FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What does Smart Start offer that a child care centre or ‘early learning centre’ cannot?
On a visit to one of our classrooms it can quickly be seen that our program does not just have vague claims of an educational program. You can see that the children are actually reading, counting, writing and using specialist equipment to learn about the world around them. They are developing their writing skills, learning to care for their environment, developing their independence as well as learning to work together. Come for a visit and see the work that our students have in their scrapbooks and you will be amazed at what a young child can do when their desire to learn is supported and encouraged! If you are looking for more than just childcare, make sure you find out what your child will be learning while they will be away from you.
Does my child need to be toilet trained?
No, there is no need for your child to be toilet trained, they can be wearing pull ups or in the process of being trained. We understand this is a process that involves accidents, we are totally prepared for that and to support your child through this learning journey. We often find that in a new child’s first few weeks they can be prone to having accidents, even if they have been completely fine at home. They seem to be so busy exploring the new environment that they forget to go to the toilet. Don’t be alarmed by this, they quickly settle in and start thinking more about their toileting needs. Don’t hesitate to tell their teacher that they may need reminding if you think it will help.
What are the social benefits of starting pre-school early?
Socially, they learn to share, to wait for their turn and to continue working on an activity without the constant attention of an adult. These are skills that especially the oldest child in the family struggles with, and the earlier they learn to be part of a group, the easier it is for them to get used to accommodating the needs of other children. At Smart Start your child will almost certainly have achieved all of their academic kindy expectations, by the end of their pre kindy year. This means that they will start formal schooling with the ability to do anything their teacher asks of them. We believe this will lead to great confidence and we also find that it is the things that we are good at that we love, so with this success will come a love of learning.
Are the children who have been to Smart Start disruptive in school because they are academically advanced?
We believe that how you view yourself, and what you see as possible for you to achieve, has a large effect on what you can actually do. The students who have had a head start to learning in an environment like Smart Start begin school at the top of their class, they have the confidence to try anything and do so with the firm belief that they can and will succeed. When we have failures and a hard time keeping up it is hard to love something, you feel stupid and try and avoid this thing that makes you feel bad. We believe we are setting the children up for a life long love of learning, where they will view themselves as successful learners who can achieve anything they set their sights on. The children at Smart Start not only develop their academic skills, but develop their independence, concentration and social skills which enable them to work well with other children.
It seems like the response from parents reflects this and I was even pleasantly surprised to see that local teachers have noticed our good work, receiving this email from a teacher at Rosalie, the primary school next to our Shenton Park centre, who was looking for a spot for her son:
‘I have worked at Rosalie for eight years now and every year I have heard wonderful things about your team and the Smart Start Program – if only they had told me about the waiting list!’
Are they robbed of their childhood and forced to toil for hours on end doing boring academic learning?
It sounds like a ridiculous question right? But it does seem like some parents are very worried about ‘forcing’ children to learn horrid things like reading! Actually it is something that children are really interested in, and who could blame them, their lives are based around emulating and wanting to do what they see their older siblings and parents do, and language is indisputably integral to human life. Language, maths, science, geography are all such fundamental parts of our every day lives, it seems only natural that a child should have a healthy curiosity for these things. Writing is everywhere in their world, on signs, books, shops, toys etc.
We have designed a program for them to learn these things in really fun ways that takes into account their stages of development and interests. What is even more ridiculous about this question is that with our program a child can learn their letter sounds and be phonetically reading in a month if they practice it for just two or three minutes every day! There is absolutely nothing they are missing out on by spending these few minutes a day working on these skills and so much to gain! They have so much time every day to socialise, play outside, do craft, puzzles, build, paint, the list goes on…
We passionately believe that around 2.5 years old a child is much more in the right developmental stage to learn to read, than they will be at 5 when they do so at school. At 2.5 a child is absorbing vocabulary and learns the letter sounds with ease, quickly developing their reading skills with very little effort. We know from studies on learning another language that at this age the children are going through a period where they can develop language skills quickly and easily. At five years old children are starting to leave this phase of language absorption and we find that they are less interested and tend to take longer to acquire the skills.
At the preschool age children are keen to try anything, want to know about everything, we take advantage of this and try and give them as many opportunities as we can to direct this desire to learn! That said, a lot of things like practicing writing or developing their reading or counting skills take just a few minutes a day, leaving the children lots of time to follow their interests and desires doing all the other fun activities like craft, construction and outside time. Visit our classrooms to see all the great activities on offer!
What are the benefits of coming for 2 days?
At this age children benefit greatly from routine and repetition. If they only come for one day a week they tend to never really get into a routine and do not feel as relaxed and comfortable as they could. If they are not comfortable, they find it harder to concentrate and are more hesitant to try new things and develop their skills. They also find it harder to make strong friendships and are at a greater risk of experiencing separation anxiety. For a lot of the activities we do, repetition is also the key. If a child practices their letters every day they will pick them up in a matter of weeks, but if they only do it once a week progress is very slow and a whole year can pass without them mastering it. A week is a long time for a young child and like every learning experience, a lot is forgotten if it is not reinforced regularly. The children also need repetition and time to develop their concentration, learn the expectations of the classroom and to become self-directed. If we had all the children in our classes coming for one day a week, we would have hundreds of children coming through every week and it would not be the settled environment that it is now. We would not have the time to get to know them, their abilities and interests and so would not be able to provide such an effective and personalised learning program for your child.
