We're Making Waves in our JK Program at Prep!

Start Strong, Finish Stronger. 
We’re Making Waves in Our JK Program at Prep!

Cleteus Smith

“Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.”
~Eliphalet Oram Lyte

A dreamy early childhood song that has been caroled since the 1850s in classrooms across America is just as poignant now as it was then. The meaning is quite simple. The child is the oarsman who needs to put forth their best effort each and every day in their life down the stream. Similar to the sport itself, crew or rowing, dating back to its introduction to the United States in the 1850s, revolves around eight athletes working in unison, utilizing every muscle in their bodies to propel their racing shell forward. Whether it is one child rowing or eight university students, the focus is on performing at their absolute best.

In order to optimize your child’s learning, one needs to first look at when one enters that “boat” for the first time. With 90% of their brain-development happening before the age of five, it is imperative our youngest learners take advantage of this rapid brain growth, as it will set the trajectory of their race whether it be on land or sea. During these foundational years, the educational training they receive will determine such ultimate objectives as school readiness, reading achievement, and higher assessment scores which will eventually lead to the finish line that being, university placement. Research has clearly illustrated over and over, having children attend high-quality early childhood education provides benefits throughout their entire life, but it all begins with the development of their brains. 

Dr. Jack Shonkoff and his team of scientists from the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child found a child’s brain during these early foundational years, provides the ability for over one million neural connections to be formed per second. While the brain will remain flexible or “plastic” throughout one's lifetime, which enables neurons to continue to create hardier connections with other neurons, it will ultimately decline its speed of functioning, primarily related to learning and other intricate cerebral activities. 

Our life experiences and our environment governs when these neural connections are created. As these connections are reinforced and repeated, they become stronger, more rapid, and more stable. By affording children the chance to begin schooling earlier, the opportunity provides for these neural connections to be formed and reinforced. 

Hilton Head Preparatory School realizes this importance and wants to allow our youngest scholars the ability to succeed to their highest level no matter their age. Beginning the 2023/2024 academic school year, Hilton Head Prep has modified its beginning enrollment age for Junior Kindergarten and will be opening its doors to all children beginning at three years of age. We want to capture every moment we can with our youngest learners to maximize their learning!

By allowing our junior kindergartners to begin school at Prep starting at three years of age, we will be able to provide the cognitive, social, and emotional building blocks of educational achievement earlier, as well as, create an even stronger foundation for their educational path. In 2010 the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics reported children who had at least some preschool experience before kindergarten performed better in reading and math assessments than those who did not. Our early scholars will also benefit from learning critical social skills earlier. Formative age children learn and reason through play. It is through this application they increase their language skills, learn how to take turns, and share, as well as, be better able to self-regulate. What parents would not appreciate a few fewer tantrums at this age? They will also be introduced earlier to such interpersonal skills as empathy and cooperation to help our dolphins be better global citizens.

The great news is that the benefits do not end there. Research has shown when a child is placed in a high-quality junior kindergarten learning environment they will not only perform better academically but will also have a possible advantage throughout their lifetime. Early childhood education has been linked to higher education (four times more likely to complete a bachelor's degree) and higher income (25% higher wages) as stated by Start Early, a national nonprofit organization focused on early learning. The National Education Association also found these students who had preschool experience were not as likely to be retained in school, as well as, not be incarcerated later in life. Lower levels of health disorders such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes have had a positive correlation due to starting school earlier as a child.  Simply put, what happens early in education has lasting benefits for a lifetime.

Hilton Head Prep realizes the importance of early childhood education and is allowing children’s oars to be placed in the water starting at three years of age. By allowing our students to begin earlier, we will be creating a unified team of students who will not only be better equipped academically but will also be able to slow down and row “gently” with the current at their grace and speed. Oh, life is but a dream at Hilton Head Prep junior kindergarten!