Online Preschool Micro-Classes
Playful, Social, Hands-On Learning
Now enrolling 4 and 5 year olds for 2020 - 2021 school year
What Our Kids Learn
Celebrating 20 years of “having fun growing smart”
About Little Sprouts
Ms. Jo started Little Sprouts 20 years ago on Kitsap Peninsula across the water from Seattle, Washington. It is her love and passion.
Our School Now
We moved online in March, 2020 and have been engaging and teaching kids via Zoom every month since.
Our classes now have the feel of a small tutorial group, while still being large enough for everyone to feel a sense of community. With 5 students in each one hour class, all students get personal attention from Ms. Jo, and from each other.
Each week’s classes contain elements of Literacy, Number Work, Geography, Music, Movement, Science, Art, and Social Emotional Learning. Some days all of these elements are part of a one hour class!
Our School Then
We have been “having fun growing smart” since our start in 2000. Our first class had 4 students which included Ms. Jo’s daughter, who wasn’t quite 3! In 2001, we had two classes. In 2002, we moved to a more spacious house, and our classes kept growing to include more kids and more teachers. From 2003-2015, we also ran Kitsap Farm Camp in the summers, having fun outdoors with elementary age kids. Teaching the importance of community, and caring for ourselves and our world has always been our focus. Many of our kids have formed lasting friendships. It has been lovely to still be in touch with some of our families and students, and to celebrate as they have graduated from high school!
We have experienced a lot of challenges and changes, but never dreamed we’d be where we are in 2020! Yet here we are, moving forward, with all the emotions you’d expect, and a certain exhilaration. Our work is to help prepare kids to bring their gifts to the world, and we are grateful the pandemic hasn’t changed that.
Our Founder and Online Teacher
Jo Walter founded Little Sprouts in 2000, and is our primary teacher. After teaching big kids in public school, opening Little Sprouts was a natural next step as she began homeschooling her own 3 year old daughter.
It has been a privilege to serve as the first teacher for so many children through the years. She is grateful for all the lessons she has learned from each of the students and their families.
How does online preschool work?
Kids need materials to complete their activities in class. Rather than send a traditional set of school supplies to the classroom at the start of the school year, parents will receive a list of items to stock their student’s “materials shelf” at home: scissors, paper, ruler, glue, markers, etc.
Additionally, you will receive a packet every 3-4 weeks with specific materials for in class projects. These may be just small sets like 10 colored beads and a pipe cleaner (for a pattern project), or a coffee filter and eye dropper for making rainbow art, or a colored sticker set for letter making. We will also send loaned materials like books, instruments, puppets and small models. Kids love receiving their personal packets in the mail. We will let you know when to return the loaned materials via USPS.
Here’s an example of what was sent in one of the summer school packets.
Remembering the Golden Rule is a big part of our classroom culture. We like it when others pay attention to us when it’s our turn, so we pay attention to others when it’s their turn. It doesn’t take long for kids to understand and follow this very logical “rule”.
Twice a month personal “check-ins” are scheduled on Fridays. Families can use this time in whatever ways they find most helpful. For example, parents can receive coaching for the work they do with their students in between classes, or choose to use the time for a one to one tutoring session between their student and the teacher.
In the 6 months since we shifted to online classes, parents had different degrees of participation. Some enjoyed sitting next to their kids (out of camera range). Others were completely hands off. It depends on the family and the temperament of the child. We should expect that support will be needed at the start of the school year, with kids moving to greater independence as the year continues.
Parents and teacher communicate via a private facebook group for enrolled families. Parents print materials for their children that are shared in the facebook group.
Parents are called on to help with homework, and some of the assignments can be nice opportunities to enjoy a fun activity as a family. For example, everyone had fun making simple catapults at home.
Siblings are invited to join in when the time is right. Here’s a video of a family doing their “graduation project”. Each instrument has an accompanying word sound and this young musician does an excellent job of listening, then playing her instrument (rhythm sticks: click click) at the correct time. Baby brother shows off his talent and Mom and Dad are in the background playing their own parts in the band!
Classes begin at 9 am, 10:30 am, 12 noon PST on Monday through Thursday
Classes last for one hour.
