Some Facts and Commonly Asked Questions
What is “play-based”?
Covenant Nursery School believes in a play-based curriculum where children are able to experiment, manipulate and discover the world around them. We view play as children’s “work” and the primary mode through which they construct their understanding of the world around them. This kind of hands-on learning (as opposed to a teacher lecturing the class, doing flashcards, or working on prepared worksheets) creates children who are excited about learning and developing ideas about the world. During play, children are naturally motivated to negotiate, problem solve and develop the critical thinking skills necessary for later school success.
What role do the teachers play?
Teachers are critical to the success of our play-based curriculum – providing materials for unstructured play, helping to guide and extend children’s play scenarios, creating an environment that promotes dramatic play and responding to children’s play. Teachers interact with children frequently during their play to challenge their thinking and extend their play. During group times, teachers lead the children through a discussion of things that they may have learned during their explorations related to their weekly theme. This helps to consolidate information children have learned from their different experiences.
What training do your teachers have?
All Covenant Nursery School teachers are required to have a Bachelor’s or Associates degree and at least six credit hours in Early Childhood Education. Teacher Aides are required to have a high school degree and receive ongoing training in Early Childhood Education. All employees of Covenant Nursery School are required to complete at least fifteen hours in on-going professional development during the school year. This ensures that all teaching staff are continually learning more about working with children: new techniques, skills, activities to aid learning, and that we all remain up-to-date with the current knowledge available in the field.
Why Multi-age groupings?
Covenant Nursery School believes strongly in multi-age groupings for our three and four year olds. Older children delight in being able to act as leaders in the group and teach their younger peers. Younger children benefit from being able to model after their older peers. This approach results in a very cooperative and family-like sense of community which easily accommodates the broad developmental differences in children. In this unique structure every child is given the freedom to develop skills and abilities as they are ready without the pressure of others to be compared to. The multi-age setting is truly supportive of Covenant’s belief in children developing in their own time. As children are able to revisit curriculum topics, new information is gleaned and knowledge is solidified.
Will my older child be bored in a multi-age setting?
Research is showing more and more that social-emotional abilities such as high self-esteem, self-confidence in abilities and skills, good peer social skills, and good self-regulation skills are fundamental qualities to later school success. In the multi-age setting, older children are given the unique opportunity to be the “experts” in many areas, building self-esteem and self-confidence. Similarly, research has shown that knowledge is only truly solidified and incorporated when it can be taught to others – something that is often seen happening between older and younger children in the multi-age classes. Teachers are able to scaffold learning so that older children are challenged to incorporate skills as they are developing – writing “tickets” for train play, taking orders on pads of paper available in kitchen play, making signs during block play, and utilizing their developing math skills. Developing and refining these emerging skills through play throughout the day provides a meaningful way for all children to learn.
What is self-regulation and why is it so important?
Self-regulation is a central component of executive function, a critical cognitive skill that enables us to function well in the world. Children with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline. Recent research has shown that good executive function is actually a better predictor of success in school than a child's IQ. Children who are able to manage their feelings and pay attention are better able to learn -- this is where they learn to do that! Imaginative play helps children develop good self-regulation skills because children are allowed to improvise their own play, developing rules and regulating the play scenario. Essentially, they get a lot of practice at policing themselves, thereby developing good self-regulation.
How does drop off and pick up work?
Parents may park in the large parking lot at Covenant. People who live nearby can walk/bike for drop-off and pick-up and Covenant is accessible to the Pace 208 bus. Parents/caregivers either walk their children inside to their classroom or drop their children off at a designated spot outside. Caregivers sign children in and out of the classroom.
Is Religion a part of the classroom?
It is Covenant’s policy to be respectful and sensitive to the beliefs of every Covenant parent and child. We do not include any religious instruction or doctrine in our classrooms. Holidays that coincide with religious events are not directly taught in our classrooms. Teachers may acknowledge the different customs and traditions that are celebrated throughout the world such as Hanukkah, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Kwanzaa. We do encourage children and families to share aspects of themselves and their culture. Children who spontaneously share something of their religious or cultural backgrounds will receive open and enthusiastic responses from their teachers. Sharing customs and practices teaches children about the diversity of the world.
