Education, Preschool

Lucy Andris' philosophy regarding preschool education
I see and I forget
I hear and I remember
Preschoolers are capable of learning a tremendous amount.  What and how much they learn depends on several factors: are developmentally appropriate concepts presented, is the environment truly a learning place, are there plenty of resources, are children being challenged, is creativity valued, and does each child have an opportunity to do more than see and hear what a teacher tells them?
Asking a preschooler to sit still for more than 5 minutes, at a table or desk, in order to complete a workbook page will, more often than not, be unsuccessful.  Their little bodies want to move, they want to play; teachers must understand this and incorporate this very real need to be active, into each lesson.  Also, children at this age learn best when more than one concept is presented.  For example, when I teach the effects the sun has on things, such as ice or marshmellows, I ask questions first to determine what they already know, then I give each child the tools to actually see the sun's effects (put an ice cube in a paper bowl, or, using toothpicks, hang a marchmellow from the edges of a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap).  Then we talk about how long we should leave these things in the sun and following that discussion we set a timer, take our bowls outside and put them in a sunny spot.  When the timer goes off we take a look and make some observations.
What concepts were the children exposed to?  Just science? Nope, they heard different vocabulary words, they made decisions about length of time to leave an item in the sun, and saw numbers change as the timer wound down, they had a chance to feel ice cubes and/or marshmellows and talk about what the differences were between such objects.  Then they had the intense anticipation of waiting for the timer to go off - for preschoolers this can elicit shrieks of laughter - and they then had an opportunity to see what happened to the ice and marshmellows and if they wanted to, they could taste the elements of their projects!
Throughout the day I use the vocabulary words used in the lesson and read at least one book about the sun and what it can do. Through this one example, you can see how children can be active learners, while still having lots of fun.  Months later children can clearly recall this and similar other projects, signifying their retention of concepts.
While I incorporate several lessons throughout each day and I have themes that change every couple of weeks, there can be days when different learning occurs and the theme is put off for a day.  If a child's new sibling just entered their world or if a pet dies or if a grandparent arrived for a visit, it is important to focus on the immediate - in this way, another valuable lesson is taught: how we care for each other.  As important as it is to have lesson plans, it is equally important to respond to important life events in each child's life.  And this is definitely another reason for parents to enroll their child in a smaller preschool environment: much more attention is given to each child.
Warning: if a parent believes the best way for their child to learn is by only doing pages from workbooks, then Little Pals Preschool is not the best place for that child.  I do offer sheets that ask children to draw a line from objects in one column to those in another column, or sheets on which they can practice printing letters and numbers. They have many opportunities to be creative and their art work is displayed regularly. They'll have years ahead of them to sit at desks, so the time spent doing that at Little Pals, when they are younger than 5 years, is minimal.
Parents, whose children have been in my care, can offer references, clearly stating how much their child learned while here - all without spending too much time sitting at a work space.