What does a quality early learning program look like?

orange room 001

The process of choosing an early learning program for your child can feel very daunting!  So many people give you advice and yet typically those people are not early childhood educators.  If you aren’t feeling well, you typically would see your health care provider.  If you need legal advice you contact a lawyer.  If you need an early learning program for your child you call your…?  You call an early learning program!

It is so important to find a school that works best not only for your child, but your entire family.  A program that creates an environment that is welcoming, safe, and nurturing.  With these 3 things in place a child will grow to be a confident person; eager to learn and ready to take advantage of all of the amazing learning opportunities a quality program has to offer!

So, what does quality look like?  When looking for an early learning program look for the following things:

* Staff credential.  Do the teachers have a degree in Early Childhood Education?

* Low staff turn over.  Knight Hall has an average tenure of 8 years!

* The curriculum should be based on solid educational theories and have an assessment that lines up nicely!

* Teachers should be actively involved with the children

* Children should be engaged and have options in the class room

* The classroom is organized, labeled and large enough for children to move from one area to another.  Please do not confuse organized with neat!  A typical class room is busy!  When I say organized I mean that shelves are labeled, materials have a specific place to be and that children are able to find and replace material with ease.  Our class rooms are “neat” twice a day, when we open and when we close!  In between there is a whole lot of learning going on and learning is messy!

* The walls should show children’s work, not teachers.  Activities and materials should be open-ended.  The emphasis here is on the process, not the end result.  The process is where the meat of learning lies.

* Most of all it should feel good when you walk in the door!

Please do not hesitate to ask the hard questions!  Plan to visit the program at least 2 time, one scheduled, one un-scheduled.  Plant yourself in a class room and watch and listen to what is happening.  Plan to visit at least 3 different schools.  This is the best way to get a sense of the right school for your family!

The importance of valuing relationships, connections and attachment

I have been reading and hearing so much about the social/emotional development of young children; the importance of developing connections and attachment.  This is nothing new to the practices at Knight Hall School.  Knight Hall School, since 1929 has been placing a huge emphasis on connections and attachment.  To say it is one thing, to practice is another.

I look around me at all of the different early childhood education and early care programs and it saddens me that many programs don’t focus on relationships, connections and attachment.  They say they do, but their practices tell a different story.  So, as a perspective family how do you know if the school you are looking at for your child promotes relationships, connections and attachment?  You ask about their business practices!  You ask about their personnel practices.

Knight Hall School spends a lot of time developing relationships, connections and attachment, it doesn’t happen over night.  I am going to provide a list of things that Knight Hall practices that promotes our strong belief of the importance of relationships, connections and attachment.

  1. Knight Hall School has 5 classrooms with 2 full-time educators in each class.  98% of our educator’s have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.  The importance of having a teaching staff with a degree in early childhood education is imperative.  Would you go to a lawyer who does not have a degree in law?  If the people educating your child are not educated in the field of early childhood education how effective can they truly be?  Our average teacher tenure is 10 years.  We recogonize that our teaching staff are true educational professionals and respects them as such!  Each educator receives a competitive salary, paid vacation time/personal time/sick days/holidays, life insurance, short term disability, medical benefits, and reimbursement for continuing education hours.
  2. Knight Hall School sets a schedule so that one teacher in each classroom is here to open the classroom at 7:30AM and their co-teacher stays until our closing time, 5:30PM.  This allows for the families to connect with someone who has been with their child throughout the day.  We do not use an outside service for substitute teachers when a full-time classroom teacher is out.  We have three full-time support staff with degrees in Early Childhood Education that assist in the classrooms on a routine basis.
  3. Children are enrolled in a classroom for a full year.  Remaining in the same classroom for a year, allows the children, teachers, and families to form strong attachments, create connections and develop trusting relationships with adults and other children.  We never move children for the sake of ratios or developmental milestones.
  4. All three preschool classrooms have been trained in and practice the RULER approach daily to help support children’s emotional development.  The RULER approach is supported by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.   Discover more about the RULER approach here:  http://ei.yale.edu/ruler
  5. Knight Hall School values the connections made with one another and therefore, we have a very strong sense of community.  Families are invited to participate in our monthly family “meet-ups” (i.e. Saturday morning playdates at the library, Mom or Dad’s Night Out, etc.) and our  various school sponsored events (Parent discussion groups, Annual Art Show and Fundraiser, Back To School Nights, Spring Celebration, etc).
  6. We encourage families to take an active role in their child’s day here at Knight hall School.   We welcome families to do this in ways that work best for their family structure–whether it is a daily phone call or email, joining the classroom for group time or a field trip, we strive to build a strong family-school connection.

We know that it takes a village to raise a child and look forward to being a part of that village!


“Play is the highest form of research” – Albert Einstein

When a person walks into our school they can’t help but notice the children playing.  People typically comment how nice it would be to play all day.  I usually nod and agree; knowing full well that I will have the opportunity to help that person understand what is happening as children play.  By the time they leave Knight Hall they will have learned that imbedded in all of that play is learning.  They will learn that each and every material is in the classroom for a specific reason and quite possibly for a specific child.  Once people understand that “play is the work of  the child” –  Maria Montessori, they begin to understand the importance and that not only is it nice, it’s necessary!

