When my son was approaching three years old, I made enrolling him in a great preschool a top priority. Not only did I want him to learn how to interact and play with other kids, but I knew it would teach him valuable skills that would prepare him early for Kindergarten and beyond. (And, let’s be honest, I was definitely looking forward to a few hours of free time for myself!) So after talking to several other mom friends and doing some research of my own, we finally decided to enroll him at First School in Centerville – and we love it! If you’re considering a preschool program for your child, or have just always been curious about that little building on McEwen Rd., I’d love to tell you all about what makes this place so special.
Here are my 10 reasons why we love First School!
For years before I became a mom, I would pass this adorable little building and wonder what it was. Is it a daycare? (Nope.) Is it a special needs school? (Nope.) And why are there so many cars lined up there all the time? (Ah, the beauty of the pick-up/drop-off line!) When I started researching preschools in the area for my son, I got my answers… and then some!
Here’s what made me fall in love with it…
#1 It’s been around for a LONG time
First School has been around since 1971, and just celebrated its 45th year in operation. I was so impressed to hear that it’s been around for this long (a testament to its popularity), and several moms I talked to said that they had attended First School when they were little and were now enrolling their own children there. Love that! The school began as a prototype back in a time when there were very few high-quality, private preschools in the Dayton area. Instead of spinning it into a franchised school as planned and building additional facilities, the owners decided to keep it’s single location and focus on making this one school as successful as possible. Today, it’s a private, independent preschool.
This year there are nearly 150 children enrolled at First School today (ages 2-5 years). 13 teachers oversee the children, along with several aides, assistants, and even a Chinese teacher. Two directors oversee the school, including Stacey Yarger, the Director of Operations, and Shayna Shroeder, the Director of Curriculum.
#2 The pick-up/drop-off line
Ahhh yes… When I tell other moms about this little feature, I usually get a, “Whooooah… So jealous!” reaction every time. First School allows parents to pull up to the front of the building and drop their children off for school without moms having to set foot outside the car. The line is a little long (there are so many kids) but it moves quickly. Two or three teachers are always on-hand to open the door, help your child out of their car seat, and escort them safely up the stairs to the building. Then mom simply pulls away. Yes! This means you can safely wear your pajamas/not put on makeup/forget struggling with a baby in a pumpkin seat/disregard the bad weather/quickly pull away with the greatest of ease. It’s fabulous.
And when it’s time to pick up your child, First School provides a card with your child’s name on it that is held out your window as you wait in line. The kids are dismissed one at a time when the teachers see his/her name, then walk your child to your car, then parents pull forward to buckle up the kids. So. Easy.
#3 They have great programs for little ones
First School offers a variety of programs based on your child’s age, and the teachers do a wonderful job of working one-on-one with your child to help challenge them with a flexible curriculum.
Learn With Me – This program is perfect for parents who want to get their little ones famliar with the school environment without having to drop them off! Children to engage in age-appropriate activities with their parent or caregiver while an experienced teacher leads the group through art projects and snack time. It’s a great opportunity to discuss educational or behavioral issues with the teacher, and additional information and materials will be provided as an extension to the classroom. Children are not required to be potty-trained.
2 1/2 Year-Old – This is a great way for your little one to have a school experience with focus on socialization. A multi-sensory approach is taken to sharing, personal responsibility, and basic academics. Children are required to be potty-trained.
3-Year-Old – This classic preschool class helps students learn the alphabet and numbers, as well as socialization and getting along in the classroom. Older 3’s start to explore language patterns, math themes and creative development.
4-Year-Old – Four-year-olds use science, social studies, and art to form their understanding of language, math, fine and gross motor skills as they prepare for Kindergarten. Pre-reading and writing are important components of this school year.
Early 5’s – This child-centered learning environment challenges students in all academic areas with beginning reading, logic and problem solving in math, physical and life science, as well as citizenship and social skills. It’s an ideal program for kids who are not yet ready for Kindergarten.
Enrichment – Afternoon enrichment is a way for children to expand their academic knowledge and be challenged to create in new ways. Available to four-year-olds and members of the Early 5’s program, the Enrichment program focuses on critical thinking and encourages students to take on projects that interest them to go beyond what is possible in the average half-day classroom.
#4 Additional classes and Lunch Bunch
I was so impressed by the amount of additional learning opportunities at First School. Each month, there are new classes offered which allow students to either stay longer at school or come on a day they’re usually off to learn even more. Dylan’s participated in several of them, and has loved them all. Examples include: STEM, Animal Explorers, Dr. Seuss, To Shin Do (a martial arts class that emphasizes listening and self-confidence), Ooey Gooey Art, and more. On top of these additional classes, the school offers a Lunch Bunch program which allows students to stay at school a bit longer and eat a packed lunch with their friends, then work on additional enrichment activities and large motor skill building.
