Children are more comfortable in preschool when their day has a predictable and pleasing rhythm-a comfortable balance between activity and rest, noise and quiet, group and individual activity, indoor and outdoor play. Such a schedule lets children know what to expect and what is expected of them.
Equally important is a sense of time that feels generous and responsive, that allows children to invest deeply in what they are doing, and encourages them to attend to their personal needs and rhythms. Our old friend Sam put it well: “A good school needs free time, so you can build on your imagination.”
You’ll notice that our basic schedule minimizes the number of regimented transitions children make during our time together, protecting a large block of time when children have access to both the indoor and outdoor classroom, and to all of the teacher-led and child-directed activities that make up our curriculum.
The schedule below approximates a typical day at Children First. The shape of the day may change from week to week and season to season depending on our observations of each child and of the group as they grow and evolve together.
8:30 – 9:00 Arrival.
Children read the Morning Message and check mail with their grown-ups. Then families and teachers check in with each other and help children settle before families say good-bye. Children pitch in on classroom set up, and begin to explore and work with the “provocations” teachers have arranged throughout the classroom and playground – materials and activities chosen to respond to or inspire children’s work on their particular interests and goals.
9:00 – 11:00 Work and Play
Children choose from a wide variety of activities throughout the classroom and playground, such as painting, building, pretend play, making music, design, sensory exploration and active outdoor play. Meanwhile, each teacher works with individual or small groups of children on planned activities like drawing from life, story-telling, cooking, science investigations, wood sculpture, reading words, or other focused work with materials. Throughout the morning, both teachers stand ready to help as needed with the conflict resolution and negotiation that is always part of children’s cooperative play. Healthy snacks are available to children throughout this time. Once a week in good weather, five children will spend this time at the Eno River.
11:00 – 12:00 Outdoor Time and Clean-up.
One teacher helps children work in pairs to clean up and prepare the classroom for meeting; meanwhile, the playground, library and outside snack remain open for children to use in self-directed ways with the support of the second teacher. Near the end of the hour, clean-up partners work on outside clean-up as well.
12:00 – 12:30 Meeting
In the Loft Room, one teacher gathers with the children to review the morning’s activities, tell stories, sing, play games, discuss classroom issues and plans, and act out stories told by the children themselves. The other teacher sets the tables for lunch.
12:30 – 1:00 Lunch
Children wash their hands and gather for lunch in small groups, restaurant style, half in the window room and half in the library. Teachers read books and lead discussions. Children eat until they are finished, and then pack up their leftovers, put away their dirty dishes and head out to the playground to wait for or join their families. One teacher stays inside to clean, while the other teacher joins children and families on the playground to help with the transition and share stories of the day.
1:00 – 1:15 Good-Byes
Teachers check in with families on the playground until about 1:15, then say good-bye and sit down together in the classroom to review the day and plan for tomorrow.
Why routines? So they know what to do, feel where to go, relax in a shape around them. It's a protection and haven for them from their bewilderment — from what they think is freedom if you like. This doesn't happen to be freedom as it is; it's intoxication. They're only children, and need direction-finders. Routine, shape, stability.