Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here!
By Katie Backer
“Knowledge is power”, or so it is said. There is growing evidence that suggests early childhood education is pivotal in a child’s life, thereby, in the development of our society. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of A Path Appears, examine the importance of education and its social effects. They explain, “For all of human history until about 1950, a majority of human adults were illiterate; in one life-time the adult illiteracy rate worldwide has dropped to about 16 percent.” This is not to say that early education is the sole reason for this, yet it lends to the importance and power of literacy. Words. Books. Stories. Young children’s brains are like sponges that soak up the material rapidly. This can aid them in communicating, expressing themselves, and creating stories and games with their imaginations.
Before children are sent off to Kindergarten, their parents and/or guardians are their teachers. This allows parents to actively participate in their child’s development. It can also add a lot of pressure especially when parents’ schedules are full with work, meal preparation, household chores, as well as caring for the children’s physical and educational needs. This is why preschools like Better Together Preschool (A Mom’s Day Out Program) located here in Billings, are so very valuable.
Karen Norsworthy and Karen Morrow are co-owners and directors of Better Together Preschool. Both have studied early education and/or taught students at the elementary level. Moms themselves, they have both watched their own children blossom under the guidance of various teachers. They recognize the progress a child can make in preschool while partnering with parents along the way. One unique element to Better Together is that parents are asked to help at least seven times during the year. According to their philosophy, “Parents and teachers have the opportunity to work together during the earliest years of a child’s education, creating an enriched environment where the children have the ability to develop socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually.”
The two women radiate with joy when speaking of their young students, and the parents they have the chance to get to know on a more inclusive level. It creates a “true community” allowing the program to work “hand in hand with the parent,” they describe. Many of the parents have become friends along the way, and go out for coffee while their kids take classes together. Ms. Norsworthy describes how one time she had a student with a loose tooth and she “Facetimed” the parent so they could see the tooth being pulled out! Ms. Morrow echoes, “I remember what it was like [having your child in school].” The teachers really believe in open communication with parents. A true community indeed!
The preschool consists of four certified teachers, and a nursery staff (all of whom the ladies raved about and expressed their most heartfelt thanks). Each class is designed to allow students to explore. Ms. Morrow describes how she wants her students to “take ownership of the room through open-ended exploration…. Everything else will fall into place”. She strongly advocates for allowing children “time”. Let them get to know each other, and the teacher. More than once, the importance of socialization in preschool was emphasized, explaining that it helps children “learn to navigate the real world.” They learn to “sit, share, and play alongside one another through cooperative play and teamwork”. Both women explain how they have a variety of subjects (i.e. pre-writing, math, reading) and activities through a very hands-on/ balanced program. There are also a number of field trips throughout the year, where the kids go on adventures to the Zoo, Fire Station, pumpkin patch, and so on, with their classmates and parent volunteers.
It is organizations such as Better Together Preschool that really give our children a jump-start on education. The love for the students and enthusiasm Norsworthy and Morrow have is truly infectious. Preschool is a great way to get your child ready for Kindergarten, but more than that, it is a way to ignite a passion for learning that they can carry with them always. As Editar Adhiambo was quoted as saying in A Path Appears: “There’s no best friend like a book.”
Registration for new families to the Better Together Preschool program begins in March. Contact Karen Norworthy, Director, at (406) 690-8481, or Karen Morrow, Director, at (406) 281-0280 for more information.
About the author…Katie Jones Backer is a local History teacher, with a passion for travel, history, writing, music, and helping others. She is happiest though, when spending time with her husband and two adorable Pomeranians!