Each fall I find that I spend a lot of time helping perspective families understand why Knight Hall School is so deeply entrenched in the belief that a child must have the opportunity to learn through rich, thoughtful play experiences.  I have learned that families what their child(ren) to be happy and have the opportunity to play.  However, they find themselves worrying about early reading and writing.  The social pressures tend to outweigh their own inner understanding of their child.

I get the question; “how do you get my child ready for kindergarten?”  or “How do you teach my child to read?”.  My response is typically; ” We don’t”.  Our job, as early childhood educators is to help a child be the best they can possibly be for where they are developmentally at that moment.  If we get a child ready to be the best 3 year old they can be then they will becoming the best 4 year old they can be and that in turn will allow them to be ready for kindergarten and all that comes with that stage of development.  We build the foundation for reading, writing and math concepts.  It’s because they have a quality early childhood education that they become active and interested learners.  It’s because they are engaged with early childhood professionals that they have the opportunity do be involved in constant research projects!

Books on my shelf:

A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play – Vivian Gussin Paley

Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children – Miriam Beglovsky

Beautiful Stuff!: Learning With Found Materials – Cathy Weisman


Is it spring yet?!

I am sitting in my office and I can hear the youngest children in our school (1 year olds) literally bouncing off of the walls!  This winter has been such a challenge for all of the children in our school, and their teachers!  We firmly believe that children have the right to be outside as much as possible!  However, this winter has thrown so many obstacles in our way to provide that right.  The cold and the depth of snow have been our major challenges.

I have watched as the teachers come up with new and inventive ways to help the children exert energy in ways that are safe, yet satisfying.  The 2 year olds have been working on a larger than life, paper mache alligator.  this allows them to use big body motions, large brush strokes,  constant motion uses up some energy.  The 1 year old class has see-saws, ride on toys and climbing stairs.  They also have been filling their sensory table with snow!  A great way for the children to experience the lovely white fluffy stuff without having to actually be in the stuff!  Our preschoolers have created obstacle course, created large building with big heavy blocks and most peacefully practiced yoga.  The preschoolers have had a few opportunities to get outside; when the temperature cooperated!

Teaching young children is all about flexibility and creativity!  The teaching staff at Knight Hall works hard to bring meaningful play into the classroom, no matter what the obstacles may be!

So, let’s hope that winter is on its way out and spring is on its way in!



Knight Hall recognized for their outstanding program

Hulafrogs _1 Most Loved Badge-Facebook-404-Preschool

Knight Hall was recognized within our community as the #1 Most Loved preschool in the West Hartford area!  We are humbled and grateful!

We are currently number 3 in a national running!  If Knight Hall is voted the #1 Most Loved preschool in the country we will win a $15,000 playground!  We are so excited!  If you would like to vote for Knight Hall go to Hulafrog.com, click on preschools, scroll down to find Knight Hall and click on the heart!  It’s easy and fast.  Hulafrog is an awesome website for families.  They provide a wealth of activities for young children and many of the activities are free!!!!

We’ll keep you posted!!

A new school year

We are 3 weeks into our new school year!  The children are all beginning to settle into their new classrooms, getting use to their new routines and new teachers.  It can be a bit of a wild ride, but we all know it does settle down about 3 weeks in!

I’m constantly in awe of the trust shown us by not only the parents, but by the children as well.  Starting with a new team of teachers, in a new classroom is a bit overwhelming even for our children and families that have been with us for years!  We work hard to help build a trusting relationship with the entire family.  Please know that your child’s teachers are always willing and open to hear from you!  Please feel free to email them or give them a call.  The best time to reach the teachers is between 1:30-2:30.  We will also be having Parent/Teacher Conferences during the week of Oct. 20.  Keep an eye out for the sign up sheet in your child’s classroom.

Thank you so much for sharing your child or children with us!  we are so honored to be a part of your child’s early years!

Children’s Nutrition

Last night the parents and teachers of Knight Hall School had a wonderful opportunity to learn about the importance of nutrition not only for their child, but for themselves as well.  There were many questions about picky eaters, serving sizes and varieties of food.  A lot has changed since the day of the Food pyramid!  My Plate is the new “Food Pyramid”!  To learn more about My Plate, please go to myplate.gov

A few people asked about cookbooks.  I am providing a list of my favorite cookbooks to use with children.  If you click on the links you will be redirected to Amazon.com  If you purchase a book from the link, Knight Hall gets a small percentage of your purchase!

Kinder Krunchies by Karen S. Jenkins

Honest Pretzels By Molly Katzen

Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson

Happy cooking!

What is on my bookshelf?

During a conversation last night a parent asked if I would be willing to share my favorite development books.  I went home and looked on my bookshelf and my bedside table.  There are so many choices!  I noted some of my “always go to”, and “spend the most time getting back from friends” books. Not in order of favorites with the exception of number 1!  T. Berry Brazelton is a development genius, in my opinion!

Teacher by day, actor by night!

You may be surprised to learn that our teaching staff have many talents!  Bev, who teaches in the Blue Room, showcased her talents this past weekend in, Shrek, the Musical!  The show opened at the Warner Theater in Torrington, Ct this past Friday.  Many of the children from Knight Hall have or plan to attend!  Sam’s mom shared this photo of Sam meeting up with Bev after the show.  Sam seems to be very proud to call this little piggy his teacher!!!

Tickets are still available.  The show runs through August 4, 2013.