What I Learned on My Kindergarten Tour: A Guest Post
I can hardly believe it even as I type it, but my oldest child will be attending kindergarten in the fall. Like any parent, I want a secure school with caring teachers, safe classrooms, good discipline, and an environment that will encourage my daughter to grow emotionally, socially, and academically. Living in Pinellas County, we have many options. There are public schools (they don’t rate very highly, and recently some “A” schools fell to “C” status… so that’s not for us). There are charter schools (while many are good schools, they aren’t required to meet all the standards public schools do, and I’m not comfortable with that). There are private schools (some aren’t accredited, meaning their teachers aren’t required to have degrees, for one thing- I don’t like that; the other problem is they are MUCH too expensive for our budget). I had done my research and I knew what was important for us:
- A private school that teaches biblical principles, that hires believing educators. This is the kind of environment for my child. No school can control what the students inside believe and therefore how they behave, but they CAN control what is taught and how situations are handled. I want a school that handles issues biblically. I don’t need to shelter my child from the world. She’s growing up in it and and I want her to know how to handle whatever she may encounter in a godly way. Christian educators who teach God’s Word is the best way to do that outside the home, in my opinion.
- An accredited school that is held to high standards on all fronts. I don’t want any balls dropped- safety, standards, education, qualifications, etc. This is important to me, as I don’t want my child receiving a sub-par education and not realizing it until it really matters, like applying to colleges and not being prepared.
- A classroom that will propel my daughter forward, regardless of the other levels of ability in the class. My daughter is bright and needs to be challenged. I don’t want her held back by those in her class who are struggling to stay afloat, but I also think the diversity of abilities is good for her to experience. I’d like a school that can push her ahead without putting her in a class only for the advanced.
With these points in mind, we took a tour of Lakeside Christian School. This school has been open since 1975, located in the heart of Clearwater, though well- hidden behind Lakeside Community Chapel, on Sunset Point Road. It’s safely tucked on the back of the property, and while the facilities aren’t brand new or fancy, they are clean, bright, and cheery. Walking the halls, I heard little, as classes were in progress and quietly staying on task. As I spoke in the hallway with the Administrator, Jim Jensen, two small children headed to the office from the playground. One had his hand gently on the other’s back as he helped his injured friend get some ice. I was struck by the kindness in that act, for such small children.
Mr. Jensen first had us sit down in his office and allowed my husband and myself to ask any and all questions we had. We had many! Here are the key points of what we discussed:
- class size is 15-16 in kindergarten, with one teacher.
- unique to the school is their 3-tiered lesson system: whole group lessons, then small group lessons, and finally individualized lessons. The students are tested every couple of weeks, and the data targets the small group lessons to either bring the student to grade level, push them above grade level, or beyond. The individualized lessons use intuitive adaptive software technology to deliver unique responses to what they haven’t learned yet. Each lesson is different, like a fingerprint. I found this to be fascinating. This allows children in a wide range of abilities to learn the same concepts at their own level, and pushes them forward. The data from this system was impressive to me. Coming into their grade level, about 50% test on grade level, while 50% have forgotten a lot of information over the summer. By the end of the year, 85% are at or above grade level! This is done for reading and math.
- The children are allowed to move often in the classroom and aren’t expected to sit still all day. They get a half hour of outside recess.
- Weekly art projects are integrated into either Bible or social studies lessons.
- The curriculum (Lead 21 for language arts and Math in Focus for math- the US version of Singapore Math, which is the #1 curriculum in the world) is impressive. The LA curriculum integrates science and social studies, critical thinking and writing. It teaches them to apply what they learn, and the books are broken down into four differentiated readers for four different ability levels. This allows for equity in the classroom: all the students, regardless of ability, is able to access the same materials and grow to the same reading ability. The software used is MindPlay. Math is taught at a visual, conceptual level for kindergarten. Starting in 3rd grade there is a writing software as well.
- Bible is taught four days a week and one day is chapel. The curriculum was written by two pastors’ wives, and all the staff are believers, and teach biblical principles and integration in their lessons.
- They are accredited!
- The discipline system is common: the colored plate system. It’s visual and built around self-regulation, which helps students choose what is right. There are only three rules to follow, and when broken, the teacher will move their clip for the verbal warning, written warning, and refocus time. They start all over after lunch, which is good for littles who are trying so hard to control themselves (certainly not MY child!).
- The teacher sends home a weekly newsletter along with a packet a work packet and schedule for the upcoming week, and possible individual notes for each child.
- Sports are offered for kindergarten students! There are five per year, and it’s only $25/sport.
- The school appears to be safe and secure. The classroom was quiet and under control when we visited, with students actively working on a project while individuals met with the teacher. It looked like a great learning environment.
I was impressed with what I learned and what I saw. I left feeling that my daughter could thrive at Lakeside Christian School, and all my important points were met. I should also add that while most private schools in the area are far outside our price range, Mr. Jensen was willing to work with our budget and help us find a way to afford to send our daughter. Scholarships are available, and we will be applying through Step Up for Students.
If your important points looks similar to mine, I suggest you take a personal tour with Mr. Jensen as well. Call him soon– enrollment has begun! I think you’ll find that this hidden away school might just be a perfect fit for your kindergarten student!