A 1:30 pm class may open once the above classes are full (5 children per class).
On Fridays twice a month “check ins” are scheduled for 20 minutes.
The 2020-2021 School Year Calendar runs from September 9, 2020 to June 25, 2021.
Tuition is for the ten month school year from September 9, 2020 to June 25, 2021.
Payment may be made at the start of the year, or in 10 installments of $400 payable by the first day of class each month.
A second child can be enrolled for an additional $100 per month.
Some financial support may be available for those who need it. We can discuss this in our first conversation.
What do kids learn online at Little Sprouts?
Knowing about the world we live in and the other people who share the world with us is an important focus at Little Sprouts. Kids learn the locations and shapes of the continents. They learn a bit about cultures around the world. We nurture a sense of appreciation and respect for our own and others’ cultures.
Literacy work is letters: recognizing them, writing them, knowing their sounds. It’s words! Knowing lots of them and how to use language to express yourself. Also listening to stories and telling them. Most kids leave our preschool knowing their vowels and how to slide letter sounds together in order to read consonant – vowel – consonant three letter words.
We use the Handwriting Without Tears program for learning how to construct letters. The four shapes: long and short lines and large and small curves are our foundation. When kids have mastered those four shapes, they have “cracked the code” of writing the alphabet. Every alphabet letter can be made with a combination of these shapes. Kids will have their own set of long and short lines and large and small curves to use throughout the year to build letters.
Kids learn about themselves, animals, plants, the earth and its elements, and how things work like water, air and light. We are always responsive to emergent curriculum: “stuff that comes up”. Conversations and activities may spontaneously arise, on ideas like electricity, decomposition, how bones knit, gravity, and how germs get in. Kids are curious, and science is everywhere in the preschool curriculum!
Our math work includes writing, recognizing and understanding numbers, learning about patterns, ordering, classifying, money, time and beginning addition and subtraction. Materials are provided (along with everyday materials found in your homes) so that learning continues to be hands on, and not simply verbal explanation and on screen demonstrations.
Kids have plenty of opportunities to do freeform artwork. We work online with most of the art materials that are found in a traditional classroom. We also like to do guided drawing. It’s an exercise in listening and following instructions, working together as a team. Kids discover their own capacity to create truly representational drawings, and feel good about their end products! When parents look at it, they don’t have to say “What is it?”
Music is central to our program. We enjoy it, just because. And we use it to reinforce learning. We have LOTS of fun songs. We also use music as part of our movement activities. “Brain breaks” in the middle of each hour long class. We learn to be real musicians towards the end of the year with Frank Leto’s excellent music curriculum Rhythm Band Jam.
In the one hour class, kids have lots of opportunities to get up out of their chairs! Families set up their student’s “materials shelf” separate from their computers. In this way, when we tell kids to go and get a pencil, marker, scissors, gluestick, etc. they can independently leave their seats to get what they need. At the end of the activity they will get up to put their materials away.
In the middle of each hour we have “Time to Move”. This can be a dance, game, or just plain exercise.
Many ordinary activities get kids up and moving. A recent example is the “tweezer opposites hunt”. We were learning how to use our tweezers to pick up opposites found in our homes. Kids found wet/dry objects (wipes/tissues), heavy/light objects (toy/paper), bumpy/smooth (wallpaper/flat rock). This kind of movement is easily included when we have developed a good relationship together. Kids can be trusted to come back when they have been sent off to do a little task!
SEL (Social Emotional Learning)Developing skills for managing emotions is key to being ready to learn, in preschool and in life. Kids learn to ground themselves to prepare for listening, focusing attention, following instructions and getting their needs met by asserting themselves. We work on empathy and care for others. We connect with our bodies to recognize strong feelings, naming them and learning to calm them. We use the Second Step:Social-Emotional Skills for Early Learning curriculum.
We opened our preschool in 2000 using the Core Knowledge Preschool Sequence Curriculum. We still rely on it as our guide. Over time, our curriculum has developed to include elements of Reggio-Emilia, Montessori and Waldorf and many other influences.
So now, 20 years later our program is uniquely our own. Strong academics, along with physical and art activities keep things fun and lively. Learning is hands on, creative, attentive to the natural world, with a strong storytelling component.
