by Sallie Warmath, Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management
Kindergarten is a big step in the life of a five-year-old -- even for children who have been in a preschool or childcare for years. It’s the official start of formal classroom education and as many preschoolers exclaim, they can’t wait to begin “big kids school!” The McGillis kindergarten program is the perfect place to start this new adventure. For most parents, this time is bittersweet. Parents are excited and anxious about having their child start kindergarten; they can’t believe their little one is already starting their official school career.
What makes Kindergarten at McGillis different?
When I asked our kindergarten teachers this question, the first thing out of their mouths was that as teachers they respect and honor the uniqueness of each child that walks into their classroom. Our kindergarten teachers not only aspire to teach the foundational building blocks of reading, writing, and number sense, but even more importantly, they aspire to grow curious, kind, and thoughtful community members who stay true to who they are inside. To do this, our teachers have to get to know each and every child intimately -- to know what makes them tick, how to gently guide them to take a chance, wait for their turn, to look for and understand the nuances of the turn of a head or eyes beginning to tear. To do this well, we partner with parents in knowing each child and helping each child be their true and best self.
It is a priority in our learning community that our teachers are afforded the time to make true connections with each child in the room. With the advantage of having two adults in each classroom (this is true through fourth grade), kindergarten teachers are able to meet the needs of each child’s learning style along with helping each child with their own personal social and emotional growth. The kindergarten team has a deep understanding of this particular age and time in a child’s life from the need to be active and creative, to the time for rest and recuperation. It’s a delicate balancing act not only for the class as a whole, but for each individual in the room. Watching these teachers at work is like watching the most masterful conductor of a symphony where in the end, those of us watching and listening can’t believe the beauty of the process of growing these young hearts and minds.
How do I know my child is ready for Kindergarten?
There are many signs and indications of kindergarten readiness, but at the same time, school readiness isn’t easy to define. One key component is your child’s birthdate. The standard in Utah is that a child is five years old by September 1 of their year of entry. With very few exceptions, we follow this standard in our kindergarten admissions. Parents who have a child whose birthdate is near the cutoff date sometimes consider delaying enrollment. At McGillis, we suggest that the child complete the admissions process and after we have the results from the child’s visit and assessment, we will have a conversation about how to best meet the needs of the child and come to a decision together.
In addition to the birthdate, the Mayo Clinic offers milestones to help your child have the best possible kindergarten experience. These milestones develop over time and we recognize that each child will be at different levels of acquiring these milestones. Most children will have some readiness in:
- Demonstrating a curiosity or interest in learning new things
- Being able to explore new things through their senses
- Taking turns and cooperating with peers
- Speaking with and listening to peers and adults
- Following instructions
- Communicating how they’re feeling
- Empathizing with other children
- Controlling impulses
- Paying attention
- Limiting disruptive behaviors
At McGillis, during our kindergarten assessments, we pay attention to these milestones and we also look for readiness with literacy, math, communication, physical development, and social/emotional skills.
Our kindergarten assessments take place on Saturday mornings in groups of 14-16 prospective students working with five adults in the room. Imagine two hours of preschool for your child. The children will hear a story, work at centers with teachers, draw a self-portrait, have time for free choice, play with new friends, and enjoy a snack. Most do not want to leave after their morning here!
Want to learn more?
On November 5th and 6th, we have our first Prospective Parent Visit for the upcoming school year. These events provide the opportunity for parents to experience our school in action, meet school leaders, and ask questions. Many parents attend these visit mornings who are interested in having a child start in our kindergarten program and become a part of our learning community through their elementary and middle school years.
To learn more, please RSVP for an upcoming Prospective Parent Visit or call 801-583-0094 to arrange a private tour.