Before arriving at Wheeler, what were you looking for in a preschool program? For your child and for yourself as a parent?
As far as what we were looking for, the best way I can describe it is that we were looking for a “unicorn.” We wanted someplace that had a strong early childhood curriculum to set a strong foundation for reading, math, and all the academic components, but we also wanted a place where our children would feel nurtured and loved in order for them to develop a strong sense of security and socio-emotional skills to allow them the tool kit to develop become good citizens. Also as parents of twins we wanted somewhere that would recognize their connectedness but also allow them to flourish individually. As a multicultural, interracial family it was also important for our children to be at a school that celebrates differences and we needed to feel comfortable in the community. We wanted exposure to different languages and cultures and ways of life from an early age. Having language instruction starting in Nursery was a non-negotiable when we were looking at programs. We really expected for the process to be a challenge as my spouse and I had different ideas of what elements were most important, but once we went on that first Wheeler tour and saw all the opportunities available at Wheeler, from EC to Upper School, we both looked at each other and knew that our children would be attending Wheeler. One of the best decisions we have ever made.
How has our program helped your child(ren) thrive?
The nursery program was life-changing for our children. The love and support of Mrs. Dolan and Mr. Abdalah allowed our children to thrive in ways we never thought possible. To see them come out of their shells and sing and dance in front of others, become budding artists and explorers, express their emotions and become thoughtful little human beings was such a joy. I think specifically the combination of Mrs. Dolan and Mr. Abdalah provides the “unicorn” we were looking for. They were required to be independent and do things on their own, even when it was difficult, but always knowing they had the love and support of their teachers. The Early Childhood program at Wheeler has instilled confidence and has provided a wonderful foundation for our children to become good, thoughtful citizens and active, engaged learners. They love themselves and they love and appreciate others. They see, understand, and celebrate differences and thus embrace themselves. My children also love their “specials” teacher. Every teacher they come in contact with gives them so much confidence and love and I see them giving it back and it is wonderful to see.
Particularly, what elements of our nature based learning approach have been beneficial?
This question allows me to discuss what an amazing experience Pre-K has been for our children. Although I was very concerned about the effect of COVID-19 on not only the socio-emotional aspect of learning for the kids, but speech and other forms of development, I can say that the nature-based learning, although fantastic during Nursery with Forest Friday, has been instrumentally positive for our children during this difficult time. Having the Farm as a resource has allowed Early Childhood to almost seamlessly continue all the unique elements of its programming during these unprecedented times. The progress my children have made in gross motor skills is notable and their search for answers about their surroundings, insatiable. The nature-based aspect of Early Childhood has not only sparked our children’s curiosity but it has broadened their imaginations in ways that set the stage for more advanced inquiry as they progress in their Wheeler journeys. And, just like in Nursery, guiding them on this journey are two amazing teachers, Mrs. Thiele and Miss Haines. Their patience and resilience are the reasons that I think my children barely notice that anything is different this year beyond wearing a mask. My children continue to learn and thrive under difficult circumstances and that is due to the caliber and resolve of the wonderful Pre-K teachers. Being from urban Los Angeles, I must admit, I was unsure of my children being outside all day everyday but they absolutely love it and bring home “treasures” from the Farm in their backpacks everyday such as “crystals,” and feathers and rocks and are so excited to share what these treasures mean to them and the adventures they went on to find them. Nature-based has also actually changed us as a family. We now go outdoors in the cold more and engage with nature more because the kids are so drawn to it. So overall, it has been wonderful for their physical, emotional, and cognitive health.
Any other comments?
I would like to comment on the WOW program and how great Bob Rojee and his staff are. My children have really bonded with WOW staff members and they have become a critical part of their experience at Wheeler. As a parent, there is some guilt in having to leave your kids at school for an extended period, but I feel much better knowing that they are having fun and are with staff members who care about them. Also, I feel that all administrators have always answered all our questions and have always been very responsive. Of all of what I have said here, I think the most important thing is that I feel that the school values my children and values Patrick and I as community members. Princess, Felicia, Bob and Allison have been amazing. We are so happy with Wheeler.
– Pre-K Parent