opening up, something fun you saw on Pinterest……… Driving by something in your car that looks “list worthy?” Put it in your phone (if you’re not the driver) to add when you get […]

By |December 20th, 2016|Child Care|0 Comments|

Teaching Restaurant Manners

If your family is like most, eating meals out isn’t reserved for special occasions anymore. A quick look at a number of surveys shows general agreement that most Americans eat a meal out between 4 and 5 times per week.

With restaurant dining so much a part of normal routines, many families ask about when and how to teach their children some basic manners appropriate for the restaurant. Even preschoolers are ready to learn about simple dining out etiquette. We have a few suggestions to share before you head out.

Sit at the table for the meals you do eat at home. The busy lifestyles we lead have greatly reduced the number of times we sit down at our tables as a family. When children aren’t used to sitting at a table for a meal, expecting them to know what to do at a restaurant is a stretch.
Practice manners at the family table. Model what you want to see and explain to children what you are doing. Set standards for basic table manners at home and praise children for using their manners.
Play restaurant at home. Children love pretend play. Adding a candle to the table and a fun tablecloth can transform your kitchen table to Chez Anyplace. Explain how basic manners are taken up a notch when dining out.
Be reasonable about where you choose to dine with your children. Look for family friendly places and remember that booths may offer a little more “wiggle room” than a straight backed chair. Save the fancy restaurants for date night or for when the kids have mastered their skills.
Don’t wait until your children are “starving.” If you take a very hungry child to […]

By |December 13th, 2016|Child Care|0 Comments|