Please peruse our website for the answers to your questions. Or, perhaps you can find the answer below.
Q: Is my child ready for The Mayapple School ?
A: First, does your child meet the basic enrollment requirements of being self-toileting and at least 2 years 9 months at the start of the school year? If not, you’ll need to wait until those requirements are met.
You’ll also need to ask if your child is developmentally ready– calendar age is not the same as developmental age. You know your child best. Does your child enjoy playing and working with peers for long periods of time, or does he prefer adult engagement? Most two year olds and even some three year olds still developmentally prefer a classroom with fewer students and more teachers so that they can have more teacher time, while others are ready to watch, learn, and engage with the busy hum of activity that a classroom full of 3 – 6 year olds offers. If you’re not sure, observe your child when he’s in a larger group of other children. Is she at ease, either watching intently or joining in, or is this level of emotional and social input too much for your child, eventually resulting in stress-reaction behaviors like unprovoked hitting, running away, or hiding? If your child is telling you in this way she needs more time focused on creating closeness and connection with you and other primary caregivers, perhaps with just a few friends, rather than making those connections with a classroom full of peers, we recommend that you consider The Mayapple School in another year.
All students at The Mayapple School must be able to stay with a group. We take all children into the forest with the instruction to stay where they can see a teacher. We check in with (and count!) students continually, but we are not able to provide proper supervision and education of the group if one (or both!) teachers continually need to focus on one child because she or he is running away. We need to be able to keep your child safe. If your child’s behaviors with you or other caregivers includes running away in busy stores or parking lots, attempting to leave his house or yard without an adult, or other escape behaviors (beyond “trying out” this type of misbehavior one or two times, just to experience it), then wait another year before enrolling your child at The Mayapple School.
At The Mayapple School, we want to serve every child that could benefit from The Mayapple School’s program, but we aren’t able to change our program for an individual child. If your child has or may have special needs, diagnosed or otherwise, you should talk to us before enrollment to see if we can meet the needs of your child within the parameters of our program. We are able to meet some special needs, but not all. Sometimes, behavioral needs– whether they are developmentally appropriate for your child or are signs of special needs– are nuanced or not fully understood before enrollment. However, whether known or not, if it turns out your child’s behaviors require continual one-on-one attention from a teacher, The Mayapple School reserves the right to unenroll your child for the safety of your child and others.
Q: The Mayapple School seems like the right fit for my child, but how do I know if it is the right fit for my family?
A: Families enroll their child in The Mayapple School for lots of different reasons. Maybe you want to be a part of a community that is resetting the norms of childhood back to where it should be– lots of outside time and participation in real projects and self-directed play– because that’s how your household runs. Or, perhaps where your family is right now means that your family isn’t getting outside as much as you want, and you want The Mayapple School to help provide some balance for your child. Either way, bear in mind that as a small one-room schoolhouse, The Mayapple School operates very much as a preschool, with lots of enrichment opportunities of all kinds! It also means, however, that we don’t offer the full services that a child care center could. We don’t provide snack or lunch. We don’t do laundry. We don’t have a list of substitutes as long as our arms so that even in deep snow we could find somebody who could walk (or sled) to open the school– parents who work or have other obligations should always be ready to have back up care available in case of weather related closures, power outages, teacher shortages, or field trips. (After 10 cancelled school days, families receive a refund or additional school days — but we’ve never had to enact this policy.) We also spend as much of our time as possible in programmatic activities, which means that your child may end the day muddy or covered in paint! We hope you’ll think these experiences are worth the extra preparation, but for some families it may just not be possible. Unfortunately, at this time we are not able to provide extra services if the ones we regularly provide just don’t meet your needs.
Q: As of January 2019, The Mayapple School is operating out of The Quaker Friends Meetinghouse in Blacksburg. Is The Mayapple School religiously affiliated with the Friends?
A: No. The Mayapple School is a separate entity from the Blacksburg Friends, and we are not religiously affiliated. We rent space from the Friends. The Mayapple School does not espouse a particular religious viewpoint and is open to children of all religions.
Q: I think my child could really benefit from a social environment, but I’m worried about the transition from home to school. How will teachers help my child if she has a hard time separating from me? How can I help my child?
A: Initial separation anxiety is not uncommon. Creating the habit of going to school and good separation routines will help your child. Every morning we open at 8:30, but we have free play time until 9:00, which can give families time for a slow goodbye. If you would like to stay later than this, you may. However, be aware that with circle time, transitions to rest room and going outside, there may not be another good time to say goodbye until 10:15 or even later. This is because it is difficult for children to say goodbye during transition time.
At the beginning of the year, one family used the technique of staying for a good bit of the day, and then saying goodbye earlier and earlier. This worked for them. During the parent’s stay, the parent would sometimes leave the classroom for a short period of time, to go to the bathroom/get something from the car/ return books to the library, and then come back. He would tell his child what he was going to do, and she soon saw that she could trust him to return when he said he was going to. Now she is sometimes so busy playing that he can hardly capture her attention to let her know that he is leaving.
Another good strategy is to make a plan with your child and follow through on it. I.E. “I can play two puzzles with you and then I will go.” It can be very hard for parents to see their child upset, but it is best to show your child that you feel positive about his abilities to gain in independence and have fun at school. Even if you feel sad, you should model calmness for your child when saying goodbye. A couple of children at school keep pictures of their parents in their cubbies that they can take out when they need them. Your child can also take a “lovey” to school– and don’t worry, we will never force your child to share her lovey, (though we do ask that loveys be put away if they become a distraction, and also while children are eating).
