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The roots of learning

She asks parents to heed that crucial phase for learning and brain development.“If you’re not building this structure, the roots, the branches, by age six, you’re not going to have much to build your connections with during elementary school. You’re going to have a smaller, weaker tree.”

Beim has been an educator for 18 years, and her Core Education & Fine Arts (cefa) schools offer classes for children as young as one and up to five years old.

But don’t call it a nursery school – or a daycare – she says.

Beim’s schools offer junior kindergarten programs, standardized early education for kids who aren’t yet school-aged. She opened her first school at Park Royal in 1998. Last month she opened her eighth location, adding to her empire that spans the North Shore to White Rock, a total of 1,100 spots for little learners around the Lower Mainland.

“In the beginning when we opened up, people said, ‘How can that (formal, full-day education in the preschool years) be right? It can’t be good. Otherwise everyone would be doing it.’”

Other countries have offered those programs, she says, for years, pointing to schools in Europe that focus on values and experiences before test scores. But Beim says many Canadian parents still wonder if kids should start formal education before kindergarten.

“People think, ‘Well, we don’t want to see them (children) sitting in desks at age three.’ That’s not what we do (at cefa). The issue is not if they should learn at age three. The issue is how they should learn.”

Beim says her schools aim to foster curiosity, so kids decide what they want to explore in an environment that follows a curriculum but isn’t structured like elementary schools. Kids play, ask questions, develop motor skills and most importantly grow what she calls “a really great confidence in themselves . . . the image of yourself from day one is so important. What you believe you can do is what you can do.”

As an example, she uses her Haiti relief project, also a math unit for kids in each of her cefa locations.

Children brought clothes to donate to Haitian orphans after the major earthquake that decimated the country in January. They helped wash, sort and fold the clothes to understand quantity and comparisons, key curriculum milestones for early elementary kids at Beim’s schools.

“With math, it’s really important there’s always something they can touch,” she says.

“This is the time they’re learning to make sense of the world… Who cares if they can count to 100? The important thing is if they know the difference between three or 37.”

The students wrote notes to the Haitian children and wrapped the clothing like presents. “We could have put a bin out in the front of the school and just drove it there (to the donation depot),” says Beim. “That would have meant something to the parents, but nothing to the children.”

Beim said the unit is part of her “I contribute to the world” series of social learning experiences for kids. “They (children) are citizens, too,” she says. “If you share the classroom with them … it’s incredible what they will do.”

Next up, Beim has plans to open new schools in Burnaby and the Tri-Cities, possibly some time this summer. In the meantime, she plans to spend one day a week in the classrooms, tweaking her math and music programs.

“We’re not done yet,” she says. “I love what I do.”

| SOURCE: North Shore Outlook |

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