Classes help children prepare for school

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 04/15/97.

Children can get their first experience of school in a comfortable, relaxed setting. During Week of the Young Child, the Press explored the Early Childhood Family Education program at the Paynesville Area Elementary School.

The ECFE program gives parents of preschool children a time to share and learn effective parenting techniques. Moms and dads receive instructions from child care professionals and share experiences with other parents of young children.

ECFE is divided into two age groups: 0-3, 3-6 years of age. ECFE also covers special education and learning readiness. The ECFE classes meet Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Two sessions are held a year, fall/winter from September to December and winter/spring, January to April. There are 65 (parents and children) registered in this session.

A typical class period includes parent-child activities, circle time activities, parent discussion, story time, art, and free play. For those who cannot attend the daytime program, evening classes and home visits are offered.

Activities are designed to promote positive self-esteem and effective communication in both parents and children. Sessions also supplement the discovery and learning experiences of children and provide access to family related resources.

Learning Readiness is a program that was established to help prepare children for kindergarten. The children spend five and a half hours a week playing, learning and socializing with other preschoolers. A referral must be made by a parent, teacher, or other professional for a child to be considered for the program.

The teachers work on the studentís sensory skills, large and small motor skills, cognitive development (thinking reasoning skills), in addition they learn their letters and colors.

Each week a theme is selected and the teachers work from there. During the first 45 minutes of the class, the parent and child are together doing activities. For the last 45 minutes, the parents talk together with an instructor and the children go off and do an activity. In the parent session, the parents share ideas, frustrations and seek advice from others. During the child session, the children hear a story, do an art activity, eat a snack and do free play.

The classes provide good one-on-one time for parents and their children. Often times there are other children at home and the children donít always get one-on-one time with their parents in a home setting.

Diane Schultz, who has three children, says the class gives her one-on-one time with Alyssa, 5. ďI spend an hour at school in playtime then head back to work,Ē she said. Alyssa has been enrolled in the program since she was three.

Ann Friederichs feels the class helps Zachery, 5, develop social skills. ďIt provides him a chance to interact with other kids his age. It is also wonderful for me to talk to other parents, share issues we have in common and for me to learn that my kids are not the only ons going through this phase,Ē she said.

Pam Pfeifer explained the Early Childhood Special Education program helps kids who are developmentally delayed. The problems are spotted in preschool screening or they are referred by a doctor or parent. Delays just mean they are not developing at a typical rate or they may have a diagnosed disability.

ďWe work in the areas where they are delayed, helping the children to catch up to their peers before starting kindergarten. The lessons are more individually based. Sometimes it is as simple as self-help skills, teaching them to dress themselves; gross motor skills: hopping, skipping or jumping; and fine motor skills, picking things up with their fingers.

ECFE teachers are Kim Thompson and Dina Hengel. Special Education instructors are Sue Currens (servicing 0 to 6-year-olds), Pam Pfeifer (servicing 3 to 6-year-olds) and Karen Mumm (speech/language clinician).

To learn more about the program, contact the school at 320-243-3725 or 320-243-7543.

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