Why is preschool such an important part of preparing your child for ‘big school’?

Kendall Lyons, pictured above centre in her Book Week costume, is an Early Education Teacher and manages the preschool program at St Nicholas Early Education, Newcastle West. She shares why she’s so passionate about early education and why it’s important for children to learn social skills in preparation for school life.

KendallKendall’s love of teaching started early as she’s surrounded by educators in her family. Two of her aunts operate preschools and her Mum’s career in early education inspired her own passion for early learning. “As I progressed through high school, a career in early education became more of an option, so I started studying for university. I just really wanted to work with kids!” she said.

Kendall studied a double degree, Bachelor of Teaching Primary/Bachelor of Early Childhood Education, at the University of Newcastle, and is qualified to teach children up to 12 years of age. She chose to focus her studies on philosophy and pedagogy, meaning she structures programs using best practices and full development outcomes, in line with findings from the most up-to-date studies and learning techniques.

“In the preschool room, we complete one in-depth activity each day that focuses on the children’s interests, eg, colour mixing, so last week we baked a marble cake, made jelly and created ‘ice-cube’ paintings!” said Kendall. She ensures all programming and implementation is based around the children’s interests, but also helps further their learning in a fun way. “Children at this age don’t learn if they’re not interested or engaged. So my role is to ensure everything we do is linked to their interests,” said Kendall.

Activities, such as colour mixing, also need to link back to the outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework set by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training. “It’s kind of like a curriculum so we know kids are meeting milestones in their developmental stage,” said Kendall. Kendall also enjoys following early learning theorists and learning about their suggestions for what stage children often reach in each age group and the order in which children should learn.

If you’re considering whether to send your child to preschool, Kendall recommends enrolling them in a preschool program for at least two days a week, as it encourages routine and independence. Preschoolers at St Nicholas learn how to grip a pencil, open a lunchbox and portion food. They also learn how to socialise and make friends. “Teaching children things like how to engage and contribute to a group learning situation and share information is really important,” said Kendall.

In addition to the benefits of group learning, St Nicholas Early Education welcomes families of diverse cultural backgrounds, giving preschoolers the opportunity socialise with a broad range of children from different cultures, encouraging positive and respectful relationships. St Nicholas school readiness program promotes social development, confidence and independence, meaning children are ready to focus on learning. “If the kids have the basics, school isn’t so daunting. It can be overwhelming taking it all in, so all the little things we teach in preschool can make such a big difference when they finally get to big school,” said Kendall.

Whilst Kendall finds the early learning aspect of her role rewarding, she also loves hearing stories from parents of preschool lessons having an impact outside the classroom. She told of some feedback she received recently from a parent. “It’s always rewarding seeing children learn something new. We’re teaching our kids Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN) at the moment and one of our dads said his daughter started signing to him at home and at first he didn’t believe her, but then Googled AUSLAN and realised she was actually signing!” said Kendall, “They’re just little quirky beings and I love that stuff.”

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Geri Williams

Geri Williams is the Online Communications and Brand Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. She is also a regular writer for Aurora Magazine.