Alternative preschool options such as Kindergarten Prep use a variety of interactive and hands-on materials to prepare students academically and socially in a safe and controlled environment. This mode of learning is not only beneficial to the long-term development of students, it can add district enrollment and long-term retention earlier by appealing to parents seeking flexibility when choosing a path for their young learner.
“For many families, the challenges of learning in a brick-and-mortar environment vary widely,” says April Warren, Head of Schools at California Virtual Academies (CAVA). “The option to learn at-home in a supportive environment may be the most appropriate for their lifestyle, goals, and/or needs.”
Flexibility for Parents = Students for Districts
For many families, a preschool or pre-K program is the first outside influence to which their children will be exposed. Being able to participate in the program with their child can ease anxiety and offer a reassuring sense of confidence that the program will create a positive experience that aligns with their values.
“With pre-K and kindergarten being the first time students experience structured learning, it can be overwhelming,” says Ryder. “In the online format, teachers and parents ease the process by consistently meeting with students to help facilitate the foundation of friendships by recognizing and greeting classmates by name, as well as sharing and discussing common interests. This also includes providing a platform to safely and comfortably learn about others who share different interests and values.”
For some parents, this controlled environment relieves a great deal of stress or concern about potential bullying or other tricky and unfamiliar social situations young learners might not have the tools to negotiate. Some children who could benefit greatly from an online preschool program such as Kindergarten Prep might have developmental delays that could lead to inappropriate behaviors and a negative first school experience. Participating in a program with a parent or caretaker allows all students the ability to freely learn in a comfortable environment.
“When preschoolers hit, kick, scream, use harsh language, or refuse to follow adult instructions, their peers don’t feel safe. This is why school administrators, teachers and child-care professionals often resort to suspending or expelling a child who behaves in aggressive or harmful ways,” says P. Gail Williams, MD, who authored a recent report about the harm of early age expulsion
Modern learning uses collaboration via built-in caregiver support. A high-value program engages young learners in an accessible way, creating an option for parents who want early childhood learning but need or want their child home (for medical, safety or other reasons).
“We believe students learn best through hands-on activities in a supportive environment that fosters learning,” says Warren. “For some students, families who can share in that learning at home is the preferred option, due to the safety, privacy, and comfort it provides. Some families need alternative solutions to help support their child in their learning journey.”
Offering online personalized options gives all parents the flexibility they need to choose the right path for their child without changing districts. By creating this type of comfortable environment, schools can earn parents’ trust. Building this trust through online and blended learning can encourage families to keep their learners enrolled to ensure younger siblings have access to that same successful outcome. In particular, Kindergarten Prep’s versatility is key, offering integration as a grade level to an existing full-time school, as a pre-K program to a custom online school or as a standalone product to a school district.
“The need for families in some districts to have access to free Transitional Kindergarten (TK) is urgent,” says Warren. “Many of our local parents are forced to spend thousands of dollars per month in childcare for their young children. In this case, our tuition-free program is a viable option for them. Last year, 88% of our TK graduates stayed in-district, re-enrolling in the kindergarten program.”
Online Pre-K is Social and Interactive
A Case for Online PreK
California Virtual Academies (CAVA) are nine independent online public charter schools that use Stride Learning Solutions curriculum and tools. CAVA utilizes the Kindergarten Prep curriculum with early learners using themes such as: “Family and Friends,” “My Five Senses,” and “Looking at Animals.” Six subjects are covered in each unit: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Music, and Art.
“Our mission is to achieve academic growth while cultivating social and emotional competence for all students. Research studies have demonstrated the powerful benefits of game-based learning for children who have grown up with technology,” said CAVA’s Head of School, April Warren. “The engagement and interactivity that games offer not only make learning fun, but also enhance children’s retention and application of knowledge.”
● 93% of 2022 CAVA students had 100% mastery of math essential standards by end of year.
● 29% of their students demonstrated math proficiency at the start of the school year, increasing to 81% by end of year.
