Success Through Early Literacy at Grace Community School

Originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of The Whale’s Tale.

It affects millions of children. Many people don’t know the problem exists, and most of those who do, don’t know what they can do about it. The problem is lack of reading ability—literacy.

Literacy, the ability to read: once the hallmark of the educated person, has become a rare commodity. In the United States, 30 million people have a 5th grade (public school) level reading level or lower. This is not real reading. A person who is a functional illiterate is “a person with some basic education who still falls short of a minimum standard of literacy or whose reading and writing skills are inadequate to everyday needs.”
Person with book
Image: Canva

Imagine not being able to properly fill out a job application, read an Internet news story, or understand the text on a ballot. Good reading skills are a necessity for these basic tasks. Even more importantly, those who cannot read well are limited in the ways they can get information. They are more dependent upon others. We want independent individuals!

The problem starts at the preschool level. Reading instruction is not given early enough, and when it does come it is the wrong kind! Sight reading and “whole language” does not work for most people. The best way for kids to learn to read is not to memorize sight words, or to be read to for hours on end, but to learn the basic sounds and symbols they need to read independently. Today’s emphasis on emergent literacy, the belief that children gradually learn to read by interacting with books and print (as opposed to purposeful instruction), is wrong and harmful. Reading doesn’t “just happen,” it needs to be taught.

This Grace Community School student is graduating kindergarten tomorrow. She is very proud of her reading skills. We are, too! Do you see why College Can Begin at Two is much more than just a slogan?

Posted by Grace Community School on Friday, May 29, 2015

So how do we teach it? There is a method, one that has been around for as long as the English language has existed: phonics. The letters of the alphabet are code for sounds. Letters and letter combinations represent sounds. When you decode the letters into the sounds they represent, you know what the words are. Teach kids to decode the alphabet, and they can read! With practice comes fluency and understanding. Decoding words into their sounds becomes second nature. The huge benefit of phonics is this: with phonics, you can read a word you have never seen before — memorization of words is not required. Phonics is the method of reading instruction, and this is what is done at Grace Community School.
Boy with reading certificateThere is no reason to wait until kids are in elementary school to teach reading. Our slogan says, “College Can Begin at Two,” and this is true. Reading is tremendously important for success in life, and the earlier these skills are acquired the better. More than that, though: learning to read at Grace Community School is fun!
Find out more about Grace Community School at www.gracecommunityschools.com.

We’re the Best! (Actually, You Are!)

We’re the best! Grace Community School was just voted best of Cape Coral by the Cape Coral Daily Breeze (for the second year in a row), the Lehigh Acres Citizen, and the Charlotte Sun.Ms. Patricia accepting the Best of Lehigh AwardMs. Rachel and Ms. Jay accepting the Best of Cape Coral Award.

Best of Charlotte AwardFirst of all: thank you! These “Best Of…” awards are based on newspaper reader polls, so we literally could not have won without you and your votes. You guys are great! We feel great, too. We love hearing people say that we’re the best, and we’ve heard this a lot since the first Grace Community School location was opened in 1986. In 2016, we will be celebrating our 30th anniversary, and being publicly recognized like this is wonderful. We are thrilled to have served this community and its parents and children for three decades now.

Grace Community School was designed to stand apart from the crowd, which we have done. We know there are dozens of daycares in Southwest Florida, and we’re glad you chose us! Even more importantly, we are happy that you trust us enough to educate and care for your children and grandchildren. Being a parent is an enormous responsibility, and choosing a school is no trivial decision. Rest assured that your kids are in good hands. Education is what we do. At Grace Community School, “Our Preschoolers Can Read” and “College Can Begin at Two!” aren’t just slogans. When we say that our preschoolers can read, we mean it. This is a claim no other Southwest Florida childcare center even makes, let alone fulfills. There is endless discussion in early childhood education circles about the need to increase daycare learning, No Child Left Behind, and early literacy. Preschool is a hot issue, even making it into the presidential campaign news. This is an important discussion, to be sure, but talking alone will not address these issues.

