PJ and Bean started in a pre-school just a 30 second walk (literally, I timed it) from our first apartment in Denver. The school is called OpenAir Academy and is based upon the Reggio Emilia approach. I can't tell you much about the approach other than it appears to be based upon treating children like humans; engaging with them where they are; working on social skills and kindess; and spending a lot of time outside.
And boy did it work. Especially PJ - who has a pretty awful experience with bullying and negativity in his German school - blossomed. In a very short period of time, he became even more curious, thoughtful, and best of all --> kind.
Parents are welcome in the school at any time and for any reason. The Mr. and I would pop in at the start just to see how things were going. They were always going very well. Our children were engaged, included, excited. The teachers were helpful, positive, and made an impression they generally cared about their school, their students, and themselves.
The administrators were always available, always willing to discuss, always personable. And hilarious. Such a wonderful place.
One day the Mr. and I were invited to PJ's classroom to help make schnitzel. The kids got messy and were so engaged.
The school does parents-nights-out. We felt so comfortable with the school, the teachers, and our childrens' reactions that we took advantage of it. When we arrived, both were fast asleep. They were the only ones fast asleep.
Another time the school invited us all to a music-in-the-park day. The teachers played football, rolling around on the grass with the kids, laughing as loud as could be. We had two carry-ins to get to the know the other teachers and each other. Every time it was loud, unscripted, inclusive. Really remarkable.
But then we decided to move. And the pre-school is too far away. There were tears (mostly from the parents during the decision making). It was brutal to consider that the place that welcomed our children, included them and us from day one, and formed the safe environment for PJ to heal wouldn't remain a part of our lives.
Our their last days, we snapped all those pictures. I think they tell the story much better than I ever could.