By Guest Blogger Angela Levine

If you looked up the definition for kindergarten, you’d likely find that the original kindergartens were based around playing, singing and practical activities, as well as social interaction. Kindergartens were to serve as a transition from home life to school life – and kindergarten was initially developed for children where both parents worked outside the home.

A more recent definition emphasizes preparation for first grade – basic, but also part of the kindergarten equation. If you asked Sandy Bryant, who has been teaching kindergarten at St. John’s Lutheran School in Winston-Salem for 21 years, her definition would combine both ideas.

“Kindergarten needs to prepare a child to become a student, friend and someone who contributes to society,” says Bryant. In her opinion, this is why it’s so important to have a strong kindergarten foundation.

What Children Really Need to Get From Kindergarten
With ten-plus years of teaching middle and high school behind her, Bryant moved to kindergarten and St. John’s where she has truly found her niche. Her experience has taught her that fundamentally, children need a strong kindergarten program to they can become:
* Self-sufficient
* Self-confident
* Academically able to do whatever school presents to them

“Kindergarten prepares a student for future years. A strong kindergarten year teaches the student that doing his/her best is important; that a friend is kind and helpful; that there are people who care about them and will help them; that learning is fun,” explains Bryant.

In her mind, the goal of kindergarten is also to instill in each child a love for learning at an early age so that they become a life-long learner.

Finding the Right Kindergarten Option
Bryant advises that parents can assess the best learning environment for their child by visiting a variety of schools and a variety of classrooms in each school. She encourages parents to make sure to ask questions that are important to them at each school. It’s not a time to hold back! Parents should be looking for a school that they feel will foster the love of learning. A nervous, unhappy child that doesn’t feel confident will have a hard time enjoying learning in a school setting.

What St. John’s Kindergarten Program Has to Offer
If Sandy Bryant did not feel so strongly about the program at St. John’s, she would not have spent over twenty years there as a teacher. “At St. John’s, we teach because we love children and love God. It is not a job; it is a calling,” says Bryant. She lists the following tenets of the Winston-Salem school’s kindergarten program:

* St. John’s looks at each child as an individual and strives to educate and make each child the “complete student”.

* As a private school, they do not have to focus on test scores. Rather, there is an emphasis on what is best for each child to be both a successful student and a friend.

* Students are given a strong foundation in reading, math, handwriting, science, history and religion. This prepares them well for moving in to first grade.

* As a Christian school, there is an added bonus of the focus on God, on His love for everyone and serving Him.

Bryant concludes, “Many students come to our school as timid, shy children, with little self-confidence. With our love and encouragement, these same children blossom into amazing students and leaders who want to sing solos and have lead parts in our spring musical.”

Kindergarten at St. John’s Lutheran School – preparation for a future of learning but so much more. Becoming a good friend, good citizen and other things that make a “complete student”. Perhaps this is the definition of kindergarten you’ve been looking for?

Sponsored by St. John’s Lutheran School, located at  2415 Silas Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem, NC.  Phone: (336) 723-1551