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Patriot's Perspective: Beginning 'school' - the new role of School Readiness Program

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Minnesota schools are taking a more aggressive role in offering classes that prepare young children to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

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A School Readiness program is a key opportunity for families to enroll their 3- to 5-year-old child in a Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)-sponsored early learning service to prepare for kindergarten.

The Pequot Lakes School Readiness program serves students who are 4 to 5 years old and one year away from entering kindergarten. Students attend class twice a week for five hours per week for 32 weeks, or 160 hours of classroom interaction.

There are four sections of School Readiness offered. Openings in School Readiness remain for fall 2013-14. Call Sarah Tabaka, Early Childhood coordinator, at 218-562-7520 to sign up your child for a preschool opportunity.

The Pequot Lakes School District also offers a Learning Is Fun preschool program for children who are 3 to 4 years old. This program is offered along with a traditional Early Childhood Family Education class that provides instruction for the parent and the child.

The Pequot Lakes School Readiness program and the Learning Is Fun program will implement a new curriculum, Big Day for Pre- K, this fall. The Big Day for Pre-K curriculum focuses on a knowledge theme and a social-emotional theme to provide intentional instruction in all learning domains: social-emotional development, oral language and vocabulary, emergent reading, emergent writing, mathematics, science, social studies, fine arts, physical development and technology.

The social-emotional themes are integrated into the knowledge theme. Social-emotional themes are cooperation, kindness, responsibility, attention, initiative, self- awareness, curiosity and persistence.

Big Day for Pre-K classes are organized with circle time, learning centers, snack, outdoor time/indoor play time and quiet time.

The thematic curriculum includes Ready for School, My Family, Our Community, Awesome Animals, Imagine It-Make It, Growing Up Healthy, Nature All Around Us and Moving On.

Reading is a big part of the curriculum. Parents will be able to access books online to do additional work with their child from home.

Preparing to enter kindergarten ready to learn has become the work of preschool-aged children and their families. Minnesota legislative support for pre-K education has grown. Minnesota is rolling out a Parent Aware Rating System to assess the level of program quality in early learning services (child care and education based programs).

The Pequot Lakes School Readiness, Stay and Play Extended Day and Learning Is Fun programs have completed the rating process and received a four-star rating. This top level rating indicates that the programs teach from an approved curriculum, evaluate student progress using an approved assessment process and have instruction provided by highly qualified teachers.

To learn more about the rating system, go to www.parentawareratings.org.

Starting in 2014, state-sponsored Early Learning Scholarships will be available in Crow Wing County for eligible families with a preschool-aged child who is enrolled in a high quality child care or early education program that has been accredited by Parent Aware.

Learning is a lifelong process. School Readiness is one step in the formal education journey. As a parent, you have the opportunity to get your child off to the best possible start to their education by signing them up for School Readiness, Stay and Play Extended Day or Learning Is Fun preschool programs.

The Pequot Lakes School programs offer quality education every step of the way.

(Julie Despot is Pequot Lakes Community Education director.)

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