From the June 2015 issue

Preschool at a Fitness Club?

The common conception is that school starts at age 5, when a child enters kindergarten. But an ever-growing body of research suggests that it’s ages 3 to 5 that are really crucial for a child’s later school success. Franklin Athletic Club houses a preschool, Franklin Academy, which provides children with a high quality, play-based curriculum for children age 2½ through kindergarten. “One of our mottos is ‘building foundations for the future,'” says preschool director Karen Vandeputte. “They need that strong foundation, and we take a lot of pride in making sure we accomplish that.”

Next year, the kindergarten will adopt a yoga-based mindfulness curriculum, which aims to teach the children pro-social behavior focused on empathy and kindness in their relationships, especially with other children. For all ages, the school focuses on being a loving and warm environment with a family feel. Vandeputte tells parents that while their children are at preschool, she and the other teachers treat them with the same care and nurturing they would show their own child.

Mornings are spent on academics, tailored to the hands-on way small children learn. Teachers give children one-on-one attention to reinforce skills. Music and sign language are offered every week, as well.

Franklin Academy takes advantage of its location at a fitness club, and children who stay for the afternoon hours enjoy a weekly schedule of enrichment activities including tennis, drama, art and swim. Not only does this serve to expose them to a wide variety of interests – not to mention burning off some of that boundless preschooler energy – Vandeputte says it gives families more time together. Rather than running out for a lesson or activity in the evening, children have already had enrichment during the school day, so the family can spend a more relaxed evening or weekend together.

They also offer a lot of flexibility in the preschool. Parents can choose to send their children just a few mornings a week, a full day every day, or some combination of both depending on the family’s needs.

When children leave Franklin Academy, Vandeputte says, the goal is to instill a love of learning and a sense of good citizenship that will last throughout their education. “This is the beginning, and it sets the tone for the rest of their school years,” she says. “We need to make sure we are teaching them, so they are going to love school. What we want to do is prepare them for life in the world.”

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