For many Owensboro families, preschool is a matter of personal preference. A vast array of options are available and designed to fit the various needs of children throughout the tri-state, with many area schools announcing registration dates for 2019-2020.
Cathedral Preschool, which has served the families of Owensboro since 1986, is a Christ-centered program, appropriate for children of all faith traditions.
Preschool director Pam Weafer of Cathedral feels each child’s “individuality” should come first.
“Children need to learn and play at their own rate,” Weafer said. “I think it’s easy to lose sight of that.”
Cathedral offers programs for 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children using a research-based curriculum paired with play. Weafer also suggested that polishing “basic skills” in advance might help children to be better prepared for kindergarten.
“Basic skills, like fine motor are so important. If children enter school without strengthening these skills they are at a disadvantage from the beginning,” Weafer said. “Children who attend preschool are more confident and prepared, a child’s self-esteem can suffer if they are behind from the start.”
Cathedral has also implemented the “Minds-in-Motion” program. Piloted in Louisville, works to challenge learning, behavior, movement, speech and play by strengthening and balancing the vestibular system. Cathedral students participate in task stations daily, most of which are very brief — 5-10 minutes — but the benefits are lasting.
“It’s not out of the ordinary to see some of our kiddos practicing some of the exercises and activities well after they have ended,” Weafer said. “This is how we know it’s working, and is beneficial! It’s a fantastic program that is perfect for our school.”
Cathedral Preschool offers classes Monday through Friday with different variations and options by age. A new after-school program is set to launch soon to accommodate families who need additional childcare after school hours ending at 5:30 p.m. daily.
“Our goal is to instill a love for school within our young learners,” Weafer said. “If we’ve accomplished that, we’ve succeeded.”
Play Smart Preschool, established in Owensboro in August of 2018, has its own vision for early childhood education. Owners Trina Pryor and Jill Payne credit personal experiences as their inspiration.
“Our vision was to expand from our private speech and occupational therapy practice,” Pryor said. “We saw a need within the community our clients had reached out to us, so we decided to grow from there.”
Pryor also reflects on her own childhood, and how the experience “shaped” her mindset toward the core values of Play Smart Preschool.
“I attended preschool with my sister who has special needs,” Pryor said. “That experience, attending preschool with her, shaped a big part of me. I really believe in the model of inclusion, the peer model of that is really a win-win.”
Offering classes Monday through Friday for both toddlers and preschoolers, Play Smart focuses on learning through play while implementing a developmentally appropriate curriculum daily.
“Children learn best through play,” Payne said. “This carries over from our therapy practice, it’s very important to us here. We’re hands-on, often children are learning and don’t necessarily realize it. We have a lot of fun!”
Director Amanda Sprouls describes the unique atmosphere at Play Smart Preschool.
“What we do is not necessarily concrete, but it works,” Sprouls said. “Kids need play — they need to move and explore.”
Preparing children for kindergarten socially and emotionally is often overlooked but just as important as academics, Pryor said.
“A huge part of our curriculum is teaching children how to express themselves and use language,” Pryor said. “Problem-solving, building peer relationships, all of those aspects are so important.”
The inclusion base model of Play Smart has proven beneficial for students in other areas besides academics.
“I have seen such compassion and empathy in our students, they seem to be in tune with the needs of their peers and more willing to help each other throughout the school day,” Sprouls said.
Teamwork, structure, routine and lots of free play create a balance that “works” for the young learners at Play Smart Preschool and Payne said this helps ensure future student success.
“We play, kids learn best through play, and we work hard to ensure that all of them thrive,” Payne said.