Early Learning in Indiana

The following article was contributed by Rita Parsons, Principal, Holy Spirit School, Indianapolis, IN.

Indiana lawmakers have passed into law financial initiatives to provide quality childcare and preschool programs to families with income requirements. The state legislators believe high-quality Early Learning and Childcare programs are a gateway to an increase in the number of high school graduates and postgraduate degrees. The Childcare and Development Fund (CCDF) provides quality childcare scholarships for six-week-olds through four-year-olds. Also, some school-age children receive before and after school care through CCDF. On the Way Pre K provides preschool and childcare scholarships to families for three- and four-year-olds. An approved accrediting organization must accredit childcare and Pre Schools. For a family to be eligible to receive On the Way Pre K scholarships, the parents must be in school or employed.

There are many Catholic schools in Indiana taking advantage of the new opportunities to serve infants through four-year-olds. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has seen the construction of new buildings for Early Learning and Childcare, as well as empty classrooms that are now renovated into new learning spaces for our youngest population.

Quality child care and preschools need to have a strong curriculum. A rich curriculum includes a religion curriculum; an understanding of how children develop and learn; an age-appropriate classroom learning environment; a caring and teaching culture; and a strong partnership with families. The classroom has available eleven classroom interests areas and outdoors. The areas include blocks, dramatic play, toys and games, art, library, discovery, sand and water, music and movement, cooking, technology and outdoors. Students must have access to all eleven classroom interests areas every day. Staff developed a plan to ensure classroom interests areas are open every day during free choice. Choice time leads to children sharing, caring, manners and much more.

The implementation of a parent partnership is a critical component of a strong Early Learning Ministry. We offer parent nights during which the children and their parent(s) “make and take activities” to play at home as a family. Our focus is on math and literacy. We schedule a parent night in the first and second semester. Parents are welcome to be in the classroom to volunteer or join their child for lunch.

We must have 50% of Early Learning staff as highly qualified with a BS in Early Childhood or a CDA certificate. All staff participates in 20 clock hours of professional development during the calendar year. This training includes CPR, first aid training, child development, curriculum and more. We believe empowering lifelong learning creates a culture where the staff wants to excel for themselves and the children. We are a family who positively interacts each day to make children safe, healthy and happy.

Finally, our faith is the center of our program. Students in the Early Learning Ministry participate in Mass and Rosary each week. Students learn and appreciate a love for all God’s gifts. Students learn their prayers and recite them throughout the day.

Our Early Learning Ministry belongs to a “school family.” Our school families are Pre K – 8 where each staff member is assigned a group of students who meet twice a month to learn about life skills and God’s teachings on being KIND!

To learn more about Holy Spirit Early Learning Ministry, contact Rita Parsons.