While others talk, we do.

We are Southwest Florida’s leader in early childhood education, with a proven track record of teaching kids to read, do math, and a whole lot more – a much more than the so-called free programs.

Recently a news story broke saying that daycare costs in 31 states exceed in-state college tuition. Pardon my saying, but that’s crazy Quality childcare shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Grace Community School’s low prices, introductory rates, scholarship program, and free food are very important for our parents. There are enough struggles, financial and otherwise, for parents without daycare costs taking an undue toll. Being the best means we promise to do all that we can to help this community in our area of expertise – it’s what we do.

 

All that being said, It’s nice to talk about us, but what we’d really like to do is focus on our students. It is our pleasure to see that our students are learning. Feedback is wonderful, but today let us celebrate our students’ achievements, not our own. The real stars of this story are your kids! They are learning so much! Nothing makes us happier than seeing all the Reader Achievers who grace each issue of The Whale’s Tale and our social media pages; and the reading books, and Reading and Math Circle certificates, going home. Grace Community School is more than a school, we’re a family, and that family is made up of the many, many students and their parents who come see us each and every school day.

Best of LehighSo again: thank you for voting us “the best,” and especially thank you for your wonderful children. We look forward to serving the community of Southwest Florida for many years to come. You can find out more about Grace Community School at www.gracecommunityschools.com. Would you do one more thing for us? If you have friends or family on social media who might be in need of childcare, click one of the share buttons below, because don’t they deserve the best, too? Thank you!

All About Math Circles!

Math Teaching Tools
Image: Canva

If your preschooler has been attending Grace Community School for very long, you are probably familiar with Reading Circles. If not, you can learn more about these here and here. Let’s talk about a more recent innovation, Grace Community School Math Circles. While mathematics instruction has been a part of our program from Grace Community’s beginning, Math Circles are still pretty new. The idea was to take the same system that has taught our preschool students to read for nearly thirty years, and implement it with mathematics. It’s been a huge success so far!

As our Reading Circles do with phonics, Math Circles break down the mathematics domain of the Florida Early Learning and Development Standards for Four-Year-Olds into small, easy-to-learn skills. Individualized instruction helps kids progress quickly. Once a child has shown mastery of one level, he or she moves on to the next level. Passing a Math Circle is cause for celebration! One of the guiding principles in our education programs is that children love and need to be rewarded and acknowledged for their achievements. All the books, photos, and, in this case, the Math Circle certificates, that go home also keep parents up to date on how their child is progressing. Each Math Circle certificate has fun and colorful images, as well as example material so kids and parents can practice the learning material at home, for even more fun! For example, the 1-30 Objects Set certificate has thirty planet cutouts for kids to count with, and the 3-Element Patterns certificate has colored square cutouts for pattern-making. Your kids will be proud to “show off” their new skills!

Math Circle certificates.These are the Math Circle levels:

Basic Shapes

  • Circle
  • Triangle
  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Oval

Patterns

  • 2-Element Patterns
  • 3-Element Patterns

Counting by 1’s

  • 1’s Family (0-9)
  • 10’s Family (10-19)
  • 20’s Family (20-29)
  • 30’s Family (30-39)
  • 40’s Family (40-49)

Sets

  • 1-10 Object Sets
  • 11-20 Object Sets
  • 21-30 Object Sets

Ordinal Numbers

  • 1st to 5th
  • 6th to 10th

Advanced Shapes

  • Trapezoid
  • Rhombus
  • Sphere
  • Cube
  • Cone
  • Cylinder
  • Pyramid

That is a lot of mathematical knowledge! Also in the works is an expansion of Math Circles for our kindergarteners and advanced pre-K students. This will include higher counting, addition, and subtraction families, before and after numbers, and more. Coming soon!

Reading and Math Circle certificates celebrate our students’ achievements and keep parents informed of their child’s progress!