#5 They emphasize foreign language
I was surprised to learn that Chinese is taught to children of all ages as part of their daily curriculum. I’m amazed when Dylan comes home singing a song in Chinese that he’s learned at school! I love that he’s being exposed to different languages and cultures at such an early age.
#6 Teachers combine ages for additional learning opportunities
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that there are several ways throughout the day that kids are integrated with other ages to focus on teamwork and social skills when they’re not in their traditional classroom. For example, ages are combined for their Chinese class, their music class, and when they have free play outdoors. I love the idea of my son being able to interact with other children of varying skill levels.
#7 Teachers have the freedom to be creative
While teachers all follow state guidelines set by the Department of Education for their curriculum each year, they go above and beyond to tailor the class to suit the needs and interests of the children. For the first month or so of school, teachers focus on observing and learning about the children in their class. From there, they develop learning initiatives and units that the kids will learn and thrive from, not just what they’re told to teach.
#8 They have fun celebrations year-round, plus extra events and Summer Camp
Kids and teachers (and parents!) look forward to so many fun, traditional celebrations throughout the year. The Thanksgiving Feast invites parents to bring a dish to the school, eat a meal with the children and teachers, and enjoy a program put on by the kids. (Think turkey hats and lots of singing!) At Christmastime, parents are invited to bring candy and come decorate a gingerbread house with their children at the school. At Easter, the school hosted its annual Egg Factory day where parent volunteers helped the children dye and decorate their own Easter eggs, and get a magical egg surprise from the “egg factory” box! In addition to these events, the classes hold Halloween and Valentine’s Day parties, as well as a Mother’s Day Program and Father’s Friday, and International Week.
On top of all the holiday fun, First Schools frequently hosts additional events and field trips, including a Family Fun Night, Family Learning Nights, and field trips to local parks. Summer Camps are also offered to provide even more fun and enrichment after the school year is over.
#9 They have a great nature-scape playground
It’s hard to find a preschool in the area with a better play ground than First School’s. The fenced space surrounds 3/4 of the school and incorporates science learning opportunities with open play. Kids can explore the garden year-round and observe flowers and vegetables growing, and the fun playground equipment encourages lots of climbing and exploring. There’s so much free space for them to learn and play! Dylan always says that playing outside at school is his favorite part of the day.
#10 (My TOP Reason!) The teachers truly care about each student
I can’t emphasize enough how critical this is, especially if you’re putting your child into a preschool program for the very first time. Leaving my son with people who truly cared about him and loved him was my top priority when considering preschools. At such a young age, there is still so much nurturing and caring that needs to happen, not just basic education. From the first day Dylan met with his teacher, I felt confident that not only would he love being in her classroom, but that he would thrive in such a fun and caring environment. When his teacher had to take a leave of absence halfway through the school year, I was nervous about who would be replacing her. But his new teacher is just was wonderful and caring, and it’s made the whole transition seamless.
I have visited the school on many occasions to drop off a forgotten item (whoops), help participate in the classroom, attend parent-teacher conferences, or pick Dylan up from school early. And on every single visit, I have observed a teacher (not necessarily just my son’s) being extra-special in one way or another to a child…
I saw the look of concern and caring on their faces when Dylan had to be picked up early one day because he was sick. (“He’s just not quite himself today,” they said, and they were absolutely right.) I saw a child fall and hurt himself at a holiday party, then watched a teacher hold him close, examine his boo-boo, wipe his tears, and make him laugh until he was feeling better again. I saw them dress up in funny costumes for the Halloween party and get just as excited about the games as the kids were.
In more ways than I can count, I’ve seen how caring these teachers and directors are, and it’s reflected in Dylan’s love for his preschool.
If you’re looking to enroll your little on in a preschool program, I can’t recommend it enough. Learning independence, social skills, basic academics, and how to be away from mom with trusted adults is critical to kids development before entering Kindergarten. There are so many great options in the Dayton area, and this is the perfect time to enroll them for the 2016-2017 school year.
When checking out schools, its helpful to visit several different ones to see which might be the best fit for your child. Do you hear a lot of laughter and happiness in the building? Is it a welcoming environment? Do they incorporate play-based education and follow current academic trends? Do they focus on process vs. product when it comes to creative education? Knowing these answers will lead you to a decision your head and heart will be sure of, just like mine was when I visited First School for the first time.
If you’re interested in learning more about First School, or would like to set up a tour to see the facility and meet the teachers, contact Stacey Yarger, the Director of Operations at (937) 433-3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Do you and your child also love First School? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! 🙂
Special thanks to Stacey Yarger and Shayna Schroeder for the information they provided for this post!