One thing Mayapple School teachers discourage is leaving while your child is distracted, i.e. “sneaking out.” This does not build long-term trust. On the other hand, if you say “I’m leaving now,” and your child fusses, you should still follow through with your statement– when we see parents say goodbye 3, 4, or even 10 or more times, it’s always harder for the child than if you just say goodbye once after your special routine, and go. (The child will focus her energies on adjusting to the school, and not on figuring out how to extend the routine.) We also ask that parents not say things like, “If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to go,” even if that really is the case. When children hear that, then they make up their minds not to like it so they can stay home like they are comfortable with. You may have heard the saying that “It takes 21 days to make a habit.” We ask that you give your child 21 school days to transition. These methods have never failed us!
If you leave and your child is crying or seems not ready to play, there are a variety of methods we use to help increase his comfort. We do not shame your child for crying, (i.e. You’re a big boy, so don’t cry). Instead, we offer hugs, a book, or a windowsill to wave goodbye from as a parent’s car pulls away. We talk about what we will do that day and when mom/dad is coming back. We talk about what mom/dad is doing right then, and how much the student is loved. We encourage children to look at their pictures, hold their loveys, find a comfy corner, or make a picture for mom and dad. We might assign your child a special job, to help them find their place in the classroom. Children will feel comfortable when they have created relationships with teachers and students in the classroom, but throughout the year as your child grows and experiences different life events, it isn’t uncommon for separation anxiety to crop up now and then. Be prepared to approach drop off calmly and with belief in your child’s abilities.
Q: Can my child enroll in middle of the school year?
A: If we have space in the middle of the school year, that is a possibility. We accept wait-list applications as well.
Q: What is the classroom discipline policy?
A: Teachers use Positive Discipline in the classroom.
- Teachers focus on creating positive relationships with and between students through shared activities and meaningful personal interactions. A strong relationship base gives children incentive to work through problems that come up and helps them feel safe and find their voice in doing so.
- Disruptive classroom behavior, disagreements between peers, and group or individual misguided behaviors will occur each year, and most are normal events. Working through these normal incidents can be used to further children’s social and emotional learning.
- We encourage parents to view misguided behaviors in a calm way. A child’s mistaken behavior is an attempt to satisfy her needs or desires. Though it is not always a straightforward task, it is possible to help her learn to satisfy her needs and desires in a more positive way.
- At all times, the focus is on “problem solving,” which means that the question teachers ask is “How can we help solve this problem?” not “How can I best punish this child?” The answer to that question may be different for each child or incident. Teachers have used small and whole group role playing, books, puppets, apology of action (where students check on each other and see what they can do to make the injured party feel better– sometimes this is a hug, sometimes saying “sorry,” other times agreeing to change future behavior), hugs, and discussion with and without peers to help children solve problems. “Quiet cushions” are available to children who need physical space apart from others while processing emotions, as well as one-on-one walks or “bathroom breaks” with teachers.We do not use a reward/punishment system such as sticker charts, timed time out, red/yellow/green cards, etc. Problem solving techniques may be done before (pre-emptive), during, or after (process) problem experiences.
- If your child comes to you with a problem that he says has not been addressed at school, and it would be beneficial to do so, please inform teachers of your child’s report. It is possible that teachers may miss events or nuances of children’s experiences, and important incidents can be reopened for children as needed.
Q: My daughter uses the toilet at home, but still needs assistance in the bathroom. Can she still attend The Mayapple School?
A: Teachers are available to help as children needed, from helping take off/ put on clothing, wash hands, and reminding children to flush the toilet, wipe properly, etc. Teachers do not do these things for children. If your child does not need help, we can also respect her desire for privacy as well.
Q: My child has a food allergy/sensitivity. Can you accommodate her needs?
A:Teachers eat snack and lunch with the children and are aware of children’s meal time and snack time behaviors. We feel confident in our abilities to enforce a no-sharing rule through simple, truthful explanations and reminders as needed. If your child has an extreme allergy where the food item needs to be banned from the classroom, (such as peanuts), we can request that no parents not pack that type of food for their child. However, no common allergens are regularly banned from the classroom unless a specific child is in need of that policy.
Q: I like the amount of time you spend outside, but I’m also nervous about it. What if my child is too cold and miserable to play? What if she doesn’t like the rain, or wind, or snow? Do you have any clothing recommendations for me that will help?
A: Your child can be warm and happy outside. You can help your child get used to different types of weather by spending time, appropriately dressed, outside every day. When we keep children inside in all but the best weather, we undermine children’s resiliency and prevent the growth of children’s hardiness and stamina.
Teachers firmly believe that all children can be warm and happy outside, yet we know that without the proper preparation, the opposite can also be true. We keep a close eye on all children. If your child complains of or show signs of being cold, we make immediate efforts to warm your child. We will also let you know so that we can work on a plan to ensure her warmth in the future. In some outdoor weather, children cannot stay warm indefinitely; on those days, we talk to children about participating in active play and go inside when stamina limits will soon be reached. Last school year, our shortest outdoor play period has been 40 minutes, but it could be much shorter depending on the weather.
The Mayapple School can be appropriate for children who are small or thin for their age, but your child should at least be wearing size 2T clothing before you expect her to join in. Such children may need to wear specific brands or items of clothing that provide a lot of warmth for their weight and bulk. Outfitting your preschooler appropriately may be costly if you do not plan ahead. Please read the blog post about outdoor clothing for more information.
Still can’t find what you are looking for? E-mail melissa at mayapple dot org for help with your questions.