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Three-year-olds hit the books

November 29, 2011 12:10 am


Ryan Keener reads a Clifford the Big Red Dog storybook to a baby doll on his lap at the 3-year-old preschool class at the Caroline County church. 112911PreSchool3.jpg

Reese Hensen (left) and Shaynah Gayle work to match the colorful clothespins to turkeys during the 3-year-old preschool class at Round Oak Baptist Church. 112911PreSchool1.jpg

Teacher Paula Dustin helps Anneliese Harmon sign a Thanksgiving card at Round Oak Baptist Church's preschool.


Heather Miller said her youngest daughter was very demanding as a 3-year-old.

But she said she saw changes in Caroline, now 5, after enrolling her in Fredericksburg United Methodist Church's preschool for 3-year-olds.

"She learned when it was acceptable and when it was not to take what she wanted," said Miller, who lives in Stafford County. "She couldn't just have whatever she wanted. It really enforced following the rules for her."

Not to mention, Caroline learned numbers, colors and how to write her name, among other things.

Many Fredericksburg-area churches and private schools offer preschool for 3-year-olds, which experts say has become more popular in recent years.

Fredericksburg Academy, a private school in Spotsylvania County, is starting a program next August.

"I think everybody's trying to get ready for the SOLs [Standards of Learning tests] and getting the kids up to speed with their fine motor and gross motor and all of that," said Fredericksburg United Methodist Church preschool teacher Kim Moss.

Paula Dustin, who is the director of the Round Oak Baptist Church Weekday Preschool in Caroline County, said preschool for 3-year-olds is a growing trend among churches.

"It's such a fun age group," said Dustin, who has a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. "They're busy. They're talking. They're excited about any little thing. It's like a fresh palette you have to work with."

Head Start programs--federally funded preschool for children from low-income families--also offer classes for 3-year-olds.

This year, Stafford Head Start has 68 3-year-olds and another 62 on its waiting list, said Head Start Director Kathyrn Massie.


As of last week, Fredericksburg Academy had received 45 inquiries and four applications for its program for 3-year-olds since it was announced earlier this month.

"We've been seeing an increase in the amount of families who are looking for a younger starting age," said Fredericksburg Academy Head of School Karen Moschetto. "We felt like, with the amount of inquiries we were getting, that we were really missing an opportunity to get these students into our school sooner."

FA has had preschool for 4-year-olds since the school opened in 1992.

The class for 3-year-olds will be capped at 14 students and have two teachers. Children will attend enrichment classes such as music and movement, art, physical education and foreign language.

Tammy Brady, who will be the class's lead teacher, said early childhood education is vital.

"When you work with a young child, you're developing the person," she said. "It's a critical period in their development where learning is effortless."

Brady, who has a degree in education, has been teaching children ages 3 to 5 for nearly 20 years.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children says children benefit most when their teachers have high levels of formal education.

"Teachers who have specific preparation, knowledge, and skills in child development and early childhood education are more likely to engage in warm, positive interactions with children, offer richer language experiences, and create more high-quality learning environments," according to NAEYC's early childhood program.


Moss, who has taught at Fredericksburg United Methodist Church's preschool for 12 years, says 3-year-olds learn about colors, shapes, numbers and some letters.

They also take music and physical education every week for 30 minutes each.

"There's a big difference between a sitter and what we're doing here," she said.

Asked why she thinks preschool is popular, Miller --a parent of four children, ages 1, 3, 5 and 7--said with a laugh: "I think some just want their kids out of the house."

It's also a good option for parents like her with several children, she said.

"With my 3-year-old, it's very hard for me to work with him one-on-one at home because there are so many other children and so many other needs," she said. "So it was good for him to have a little extra educational attention at school."

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

Many Fredericksburg-area churches offer preschool for 3-year-olds, including Round Oak Baptist Church in Caroline County and Fredericksburg United Methodist Church.

Round Oak Baptist Church's preschool for 3-year-olds, which meets three days a week, costs $110 per month.

Fredericksburg United Methodist Church's program for 3-year-olds, which meets two days a week, is $120 per month. The Methodist Church also has preschool classes three times a week for older 3-year-olds for $165 per month.

Parents interested in Fredericksburg Academy's new preschool for 3-year-olds have several pricing options per school year. They are:


For five days a week from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.


For five days a week from 8 a.m. until noon.


For three days a week from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.


For three days a week from 8 a.m. until noon


For two days a week from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.


For two days a week from 8 a.m. until noon

Parents can fill out applications at

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