How are parents involved?
Covenant Nursery School respects parents and other caregivers as the most important teachers of their children and invites families to be very involved in the education of their children. This is your school, after all! Parents can volunteer to share their talents and interests, lead an activity or just to read a book. Parents also have the opportunity to help govern the school as a member of Covenant’s Board of Directors. There are a number of ways to help out even if you work full-time and are not physically able to participate during the day – become a committee member for a specific event or volunteer to help out at events that take place after hours. Covenant Nursery School regularly hosts school activities such as picnics, potlucks, open houses, a costume party, a silent auction and a spring concert so families can also be part of the fun!
How does Covenant handle discipline issues?
Much of what is so important about preschool is learning to interact and negotiate with peers. Teachers do a lot of modeling for children throughout the day of appropriate words to say during a variety of situations: helping children to enter into play with others, helping quieter children stand up for themselves, helping the easily frustrated child to talk through and manage their emotions and helping children learn to share space and materials. Expectations and classroom rules are reviewed regularly so children know exactly what is expected throughout the day. Teachers use a lot of positive language throughout the day to point out things that children are doing well, "I like the way Tessa is using her walking feet in the hall" or "I like the way Mary is cleaning in the kitchen", etc. Children who are having a difficult time in a situation or group may be asked to make another choice, or may be removed from the group and asked to "calm down" in another area of the room. A teacher will accompany that child and read a book or do a quiet activity to help that child calm down before discussing the situation.
Will my child learn to read and write?
Covenant Nursery School believes that the natural development of individual children cannot be sped up because of the desires and wishes of those adults around them. Our curriculum is very child-directed and teachers work especially hard to gear their units around the particular interests of the children in their class. At Covenant Nursery School, we focus a great deal on helping each child develop a strong foundation – emphasizing the social and emotional development of young children. Children who feel self-confident, secure in their abilities and have a high self-esteem coupled with the knowledge of how to negotiate effectively (using their words) with peers and adults around them have all the fundamental elements to being successful later in school. Negotiating separations as well as building relationships with others are common threads of the school curriculum. Early literacy is definitely highly valued and is interwoven into the curriculum of all Covenant’s classes. Books are read frequently to small groups and large groups of children, children learn to recognize and write their own and their friend’s names, writing supplies and writing samples are always available for children to “write” letters, notes, or signs, and children are encouraged to appreciate and respect all kinds of literature. For most children, these pre-literacy skills are definitely set in place before children go off to school. These include some of the following: recognizing his/her written name, trying to write his/her name or other words, recognizing sounds that letters make, understanding that print contains a message, knowing that pages are turned from left to right and that words in books are read from left to right.
Can my child with a peanut allergy attend?
Covenant Nursery School has been peanut free for many years. Peanuts or peanut products are absolutely not allowed in the program, in children’s lunches or in the classroom snacks. Teachers have received training regarding food and peanut allergies, what to look for in snacks, and how to treat an adverse reaction. In addition to nut allergies, Covenant makes every attempt to accommodate the special needs of every child who enrolls.
Do I need to provide a snack for my child?
No. We provide healthy peanut-free snacks every day. A calendar is posted outside every classroom with all the snacks for the month. If your child has specific dietary restrictions or allergies, we may ask that you provide a suitable snack for your child.
How diverse is the program?
Covenant welcomes children and families of all racial, cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. We have great respect for the uniqueness of each child and celebrate the varied and diverse cultural and religious backgrounds of our children. Our classrooms include children of a wide range of developmental abilities and we strive to create an inclusive environment where every individual has the opportunity to participate, interact, and explore. We are dedicated to creating a warm environment where children learn to respect and value the differences in each other and where all children are free to be themselves. Families are encouraged to share family customs and traditions.
Does Covenant Nursery School hold fundraising activities?
Most preschools in the Evanston area depend in large part on the efforts of families, alumni, and community members to help raise money for the operation of the school. Covenant is no different – our tuition covers about 80% of the cost of operating a high quality preschool. Grant money, organizational contributions and individual contributions round out Covenant’s annual income. Covenant offers some fun ways to get involved and contribute including: a catalog sale, purchasing items with your child's artwork, restaurant and pizza nights, and Covenant's silent auction.