Our School year starts tomorrow and as I was getting the space ready
for our students, I was reflecting on how much the school has changed in 4 1/2 years.
I thought it would be fun to start the new year off with the story of how Art and Soul Preschool
became the school it is today.
I had been a public school art teacher for 10 years, but when I took maternity leave to have my daughter, I took a leap of faith and decided that I would like to stay home with her. At the time I taught continuing ed. night classes at a local community college and sold my own artwork at craft shows.
It was a blessing to be home with my baby and it allowed me to go to some wonderful baby groups. It was through these groups, Bliss Mamas and Family Resource Center, that I became excited about early childhood education. Many of these mothers were passionate about finding a nice preschool experience for their children. I was too, but to be honest I never went to preschool, so as a new mother I was more focused on what my daughters grade school experience would be like. The Bliss Mama's had at one time expressed interest in doing a Co-op Preschool. Simultaneously, one of the mother's in that group started to talk about a Reggio School she worked at and help create in Washington DC. I had no idea what the Reggio Philosophy was, nor that this modest mother was a Reggio Consultant, but I was lent books and that was it, I was in love and hooked on the idea of Early Childhood Education.
The Parent Co-op did not manifest, but my passion for creating a preschool did. It is hard to believe that was six years ago. From my first book on Reggio I began to research and work toward creating a preschool that was focused on my background in Art Education, had an Emergent Curriculum, and drew influence from Reggio's passionate Philosophy of viewing the child as a capable, whole individual with tremendous potential and possibility.
Next step, how was I going to do this?
I started small and I prayed a lot! Each day was a learning experience for both the children and myself. My husband was on board with me starting the school in our home. Without his dedication to children, in particular our daughter, and to my dream, none of this would have come to be.
I started the school two days a week and had my daughter and 3 other children. Above is a picture of what half my living room looked like. Below is the Studio/Kitchen of our house. Each day I had a system of setting everything up, and then putting everything away and off to the side in the evenings. It was a lot of work, but we made it happen.
More views of the school when it was in our home.
The school quickly grew and by the end of my second year in the house, I was running the school 5 days a week , and I would have 9/10 children a day, with a total of 25 children enrolled and rotating in the schedule. I was even able to hire an assistant. It was a testament to the power of love, dedication to dreams, and faith.
After two and a half years of running the school at home I had no intentions of leaving the house. I had finally found my rhythm and a balance of work and home. However, I went to a rummage sale one day and inquired about a cubby unit. It was at a local church that had an education wing which had previously been a daycare. They informed me that the Pastor was not there to give me a price, so I left my number. The next week he called and invited me over to see some school equipment. As I was there with my daughter, I started to look through the rooms and at the playground. I didn't even need the cubby unit after all, so I don't even know why I was there. Little did I know the reason would soon be clear. The pastor informed me that they were thinking of possibly renting it in the near future. I took some pictures because I wanted to keep the space in my mind.
That night I couldn't sleep and kept looking at the pictures. I felt I was in no place to rent outside the home, and besides I liked my school in the house, but I couldn't shake the thought of this space.
The next day I contacted the Pastor and asked him what someone would need to do in order to rent the space and talk about rates. He simply said, write a proposal.
So, with that in mind I meditated and wrote out my vision for Art and Soul Preschool. I wrote out what I hoped the children would receive at the school, What I hoped to achieve as a teacher, the type of environment that I wanted them to have the opportunity to play in, all the things that I would need this space to have for it to continue to grow and nurture and function as it had been doing the 2 1/2 years it was in my home. I even mediated on the amount I felt I would be able to afford per square foot. I wrote it all out, even included pictures of things I would like to add to the playground.
Just before sending the letter I realized I wasn't scared they would turn it down, I was scared they would say "yes" to everything. Turns out they did say yes to everything! So, with some trepidation, but mostly excitement and joy, and lots of love and support from family, friends, and the incredible community of students and their families, I began working on the new space.
Below is a series of pictures of the space before and after:
Our Block Area
Our Dramatic Play Area
Circle and Morning Meeting Area
After-Our Reading Nook
Our Writing Area
More of our Writing/Science/Light Exploration Areas
The Hallway Before
The Studio was just a blue room, since then the church put in a sink and counter and we have a working Art Studio
Mud Kitchen and Willow Hut
Boom Drums and Earth Slide
Painted Panels created by the kids
It has been an incredible journey, I can't wait to see what the new year brings.