The question of when to start children at school is a hotly debated topic amongst many parents. How young is too young? Is a full-day program too much for young toddlers? Is it better to choose a local kindergarten and move them later on, or opt for a larger international preschool from the off? We spoke to the Australian International School’s Head of Early Years, Adam Patterson, who draws on his over 20 years of experience as he explains the benefits of starting early when it comes to schooling.
Individualised care for each little explorer
The Pre-nursery program at AIS starts from 18 months old and follows the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy, which places the child at the centre of the learning journey and encourages natural, play-based learning.
“We treat each child as a unique individual,” says Adam. “We want children to feel empowered and encouraged to explore the world around them and make new discoveries. The idea is for them to think they are just having fun and playing, when in actual fact they are learning at every moment.”
A flexible approach to the learning week
The idea of sending your little one off to school for the first time can be daunting, so AIS has a number of ways to help parents feel relaxed and reassured about this key milestone in their child’s life.
“Many children come for the full five-day program; however, the school offers a flexible schedule to accommodate families who wish to take a more gradual approach to settling their child into school” says Adam. “With options of 3 and 4 day per week, as well as half-day programs, families can tailor the school week to suit their needs and the needs of their child.”
A play-based curriculum, staffed by expert early childhood educators
International schools attract some of the best teachers from around the world, and pre-nursery at AIS is no exception to this. All staff are highly trained early childhood educators, who specialise in the delivery of the school’s Reggio-Emilia inspired play-based programs.
“It is these specialist programs delivered by subject experts which really sets the international school environment apart from the average neighborhood preschool” Adam continues. “The programs in these smaller schools are often far more generic in nature and do not offer the variety of learning opportunities that children are exposed to in a school such as AIS.”
Katherine Riechelt’s son Arthur began attending AIS when he was 18 months old. She explains why she chose to send him there:
“We were looking for a school that offered a strong support network of professionals across the age groups that will cater to our son’s growth and development. As he is so young, we preferred the consistency of the school network rather than moving him from one nursery into another as he grows.
He adjusted almost immediately. He started off with three full days, but we changed it to five full days by the second week as he seemed so settled and happy. He comes home exhausted but delighted, which shows he was engaged and enjoyed the activities. Overall, we are very happy and very comfortable at AIS. It has amazing facilities and great teachers.”
Versitile spaces and inspiring connections
One key advantage of the international school environment is the wealth of learning facilities on offer in one place. At AIS these include a specialist early learning swimming pool for swimming lessons, classrooms each with their own dedicated outdoor play space and sensory play equipment, as well as a fully equipped gym.
And it’s not just the facilities that have the wow factor, there are many other benefits of being part of an international school such as AIS.
“Children get exposure to learning resources and expertise from the wider school community” says Adam. “For example, the Possums class recently wanted to understand how light was captured, so one of the Secondary Physics teachers came over to the Early Learning Village and showed the children some simple experiments using lasers.”
Setting the foundations for future learning
AIS’s pre-nursery learners continue their journey throughout the Early Years program at the Village, onto Nursery and Preschool and ultimately through to the Elementary School. From 18 months old, the children are introduced to practices that are used throughout all year groups of the school, such as school lunches (which are eaten ‘family style’ in the classroom) school buses, (which are an option for children from 2 years old) and even school uniforms.
Adam explains, “Whilst many of these things feel very ‘big school’, they have been expertly adapted to suit the needs of our young learners and by introducing them early it eases the transition into Elementary School.”
Want to know more about Early Years at the Australian International School? Bring your child along to the one of AIS’s popular Early Years Experience Days and experience the school’s unique approach and its wonderful Early Years campus.
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