Our students attend for a minimum of 2 full days, which provides the opportunity for regular repetition of skills which have been learned and ensures that they get maximum benefit from the program. We are willing to take kindy children for 1 day per week and kindy children often combine going to the local kindy with continuing at Smart Start. This enables them to continue building on the skills they have learned during the previous years and provides them with learning opportunities which will complement their kindy experience.
Is there enough to do for an advanced child?
The Montessori sensorial equipment is incredibly versatile and is used at many different levels, and the children's problem solving skills are challenged by finding new ways to of doing something by combining pieces of equipment, etc. Puzzles and practical life activities are changed on a regular basis, to encourage the children to have new experiences and keep their interest going. I'm always on the lookout for new challenging and interesting pieces of equipment. The mathematical equipment provides hands on material to learn to add, multiply and develop an understanding of working with increasingly large numbers. And when they reach the stage that they can do more abstract work, we can give them worksheets and they can keep perfecting their skills with hands on as well as more abstract work. As long as the child has the concentration, the sky is the limit! And the same goes for reading, the children start by learning the letters with the felt letters, but then move on to 3 letter words, 4 letter words, writing their own stories, etc. Then we also have the puzzle maps of the continents, where they get practice at fitting in each country into the right space and that certainly requires a lot of practise to be able to do this by themselves. We also have flags they can colour in for each country and some children are so intrigued by the flags they are able to name the country for each flag. When we see that a child has a particular interest in something, we try to find activities that will extend them in that area. When you see the happy faces at the end of each session, you know that they have had a fulfilling experience.
What are the benefits of coming for the full day?
The morning and afternoon programs complement each other. During the mornings,most children tend to be very busy with individual activities and being able to extend the morning work time builds the children's concentration span, which is why Maria Montessori advocated a 3-hour uninterrupted work cycle time. During the afternoons, the children are then calmer and we focus on doing group activities. Whereas brain gym and talking about date and weather, tends to happen in the morning, during the afternoons we have a topic approach, which often involves learning about science or geography. The topics are introduced with a story, after which children are invited to do some craft activity, according to their level of development. Most days, we also have some French: a combination of doing actions, songs and games, which the children love and which helps them build up a basic vocabulary in an active way. Other games include action words in English, where the older children read words and then do the actions. This fun activity motivates the younger children to learn to read as there's so much fun to be had when you can read. The outside play time and gardening activities are also during the afternoon as well as music and movement. The children have access to a small outdoor area throughout the day where they can practise balancing and other physical developmental activities.
Will my child be pushed into learning?
Our main focus is that children are happy. The mixed age environment provides a learning environment, similar to a family with many children. Just like in a family, often the youngest child will often be more advanced than the older child was at the same age, because they’ve been watching the older sister or brother and have had the opportunity to copy them. In the Montessori classroom, children pick up new skills simply by being able to watch how other children do it. We provide a place which is full of interesting activities and the children provide the motivation for each other to try new things. Once in a while, we encounter a child who is very reluctant to try new things and will go to the same activity week after week, e.g. playdough, and we can see they are avoiding extending themselves. At that point, we do step in and tell them that we expect all children to try something from each topic area and that we also expect them to do a newactivity with one of the teachers each time. These children have built up some fear of failure, and by showing them activities which will allow them to have success and will build up their self-confidence, we usually overcome their resistance and they soon start to become involved in all that’s happening around them. So, in short, no pushing unless we see that a child is limiting themselves, in which case we encourage them to be adventurous and try new things.
Does Smart Start offer a Kindy Program?
We have a mixed age range, which we find is an essential part of what makes a classroom like ours work. As young children enter the classroom they have so many role models to follow, role models who will demonstrate to them how to do things, inspire them to try new challenges and help them when they struggle. Essentially those older children act as a team of mini teachers! For those older children, these experiences develop their confidence and help them to really consolidate their skills. In their kindergarten year we really see the children blossom and take on this leadership role with pride!
We do not separate children based on age because we believe that the children’s age does not determine their ability level. A 2.5 year old entering the classroom may know the letter sounds and be ready to start reading, know how to hold a pencil correctly and ready to start writing. It is also possible for a 4 year old to start and to have never been taught the letter sounds or shown interest in drawing or holding a pencil before, needing to start with the basics. We try and teach everything in the classroom in little steps so that the child always feels capable and successful. Every child works at their own ability level, regardless of age. We have lots of more challenging activities to develop your child’s abilities throughout their kindergarten year.
What age do you start children?
We start children at any age between 27 months and the end of their kindy year. We usually start children from around 2.5 years old, but if they are showing that they are ready to start preschool than we can start them from 27 months. They do not need to be toilet trained, but must be fairly comfortable with being left, not putting activities in their mouths and able to semi independently eat finger food.
What are the local primary schools that the children go on to?
In the Shenton Park Smart Start a lot of the kindergarten children come for 1 or two days while also attending the local kindergartens such as Rosalie, Subiaco Primary School, Wembley Primary School, Jolimont Primary School, Nedlands Primary School and various private schools.
In Karrinyup, the Kindy children tend to feed into Karrinyup Primary School, Scarborough Primary School, Doubleview Primary School, Newborough Primary School, Deanmore Primary School and Wembley Downs Primary SchoolIn
In West Perth we have families coming from all over Perth as parents have jobs in the city. The local schools are mainly Subiaco Primary, Leederville Primary School, West Leederville Primary School and Highgate Primary School.