A photo posted by Grace Community School (@gracecommunityschool) on

Girl With Math Circle certificate.The best way to build self-esteem in a child is to help him or her believe in his or her abilities, and the best way to do that is to help a child gain those abilities. This is one of the reasons early childhood education is so important, and part of why Grace Community School is committed to real learning, not glorified babysitting like at most daycares. We get to see how happy our students are when they take home their reading books and Reading and Math Circle certificates. Kids want to learn; it is our job as educators to help them do that, and the Grace Community School Math Circles program is a powerful learning tool!

You can find out more about Grace Community School, including information on our other educational programs, at www.gracecommunityschools.com. Did you enjoy this article? Why not share it with your friends by clicking one of the share buttons below? Better yet, share this article with a friend, and give them one of these flyers here. Be sure to write your name down on the “referred by” line to qualify you for a $100 Grace Community School referral!

Public School Kindergarten Is Not Free

"Free" written on chalkboard
Image: iStock

Is free really free? Parents have choices, and one of the most important choices parents must make is where to put their children for childcare and school. Southwest Florida has many pre-K programs, and of course when it comes to kindergarten most kids just go to the public school and not private schools or Grace Community School. The differences between these programs may not be obvious at first glance.

Let’s start with preschool. A lot of parents are under the impression that preschool is an all-day thing. Sadly, this usually isn’t the case. Most pre-K programs in Florida opt to do a 3-hour daily program so that their state funds can stretch through the whole year. Parents who need more than those 3 hours must purchase wraparound care for an added fee. Not here. Grace Community School’s pre-k program is now an all-day program — 6:30am to 6:00pm, no wraparound care needed! So instead of three hours of learning, students at Grace Community School participate in learning that lasts the entire day. As they say on TV, “But wait, there’s more!”

Image: Canva
Image: Canva

There is no comparison between the learning at Grace Community School versus other daycares. A lot of parents are interested in state-funded pre-K because it’s a “good deal.” What makes something a good deal? It means you’re getting more for your money and effort than you would be getting elsewhere, right? “Free” sounds like a good deal. You wouldn’t think that you could get a better deal than something that’s free. But you have to be careful. “Free” comes with strings attached. Is “free” worth it if it isn’t what’s best for your child? One of the most crucial things you will give up when choosing a free preschool program is reading instruction. I’m not talking about “reading readiness,” but real, actual reading.

It is very hard to overestimate the importance of being able to read. It is an incredibly important skill, and has been shown to be an indicator of future success. “A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.” While public school students struggle to read at grade level by the third grade, Grace Community School students sometimes graduate preschool reading at a third-grade public school level; by kindergarten often a fifth-grade level. “Reading readiness” such as is taught at conventional daycares is no substitute for actually teaching reading!

Reading certificate for blog postThere is no good reason to postpone developmentally appropriate reading instruction. Well-intentioned folks often put it off until kids are in elementary school based on the mistaken belief that teaching reading is harmful or that it takes the fun out of early childhood. Learning and fun are not mutually exclusive! There is a misconception that having organized, scheduled learning times means kids have no time for play and fun. Our developmentally appropriate instruction is fun! Kids learn at their own pace in Grace Community School Reading Circles, and they are happier for it. Math, music, Bible lessons, and more all contribute to a well-rounded educational foundation.

What about kindergarten? Grace Community School kindergarten builds on the pre-K education foundation and continues the reading, Bible, and math programs your child has begun at Grace Community School. It continues right where your child left off at the end of Grace Community School pre-K!