Click here for a detailed outline of our curriculum for the year.
Weaving It All Together
Relationships are essential to success in preschool. If the student and teacher enjoy a warm relationship together, that is our foundation for doing good work. At 4 and 5 years old, kids have only a small sense of wanting to do well in school, learn new things, just for its own sake. At this age, kids want to have fun doing things with people they like, feeling good about themselves because they are doing their best, and others are interested in them and appreciate them.
I find that the three R’s are relatively easy to teach, as long as kids want to be in class. We put a lot of emphasis on getting to know each other, building trust and a sense of caring about each other, being a team, a little community. Once those things are established it’s smooth sailing as we dig into letters, numbers, the planets, geography and all the other traditional “academic” learning we expect in school.
We are an intimate group, and kids get to know each other very well. They are constantly interacting, showing their work to each other, asking and answering questions from other kids. To encourage making friends, kids are invited to chat together in the zoom room before and after class when the room is open, but the teacher is not present. The teacher can observe their interactions while her video screen is turned off, just like I would be quietly observing in the traditional classroom.
Tuesdays are “sharing” days when everyone can bring something special to class to share with their friends. It’s a great way to get to know each other and nurture our friendships. We give it plenty of time for interaction. After showing what you have brought, friends show their interest by asking questions. This is also an exercise in taking turns, paying attention to others, and learning the difference in a question and a comment!
At an in-person class, discipline is handled differently than in an online class. In person, the student might have to miss out on the next fun activity if they don’t “do the right thing”. Or they might earn a one or two minute timer, and have to sit down to settle for a while before going back to whatever they were doing. Those aren’t options in our online classroom!
“Muting” is a last ditch tool! We work hard to help everyone in our small community to understand that we want all of our voices to be heard. Kids learn that there is a right time and right way to speak so that everyone has a fair chance, as part of our team. “Hey friend – can you hear me? Great. When you are talking loud at your house we can all hear you in class.”
In our online classes we make the expectations clear, in a casual and friendly way, before school starts and in the first few weeks of school. We learn about the Golden Rule, and refer to it often. We depend on parents to support these expectations. Children must be able to respond to directions like “Friend, it’s time to sit in your seat.” When kids don’t do what is needed of them in class, we’ll look at why. If the class is not holding the child’s interest, teacher and student and family can talk about what the child needs to stay interested. If the child is not responding to the teacher’s instructions, students and their parents and teacher can talk together about what is the “teacher’s job” and what is the “student’s job”, and what do we need from each other so we can do our jobs. We can come to some agreements together. Kids need clear expectations and, like everyone, they like being trusted when they say “okay, I’m willing to do that!” Sometimes the child is just testing boundaries. Being clear about what is expected if they like being a Little Sprouts student solves the problem. If it’s more than just normal “testing” we can strategize next steps together, or we may discover that this program isn’t the good fit we hoped it would be.
We teach kids to look up and say “yes” when they hear their name. Another useful tool is “quiet coyote”, a hand gesture that means ‘look and listen without talking”. Using these little tools at home can help make it work in class.
Kids like fun learning, and having cool things to do, and they like responsibility. So we offer homework! It’s introduced as something positive that they can work on in between classes, never as a chore. Homework is not required every day. Some examples are:
- watching a video about samba dancing in Brazil
- stamping number sets on a worksheet
- finding fallen leaves in their backyard
- making a letter Z out of coated wire
- interviewing a relative to learn about their favorite foods
Some homework assignments are brought to class to show to or discuss with everyone, and others are returned to the teacher via regular mail. Then they are returned with stickers and personalized comments from the teacher. We all like getting special packets in the mail.
At this age, kids need parents to remind them about homework and support them in getting work completed. We all aim to increase kids’ independence from the start to the end of the school year.
Is Little Sprouts right for your family?
To get a sense of how the student will do in class, before enrolling, the student will have a zoom conversation with Ms. Jo.
We want to help the student to be comfortable with the teacher and with the computer, to see that they are able to follow simple instructions, and to know that they can be responsive to simple questions. Kids do not need to use the mouse.
Lots of kids are shy at the start. Being gregarious or having advanced language skills is not a requirement for success. More important is being willing and able to respond.