Ahava is fully licensed by Georgia’s Bright From the Start to serve preschool children aged 12 weeks-4 years old. We currently offer four different programs to meet our children and family’s needs.
Infants who are not yet mobile typically spend much of their day in Kehillat Shalom (Hello and Peace) where their teachers carefully attend to each child’s developing needs and individual routines. Infancy is a crucial time of rapid development. New discoveries are at the heart of every interaction that our youngest children have with others and with their environment. A solid attachment to their teachers and parents allows children the basis to understand that they can rely upon others to help them, and by being responsive to the needs of the children, our teachers help our youngest children learn that their opinions matter! In addition to their connected and unhurried care routines, infants spend time outdoors, visiting different locations in the synagogue, hearing and creating music, observing the properties of light and color, and so much more.
Toddlers are eager to explore their growing world and develop their independence! Kehilat Harpatkah (Adventure) is a space just for their adventurous spirits. Toddlers are given ample opportunity to experiment and to construct new knowledge in a sensory rich environment and at a developmentally appropriate pace with supportive, loving teachers. While they may try out new ideas and explore their surroundings, they will look to their parents and teachers to be a base of support and trust. Toddlers also begin to show more interest in other children as they begin to understand that they are members of a larger community.
MIXED AGED FAMILY GROUPS
Children of all ages have always had much to learn from each other and family groupings help children build upon their growing sense of community. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have received a waiver from Bright From the Start (our state licensing agency) that allows us to group children of all ages together in order minimize the points of connection between class groups, with most siblings and other family members grouped together in their classes. These groups have a strong sense of connection and have been a joy to experience. Younger children feel the security and support of older peers who model, assist, and offer kindness. Meanwhile older children are given unique opportunities to develop empathy, consolidate their own learning, and take on leadership positions within the group. Teachers carefully observe the children as individuals and a whole group to identify the types of experiences best suited to the children in their group, regardless of age. Each mixed-age class includes teachers with specific experience and expertise in the age groups represented.
Preschoolers are full of wonder and are busy making new connections about their world. They are hard at work building their identities as individual learners, a whole community, and within their increasingly complex friendship circles. At Ahava, three- to five-year old children who are not a part of a family class, attend our mixed age preschool class Kehilat Hakarah (Recognition). Preschoolers are constantly learning and are ready to take on a more direct role in constructing their learning experiences. Children this age continue to learn most effectively through their innate drive for play; however, their definition of “play” begins to expand to include repeatedly attempting challenging tasks, integrating new pieces of information, and having a more experienced guide demonstrate a new skill or technique – as long as these activities help them expand their own increasingly complex play. Like all of our teachers at Ahava, preschool teachers carefully observe children’s behaviors and interests to construct opportunities to further their play and they also engage children directly through conversations, challenges, and “workshops” that introduce ideas and skills at just the right level. Our preschool teachers do not follow a set curriculum. All children at Ahava learn executive functioning skills such as planning and concentration, as well as social-problem solving, self-direction, body awareness, and self-help skills – all of which are essential for young children’s well-being as well as their future success in school and life. Children also learn number sense, emerging reading and writing skills, scientific inquiry, and host of other “academic” skills as they show signs of readiness and interest, all through their play and daily life at school. We know that “Kindergarten Readiness” can be a anxiety-inducing concept for parents – check out our Parent Resources page for more information on developmental milestones for preschoolers, the benefits of play-based early childhood programs, and the transition to kindergarten.
Families sometimes ask if we offer a Kindergarten program. We do not offer a specific Kindergarten program or designated curriculum. However, we do believe that children continue to benefit from a play-based model well beyond their 5th birthday (most research suggests children learn primarily through play until at least age 8 – and, of course, we ALL continue to benefit from play throughout our lives!) and happily accommodate 5-year-olds in our mixed at preschool classes. Occasionally families (often of children whose birthdays put them at the youngest end of their school cohort) have chosen to keep their child in our preschool class for a third year and then worked with their child’s teacher to decide if Kindergarten or First Grade is the most appropriate next step for their child.
Children ages 4+ are eligible for Scholarship support through the Alef Fund.