Public school kindergarten is a different story. Because they are accustomed to always having something more to learn, Grace Community School students are often bored when they get into public school — they just aren’t challenged! There is another reason. Kids at Grace Community School benefit so much from our non-denominational Bible lessons. There is no Bible teaching in the public school. Children who are used to a Christian education at home, church, and in a place like Grace Community School often have trouble transitioning to a secular environment. Bible instruction is the foundation of our whole-life curriculum (including the options for programs like karate, dance, music, and piano classes). The public school will not continue the moral and character development begun at Grace Community School. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Our kindergarten is only $75 per week. After care at the public school costs $55 per week. When you factor the cost for after care (which you must pay) along with the cost of food (Grace Community School provides all our kids with free food regardless of income), you may actually save money with Grace Community’s private school kindergarten! There are a lot of bonuses on top of that you won’t find anywhere else; besides the free food there are yearbooks, school photos, musical programs, and more. Don’t forget about our financial aid program! When you look at everything in context, the free programs available at public school and government-funded daycares just aren’t worth it.

DSC01954Choose better than free! Whether it’s preschool or kindergarten, doesn’t your child deserve all that comes from a Grace Community School education? Find out more about Grace Community School at www.gracecommunityschools.com.

Testify!

testimonial noun 1. a written declaration certifying to a person’s character, conduct, or qualifications, or to the value, excellence, etc., of a thing; a letter or written statement of recommendation. Source: dictionary.com

Notepad
Image: Canva

At Grace Community School, we like testimonials. They tell us that our students are happy and learning! It is very important for parents (and us) to we see that a child is doing well. There are little things we see at school that help confirm this. We see it in the smile of a child when they are playing or reading a book by themselves in Reading Circles, or when a student tells us how much fun they had in program practice. But we’re not always with our students, and so communication between parents and caregivers is very important. We love it when parents share stories from home, maybe about a child playing school or repeating a Bible verse, or something they learned at Song Time. It’s great to have that little extra feedback. Testimonials also provide this. Sometimes we get testimonials from students who attended here in preschool or kindergarten and are now in elementary school. Those are great!

Here’s a testimonial we got recently from one of our students who just went off to kindergarten after years of attending Grace Community School:

Zaira“I cannot say enough about Grace Community School, from the caring staff to the directors who know each of hundreds of students by name. My favorite part is this: my daughter started GCS at one years old. She was immediately engaged! Before long, even before she turned three, she was a Reader Achiever, and has gone on to kindergarten reading at almost a third grade level! Her zeal for learning and reading grows each day! For that, I thank Grace Community School.” — Cerissa T.

Here’s another one via our website, about another long-term student now in elementary school:

BS Testimonial“My son Jaxon started going to Grace Community School when he was almost 3 yrs old. I kept him there until he was ready for 1st grade. The care and instruction he got while he was a student there was exceptional. By the time he graduated from Kindergarten, he could read very well and also count by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. He could convert dollars to cents and could spell a lot of the high-frequency words. He is now almost 8 now, in public school 2nd grade. His Math and Language Arts skills are amazing! He scores 100% on almost all his tests. He was one of the top readers in his 1st-grade class and is now being considered for the gifted program. I have Grace Community Schools to thank for him excelling in school, because they laid the solid foundation that propelled my son’s education into the excellence I see today! Thank you so much Rev. David, Ms. Melissa, and Rev. Jeremy and Ms. Abby. Most of all, thank you for teaching my son the Word of God also. We are forever grateful.” — Jereminah M.

Of course, we love hearing from parents of our current students, too! Here’s one:

Kent,TannerKent,Payten“We love Grace Community because of the wonderful staff and great Christian values. My son in the infant room has some amazing teachers. They always keep us informed on a day-to-day basis. It’s not the free food, playgrounds, or free registration that make this school amazing – it’s the amazing staff that takes care of my children every day!” – Kasidi K.

Our students are amazing! Thank you to all of our parents for sharing your Grace Community School experiences, and you can find more testimonials online here, and in print in each issue of The Whale’s Tale. You an find more about Grace Community School at www.gracecommunityschools.com. Do you have a testimonial or just want to share something? Leave us a message here or share on our Facebook page!

Christmas Spectacular! 2015 Program Dates, Times, and Locations [UPDATED]

Here are the dates, times, and locations for our 2015 Christmas programs. We hope to see you there!