● 11% of students demonstrated reading proficiency at the start of the school year, increasing to 73% by end of year.
● 88% of CAVA’s 2022 Kindergarten Prep graduates stayed in-district, reenrolling in the kindergarten program.
CAVA students meet daily with their teacher and classmates in a video-enhanced environment fostering socialization, daily learning goals, and social-emotional learning while utilizing provided offline materials such as reading books, manipulatives, flashcards, foam dice, science kits, social studies kits, and more.
“The shift to online learning has shown an increase since pre-pandemic levels across the country and continues to work for many families and students,” says Suzanne McCarty, Director of Elementary TK-2. “Providing the opportunity to choose an online learning environment is something we’re proud to offer parents, as an individualized approach and a means to help their child thrive in their educational journey.”
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an important element of creating a well-rounded student. These interpersonal lessons start early and despite preconceptions, do not require a physical game of duck-duck-goose or shared box of crayons to impart. Many of the social skills practiced in a traditional classroom are just as present, if not more so, when a student is learning from the comfort of their own home.
“A big element of SEL is empathy,” says Cheryl Ryder, SEL Instructor and Elementary Director K-2 at Friendship Charter School Online. “Children using the online format learn valuable lessons about teamwork and cheering for others. Children learn patience as they wait for their turn to speak and share information. In the online platform, students are encouraged to express their feelings using appropriate vocabulary and are provided with useful tools to help regulate their emotions. Students are not face-to-face, however the importance of learning other’s names is highly regarded.”
Ryder observes that recognizing familiar letters and sounds has led students to bond over commonality between their names. Insight into their home life and everyday recreational activities can also offer opportunities for connection.
“With use of various manipulatives (supplied by the Kindergarten Prep curriculum) and everyday items in the home, children are involved with hands-on learning,” says Ryder. “A perk of the online platform is as children learn, lessons can be extended by visiting libraries, museums, parks, etc. Educational videos further enhance learning, encouraging the use of imagination.”
Interactive formats featuring vibrant visuals and creative guided activities offer access to young learners of all abilities. Online or offline, customized plans using physical resource elements such as hands-on resources and video environment connection opportunities allow educators to provide support to students at a flexible pace – matching individual progress and developmental goals. The online format allows more control over social situations, keeping young minds from wandering and staying on-task for best outcomes.
“Our program focuses on building essential skills for problem solving, implementing language in learning and age-appropriate collaborative social skills,” says Warren. “We incorporate puppets, songs, dance, and more to inspire our littlest scholars. We then break out into smaller academic learning sessions that focus on achieving milestones in math, language, science, social studies, fine motor skills, music, and art based on the preschool learning foundational standards.”
Prep for Kindergarten and Beyond
Created by developmental psychologists and academics, Kindergarten Prep is cutting-edge and national award-winning online solution. The program empowers children ages 3-5 with skills that will serve them long after they move their tiny tassels to the side and head on to elementary school. Programs which personalize learning and adapt to each child’s own pace of learning not only offer a safe and flexible entry into the world of education, but in an age of endless digital opportunities, teach invaluable tools for the future.
“The increased use of technology can not be denied,” says Ryder. “Students as young as four easily develop the skills to navigate online technology, thus establishing a foundation for the future. Students can learn about themselves, their community and the world, right at their fingertips. Face-to-face encounters are important, however the ability to learn in a safe, inspiring, informative, interactive, environment has lasting benefits and positively affects self esteem.”
The true value in a program such as Kindergarten Prep is the versatility to help not only students and their families, but districts by offering a robust range of learning solutions to help all children achieve success.
“Learning should be meaningful and should build connections to prior knowledge or experiences,” says Warren. “While children learn differently, all children are able to learn. Therefore, some children and families need alternative solutions to help support their child in their learning journey.”
Learn more about how Kindergarten Prep can work for your needs at: https://stridels.com/curriculum/stride-sprouts