I was approached a few weeks ago and asked to speak to you tonight about my child’s experience at Building Blocks. I was most happy to oblige.
I was told that I was asked to speak because my situation is a bit unique. I have two daughters: Emma is 7 and in Grade 2 early French immersion, and Laura is 4, and is enrolled here at Building Blocks in JK. My older daughter did not attend BB, but for various reasons I decided to enroll my youngest in the program here. So the unique thing is that I have had an opportunity to compare and contrast, in my own private science lab, the benefits of the early childhood education program offered at BB as compared to the public school system in which my oldest child was enrolled for both JK and SK.
I think that the main reason my husband and I chose BB for Laura was that we were a bit discouraged by her older sister’s experience and progress in her kindergarten years, particularly in SK. She is a very bright little girl (although I know I am biased saying this!) and we felt that we, as two busy working parents, were really the ones providing the core parts of her education in kindergarten, particularly with reading. It really did feel like more of a daycare in her SK year than a school. She was in a very large classroom, a combined JK/SK class, and we don’t really think that enough individual attention was paid to her progress. I had no real issues with her teacher, and I think that the teachers at the school in general did the best that they could with the time and resources they were allotted, but I felt overall that she wasn’t given the chance to shine I would have wished.
In particular, her reading skills by the end of SK were still below what I felt she should have achieved. She was still having difficulty “chunking” words and reading complete simple sentences. I spent quite a bit of time with her in order to ensure that she was reading at a higher level over that summer between SK and grade 1. Since I had planned for her to attend French immersion starting in grade one (which is the Peel public board’s option for early immersion), it was very important to me that her comprehension and achievement in English was solid for her grade level. I am very happy to say that Emma is doing very well in French immersion and that her English skills are also above average for her grade level. But it took some work on our part, and I think it could have been an easier transition had she had a more solid academic beginning in kindergarten.
However, with Laura, we felt that we wanted to avoid this issue altogether, and we knew from word of mouth that the students at BB would be given the attention and program goals I felt were lacking in the public program Emma had attended. Laura started at BB when she was not quite 3 years old (in Feb 2007) for preschool, and she continued preschool in 2007-2008, and this past year 2008-2009 she has been enrolled in JK here.
In a nutshell, she LOVES school. It was so different for me to hear my kindergarten child asking to go to school, whereas her sister just hated it at the same age. She loves her friends here, the teachers, the crafts, and yes, even the work. She loves to do her “homework” at the same time as her sister in the afternoons, and her progress in these past few months has been amazing. It really hit home to me the difference between her and her sister, comparing their academic progress at the same age, this past Christmas. We were writing out letters to Santa, and Laura wrote hers all by herself. She is only 4. She sounded out all the words by herself, and wrote out the entire letter to Santa by herself. Granted, the spelling and punctuation was not perfect, but what I noticed was entirely different from her sister at that age was her concept of putting the sounds together and writing them out. That just blew us away! I feel very confident that she will have an easier transition to grade one French immersion eventually, and yes she will be completing SK here as well!
I can say with no ambivalence that the teachers here are dedicated, caring, nurturing, and that they go above and beyond for their students and the families. In hindsight, I wish it had been possible that my oldest child could have attended here as well, but in life we learn from our past experiences and move on. I hope that sharing my family’s experience with BB will help you make your decision.