Within the schools of the Archdiocese of Hartford, a variety of early childhood models exist. Some schools accept children before their third birthday. Some schools have full day programs in pre-kindergarten and some have partial day programs. All elementary schools offer full day kindergarten programs. In all early childhood classrooms, the developmental level of children is recognized and reverenced. To achieve this, the teacher pays close special attention to the maturity and growth of each child.
Schools also offer after-school care for families in age-appropriate environments. Before care programs are also available where needed.
All early childhood programs in the Archdiocese of Hartford follow a standards-based curriculum that reflects key objectives of the National Association for the Education of Young Children Early Learning, Common Core State Standards, and integrates 21st century literacies. The early childhood curriculum standards are embedded with Gospel values and rooted in Catholic intellectual traditions. Academic excellence is as important in these early stages of growth and development as they are in older years. It is with pride that early childhood programs build the strong foundation for learning and excellence in future years.
Standards of an Archdiocesan Early Childhood Program
The Early Childhood Educational Standards for the Archdiocese of Hartford is aligned with the Common Core State Standards, State of Connecticut Preschool Assessment Frameworks, the National Association for the Education of Young Children Early Learning Standards, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Preschool Standards.
Early childhood educators minister to the whole child – mind, heart and hands. In a trusting Catholic environment, children grow spiritually, emotionally, socially, physically, and intellectually. By fostering creativity and excitement about learning and by facilitating a stimulating environment, the child's innate desire to learn is awakened. Early childhood educators understand each child's uniqueness in personality and learning styles, and strive to create for the early learner opportunities to discover, explore, question, and succeed, thus providing the proper environment that enables the child freedom of choice. Above all, each early childhood program nurtures the child's spiritual relationship with God and caring attitude for others.
Goals of Early Childhood Programs
- FACILITATE opportunities in spiritual, physical, social, cognitive, language, and aesthetic development
- CREATE an atmosphere where children appreciate a quiet time preparing them to begin a friendship with God
- INITIATE in the early learner the sacredness of life
- NURTURE a warm, caring environment that develops self-esteem and a positive attitude toward learning
The Archdiocesan Early Childhood Educator
Each early childhood educator in the Archdiocese has the educational qualifications, the knowledge and commitment to both faith and early childhood education necessary to promote children's learning and development and to support families' diverse needs and interests.
The teacher awakens a sense of joy and wonder in each child. He/she cultivates in the young learner a desire for knowledge and the freedom of creative expression.
The effective early childhood teacher:
- Views every child as a child of God with a unique personality;
- Respects each child's gifts and allows each child to develop at his/her own pace by providing a myriad of experiences and activities;
- Integrates the curriculum with projects, learning centers, and multi-sensory activities that reflect the child's interests and differentiates instruction to accommodate individual learning styles and abilities;
- Plans programs that help the child develop concepts and skills necessary to live in today's digital world;
- Encourages each child's development of self-esteem and respect for others as a basis for knowledge, responsibility, cooperation, and the blossoming of the child's creative potential;
- Encourages children to work together and communicate in small groups;
- Uses PLAY as a teaching and learning strategy that reinforces for the child a desire to be an integral part of his/her own world of relationships and cognitive development;
- Sets clear behavioral limits in a positive, loving, manner;
- Views parents as partners and encourages their involvement;
- Designs and implements learning experiences and uses strategies that acknowledges each child as competent.
In the Catholic school, early childhood programs foster each child's personal relationship with God. It promotes positive relationships among all children and adults encouraging each child's sense of individual worth and his or her sense of belonging to a community. Furthermore, it fosters each child's ability to contribute as a responsible community member.
The early childhood teacher provides experiences for the young child that:
- Strengthen the child's sense of prayer through reverence for God's creation;
- Provide multi-sensory experiences for the young child to discover the mysteries of nature, culminating in a respect for life;
- Build a sense of trust with the young child by permeating the pre-school environment with warmth and sincerity;
- Develop play and work situations where the young child is kind to his/her peers and respects personal property and community property;
- Cultivate opportunities to develop the Gospel value of justice by caring for each other;
- Empower the child to be sensitive and aware of the diversity among them and to respect differences in skills, talents, interests, race, color, and gender;
- Instill within the young child a sense of integrity;
- Foster occasions for the child to think critically and creatively, and to solve problems independently;
- Encourage an atmosphere of loving concern to enhance independence and cooperation.
The Early Childhood Physical Learning Environment
Early childhood programs in Catholic schools provide appropriate and well-maintained indoor and outdoor physical environments, including facilities, equipment, and materials to facilitate child development. Early childhood teachers understand that the learning environment contributes to a sense of wellbeing and security for children. An effective learning environment is another teacher, igniting social, affective, and cognitive learning because of its power to organize, provide a myriad of experiences, and promote choices in daily activities. In the words of Lelia Gardini, the early childhood classroom environment is “an aquarium that mirrors the ideas, values, attitudes, and cultures of the children within it.”
Early childhood programs in Catholic schools offer provisions for real life experiences. Classroom experiences include caring for living things and real life activities such as plants, small animals, terrariums and aquariums. Activities such as gardening, washing dishes, and cleaning up the dramatic play area give children a sense of competence with real tools in the world.
Materials such as clay, blocks or paints represent forms of diverse culture. Visual displays such as rocks, shells, leaves and things of nature reflect the cultures of all children and are essential to real life experiences.
The Importance of Family in Early Childhood Programs
An Archdiocesan early childhood program establishes and maintains collaborative relationships with each child’s family to foster children’s development in all settings. These relationships are sensitive to family composition, language, and culture.
Each school maintains a partnership and collaborative relationship with parents and guardians of the children enrolled in their early childhood programs. Communication is the scaffold to forming relationships with students’ families. Each school strives to create respectful, reciprocal relationships where parents are partners in learning and are encouraged to volunteer in appropriate classroom activities.
“Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from re-inventing it themselves.”
-- Jean Piaget
Early Childhood Portfolio Assessments (Revised 2008)