As thousands of local kids head back to school, the Daily Press asked educational expert Elizabeth Fraley how to choose the right program for the youngest learners in Santa Monica. Fraley is the founder and CEO of Kinder Ready Inc, a transitional education program to help 3 to 5-year-olds get ready for either public or private school.
Jeff Bezos just announced the Day One Fund, that he’s going to fund Montessori preschools in low-income communities. What was your reaction to him choosing that particular method?
I love the Montessori Method. I myself went to a Montessori school. The reason I love it is this particular philosophy is much more innovative with math. They’re teaching math concepts that are very conceptul at a young age. I think math is a key component to later success.
I also love the multi-age aspect so the young kids can expand their vocabulary by being around older students.
Kids in preschool will learn self-care skills and life skills. I think Montessori is a great approach for serving multiple income levels.
What is the number one thing you advise working parents to look for when selecting child care for their little one?
Unfortunately, because of the cost of childcare, we can’t always get a certified or credentialed teacher. One of the big things I would do is to be really upfront about your values and what your expectations are with the caregiver.
I would also give them a schedule with your child’s routine. A picture of their day. I would encourage caregivers to give the child an anticipatory statement – “in ten minutes were going to go from swim class back in the house.” Giving them that time. That way, they can prepare themselves for the transition and they know the expectation.
Look for someone who is caring and compassionate and really wants to work with kids because they love them and want to see them thrive.
How early should parents start thinking about elementary schools, doing tours and otherwise navigating the system?
If you’re doing a private school application, you apply a year out. I’m working with 4 and 5-year-olds now to apply to kindergarten. So, if you’re doing the private school route, maybe start looking when they’re around three years old. If it’s a public school option you have a lot more flexibility.
I always say ‘the early bird gets the worm.’ It’s never too early to start.
Do you have any advice on how to best navigate a confusing landscape?
Utilize your current preschool teacher, and ask them ‘how would you best describe my child?’ Then, consider your family’s philosophy. Did you go to a traditional or public or private school? What is your budget? Do you have flexibility? I think a lot of people assume a private school will be better, but I’ve been in public schools I’ve been wowed by too. You need to do your homework and look at test scores online and try to get a neutral assessment for your child.
What is Kinder Ready?
Kinder Ready is a transitional program for children ages 3 to 5 to help them make a seamless transition into kindergarten. For example, what it’s like to be around a new adult, have a schedule, etc. It’s a little pre-exposure to eliminate those kinder-jitters. We also do some private consulting to help families navigate schools in the Los Angeles area.