Independent Early Childhood Programs: A Seamless and Cohesive Education

By Evan Brown
Director of Communications and Alumni

January 2012

For parents, selecting a primary school for their children is a far more significant decision than they may realize. Unlike secondary or post-secondary schools, where the duration of a child’s stay generally ranges from 2 to 5 years, traditional primary schools usually offer an education program that spans 8 or 9 years and may expand to 10 or 11 years if the school offers middle school education.  This represents a significant amount of time within a child's development.  Selecting the right primary school that will nurture a child from toddler to teenager and offer an excellent education across the board is a definitive choice parents must make.

The belief that a child should receive a seamless and cohesive education, rather than a fragmented experience in which a child most be moved from school to school, is one that is near and dear to The Elisabeth Morrow School’s Early Childhood Director (Englewood, NJ), Beth Ann Brennan.  "In schools like this one, the program supports all areas of development: cognitive, social and emotional. The environment is comfortable and familiar, and we continuously educate children to get to a place where they are ready for that next level of learning."

Often, the biggest concern for parents selecting a primary school is that the instruction may not be rigorous enough, particularly in the child’s earliest years.  Parents may worry that an education that promotes “play-based” learning will fall short.  However, recent studies show that such views may be baseless, as "play" seems to be crucial in the academic development of children.  Brain-based education expert, Dr. Kathy Nunley sums up the current research:  "executive function skills can be improved in pre-K programs by using social pretend play to increase a child's ability to inhibit internal and external distractions. Play and story telling can also be used to develop strong working memory, which will be used for things that unfold over time, such as reading and mental math.”  Play helps young minds focus and organize, preparing them for more challenging or demanding tasks that come in later grades.

Ms. Brennan of The Elisabeth Morrow School affirms that during the child’s earliest years, learning must be engaging for students; for learning to be engaging, it must be fun: "A real and authentic play-based program that carefully entwines developmentally appropriate and engaging experiences allows for curiosity and discovery. The ‘fundamentals’ are then introduced, practiced and mastered when and where it is appropriate within the curriculum." 

Ultimately, early education programs must feature faculty that are dedicated and committed to the progress and holistic development of the child.  Echoing this sentiment, Ms. Brennan states, "the cornerstone of such programs, and certainly here at Elisabeth Morrow, is that the faculty understand the age they are teaching (cognitively, socially, emotionally) and know how to guide them in their education."