Head Start is a pre-kindergarten program first launched by the United States government in 1965. The program was designed to aid working-class children in specific areas of their development, including education, nutrition and health services. Since the program's inception, it has helped children and families around the country to reach their education goals and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Read on for ten reasons you should consider the St. Vincent De Paul Head Start program in Baltimore as the preschool program for your child. It’s a FREE preschool program that is open to Baltimore City residents.
What is Head Start?
1. Kindergarten Readiness
Head Start preschool is designed for children ages 3-5. Participants are introduced to a school environment, teachers and other students early. As participants of our Head Start program in Baltimore, children often learn to write their names, write the alphabet and write simple numbers before beginning kindergarten. Some children even learn to sight read basic words in our program. Thus, kids who complete our preschool program are often ahead of their peers when they begin kindergarten. We teach all students in our Baltimore Head Start program to value education as pre-kindergarteners and encourage them to strive for educational excellence throughout their lives.
2. Social Skills Development for Preschoolers
Kids learn to share, socialize and work together in small groups in their Head Start classes. These skills are important for every child to learn at a young age, but they are essential for kids who don't often interact with other children. If your child is shy and does not have siblings, he or she might find it difficult to befriend others. Our Head Start program gives children the opportunity to meet friends in preschool that they can keep in touch with throughout grade school. Making friends before kindergarten will also ease some of the stress of starting elementary school and meeting so many new faces at once.
Another benefit of our Head Start program is that it provides parents and guardians with an opportunity to get involved with their child’s education. Parents are often invited to attend class activities, special events, or ride along on field trips. This helps parents build bonds with other parents and form a close network of people who can support one another.
3. Health Screenings and Services
As part of our Head Start preschool program in Baltimore, we provide free health screenings and services for children. These screenings and services include the following:
- Medical check-ups (at specific sites)
- Dental health screenings (at all of our sites)
- Recommendations for mental health services (at all of our sites)
- Regular physical exercise (1 hour of physical activity included in each day for preschool students at all of our sites)
4. Recognizing Your Child’s Learning Style
Often when parents or guardians enroll a child in a preschool program they don’t yet know what their child's abilities are. As students progress in our St. Vincent De Paul of Baltimore Head Start program, teachers are able to identify what type of learner the child is. For instance, some children’s preferred mode is auditory. They respond well to verbal instruction. Others are kinesthetic. They learn best when activities are hands on and they can physically manipulate objects. There are many different learning styles that represent the way/s they can learn best. Our Head Start teachers are prepared to modify lessons and create multiple opportunities for children to access the curriculum in the way they learn best. Each classroom has eight learning centers that allow children to access the curriculum through referent media; such as the Computer Center, Blocks, Art, Library, Manipulatives, Painting, Sand and Water, and Dramatic Play.
5. Identification of Developmental Disabilities
Each child develops at his or her own pace. However, when a child starts to miss certain developmental milestones, parents or physicians may suspect a disability. Every Student in our Head Start preschool program receives health and developmental screenings. Each enrolled child receives a behavioral and developmental screening. If an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is deemed necessary, our Head Start team helps parents/guardians navigate the process, and once the child’s IEP is developed the student receives services right at the Head Start site -- sometimes in their classroom. The IEP team also works with parents/guardians to provides strategies to help at home. Together, we ensure that every child is able to progress and achieve academically.
6. Healthy Meals & Nutrition Services
Some children come from families who may not know how to adequately choose healthy meals. Our Head Start preschool program in Baltimore City provides each child with free meals each day; breakfast, lunch, and snacks. We also provide information to parents and guardians concerning the major food groups and how to select foods that support a healthy diet for children and how to introduce new, healthy food choices.
7. An Alternative to Daycare
Many daycare providers simply monitor children and ensure that they are safe while parents work. Our Head Start preschools are state-licensed educational programs that allow students to participate in the types of activities that will prepare them for school. All of our teachers hold credentials to teach, all classroom teachers hold degrees and have hundreds of hours of training. Unlike many traditional daycare centers, our Head Start program supports students in the following educational areas and services:
- Language acquisition and literacy development
- Bi-Lingual education and staff
- Numbers and counting
- Introduction to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities for 3 to 5-year-olds
- Field trips that provide the opportunity to learn more about science and the arts
Another reason our Head Start preschool program can be a better alternative to day care is that it saves families money. Traditional daycare for just one child can cost several hundred dollars each week. This is especially worrisome for parents who do not have extra money for daycare. In contrast, our Baltimore Head Start program is designed with working-class families in mind. Our program is funded by government grants and funding and allows parents to enroll their children into a quality, education program for FREE – parents don’t have to pay any out-of-pocket money for their child to attend and the meals are FREE also.
8. Ease Separation Anxiety
Many kids feel anxiety about leaving their parents and starting elementary school. However, kids aged 3 to 5-years-old who attend a Head Start preschool program learn early how to adjust to being away from their parents for a portion of the day. This helps to alleviate some of the stress associated with separating from parents or guardians during elementary school.
9. Self-Discipline Development
Participating in Head Start preschool also helps children to adjust to rules set by teachers and learn the basics of interacting with others, such as standing in line and waiting one's turn. Our students learn to manage conflict and control their aggression by settling disputes using discussion and words. Additionally, having your child enrolled in our Baltimore Head Start preschool program will provide them with balanced lives and help them adjust to a school routine before they begin kindergarten.
10. Family Resources and Services
Our Head Start preschool program works to support not just children, but their families, too. Each family is assigned a Family Service Coordinator (FSC). These FSCs help connect parents with many resources in the community that they may be eligible for such as housing programs, continuing education programs for adult learners and ways to improve a family's financial security. Here are just a few examples of the services that our Family Service Coordinators provide:
- Assist parents in obtaining tuition assistance for higher education for themselves (college, training programs, etc.)
- Ensure that all children receive access to and follow up on health services
- Advocate on behalf of children and families to ensure that all needed services are received. This is particularly important for children with special education needs who qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Assist parents or guardians to set and work toward achieving goals for themselves and the whole family, such as housing, health, education, employment, nutrition, financial security, and good mental health
- Workshops and special events on diverse topics to help strengthen families
All of these services are tailored for each family, because we recognize that no two families are the same.
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