December 4
7:00PM Port Charlotte

December 5
11:00AM Fort Myers
1:00PM Bonita Springs
3:00PM Cape Coral and North Fort Myers
5:00PM Lehigh Acres
7:00PM Skyline
1:00PM Naples Park
3:00PM Golden Gate

Nativity
Image: Canva

Christmas Programs are Coming!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Grace Community School! Can you feel it? The holiday spirit in the air? That’s because it’s Christmas program time!

Christmas program practice has begun!

Posted by Grace Community School on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Christmas program lyricsI know what you’re thinking: it’s only October, right? Nevertheless, practice for Christmas Spectacular! 2015 is underway. It doesn’t take long to get the kids singing Christmas songs, and this year’s song lineup is especially catchy. We’ve already had some kids insisting on showing us what they have learned before they go home in the evening. The kids are very proud of their performance, as well they should be! Putting on these shows is a lot of work for both kids and staff. We practice for more than two months for every show learning the lyrics, movements, and parts. It is not an overstatement to say that it is one of our most anticipated events of the entire year.

Programs are a fantastic way for the students to show their families and friends what they have learned, and kids love singing! You’ll never see parents prouder than at a program. Our shows are very well-attended, and we welcome all to come. Attendance is free, just get to the show early to get your seats! Many times grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members schedule their vacation times so they can come for our shows. We think that is wonderful!

Christmas Dance Recital2015’s Christmas program will once again feature a recital from the Grace Community School Dance Class — if you want your child to take part in that, talk to the office about enrolling in Dance Class soon while we still have room! You’ll love the dance recital costumes we’ve picked out, too!

If this is your first Grace Community School program, you’re in for a real treat. If you’ve been to lots of our shows before, you know how awesome it’s going to be! We’ll be announcing the program dates, times, and venues for all Grace Community School locations soon. Until then you can ask your location for details about which classes are participating. ¡Feliz Navidad! Nativity scene

Visit www.gracecommunityschools.com for more school information, and click the share button below to let others know about the programs coming up!

Welcome!

Welcome!
Image: iStock

Welcome to the Grace Community School blog! We’re glad you’re here. While you can already find us on a variety of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, YouTube, and Vine, this blog will provide us with a place to post longer pieces in an indexed, easier-to-find way. We will also be publishing the articles published in our school newspaper, The Whale’s Tale. (Speaking of The Whale’s Tale, have you read our most recent issue? There’s a lot of very cool stuff in there, and we love showing off our kids’ achievements. Be sure to ask your school location for a copy if you haven’t received one yet!) More news about school events is one of the things parents ask us for the most, and we’re happy to oblige. We can’t wait to see where this goes!

This blog will also help you give your friends and family a way to answer the question, “Why Grace Community School”? We’ve always believed word-of-mouth is the best way to advertise, and we truly appreciate all the great recommendations our customers have given over the many years. It’s for this reason that we have a $100 referral bonus for people who refer students to any one of our nine locations. The $100 referral is our way of saying a big “THANK YOU” for doing a good deed! Details about this tremendous program are available at Grace Community School location offices. Choosing a childcare center is a big decision, and we understand that parents often have a lot of questions. Grace Community School is no ordinary daycare. With our comprehensive reading and math programs, special extracurricular activities like piano, music, dance, and karate classes; advanced curriculum, and fun educational activities, it can be a lot to take in! Parents want to know how we do it all.

Girl with flash cards

It’s our goal for this blog to be a resource for current and prospective parents to aid with the important questions they have, as well as a top-notch news source to keep everyone informed about the goings-on at Grace Community School.

Have a question? Feel free to leave a comment below or on one of our social media accounts. As always, our home on the web is www.gracecommunityschools.com. Visit there for more information on our locations, programs, and prices, and if you enjoyed this post, please click one of the share buttons below – we appreciate it!