School

Why we are excited about our partnership with Equinox

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Winter is nearing and we see families in search of indoor enrichment programs. Dearest is proud to announce that we have started a partnership with Equinox East 61st Street!

Here are the top three reasons why we are excited about our partnership with Equinox:

  1. Supporting modern parents in New York City
    Modern parents in NYC lead busy lives and are in constant search of quality enrichment and childcare services that support their unique lifestyle. At Equinox, parents are encouraged to pursue their own passions, stay fit, and healthy while fostering a safe and nurturing environment for their children. Dearest is proud to support this, by providing a differentiated program that helps children develop future-ready skills.

  2. Challenging the status quo
    Traditional institutions have fixed schedules, fixed standards, and fixed costs. Andrew Minigan of The Right Question Institute in Education Week says “curiosity often is not fostered in schools, especially those driven by test-based performance standards.” Learning can happen anywhere and everywhere - not just within a classroom setting. It can happen, for an example, at a gym. Equinox’s For Kids Only (FKO) programs are focused on interactive and play-based learning and are dedicated to curating an engaging experience that sparks children’s curiosity. Similarly, at Dearest, we deliver personalized and high-quality early childhood programs to families in NYC in the comfort of their own homes, and fuel children’s creativity.

  3. Letting children guide their learning journey
    Children learn best when experiences are customized based on their interests. Equinox offers diverse programs designed to further children’s development. With sessions pertaining to science, art and design, instructional swim, fashion and design, dance and movement, basketball, soccer, cooking, and languages, children have the opportunity to explore, ask questions, and discover new talents. At Dearest, we have over 300 educators with diverse expertise within the field of early childhood education. Designing the learning experience around each child’s interests is what we are all about!

If you’re curious and want to learn more about Equinox’s Winter and Spring Preschool Alternative and Children’s Enrichment programs, visit their site here.

If you’re a parent interested in in-home private sessions and/or tailored programs for your child, you can reach out to us at hello@dearest.io for more information.

Back-to-School Blues: How to Help Your Child Cope with Separation Anxiety

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That crisp feeling in the air, leaves changing color, your local supermarket carrying crayons, binders, and pencils. These are telling signs that the seasons are not only changing, but that school is in full swing! But after all the preparation for the new school year, parents are still left with a lot of questions: Are they enjoying their teacher? Are they making friends? And most importantly, are they adjusting to their new school routine? Some might have made a seamless transition, but some might be facing anxiety. If your child hasn’t fully adjusted yet, don’t worry! Here are some things that you can do!

  • Set Up Your Routine

If you don’t have nighttime and morning routines established, now is the time! If you had a plan that used to work but is now missing the mark, it may be time to reevaluate how you approach bedtime transition as well as morning routines. Your child is most likely exhausted from the longer school day, which is jam-packed with activity. As a result, they will need more sleep! Start by going to bed a little earlier as a family. Engage them in quiet evening activities, such as reading a special good night story, which will allow them to relax and get a full night’s rest.

It is also helpful to have them start a routine of packing their lunches, and laying out their outfits the night before. Even if they need assistance with these activities, they will feel like an integral part of their school prep. Not only does it give them some control of their situation, it also cuts down on morning chaos. In my experience, a well-rested child that has had an organized and predictable morning will have a much easier, tear-free drop off!

  • Reinforce Friendships

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A lot of anxiety comes from seeing a sea of unfamiliar faces. Even if they’ve been seeing their new friends in school for weeks, they may not have established a strong connection yet, which can lead to an overall feeling of dissatisfaction. This is especially highlighted if friends and family have only watched your child or if they haven’t gone on regular play dates. This point was really driven home for me this year when a new student would come in crying each day. I reminded him that, he stays the night with his grandparents, his classmates like him etc. so school should be a breeze. He responded with, “Ya, but they love me. My teachers and school friends don’t love me yet.” It broke my heart and I realized, he was absolutely correct. If the only experience they have is with family members, I would highly recommend setting up a play date with some students from their class. When they have friendly faces to welcome them, they will begin to grow more confident, build elements of trust and community, and find that sense of belongingness in school.

  • Read About It

Books are a great way to help your child deal with change. It allows them to read about characters that are going through a similar life experience, and provides an element of comfort. I personally love: “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, “Llama Llama Misses Mama” by Anna Dewdney, and “I Love You All Day Long” by Francesca Rusackas. These books deal with the feelings of leaving family, making new friends, and separation anxiety. As a teacher, I use books all the time to introduce new ideas, or to deal with feelings in my classroom!

  • Home Sweet Home

The last bit of advice I have is a tried-and-true method, pack them something familiar. Bringing a little piece of home to school will provide a tremendous amount of comfort. It can be a piece of their baby blanket, a snuggly toy, a favorite book, or even a picture of your family. When they are feeling homesick they will be able to take it out and remember that home isn’t that far away!

If your little one is still clinging to you and cries, “Mommy don’t go! ” just remember this is a temporary challenge that will get better with each drop off. In a few short weeks, they will be begging you to stay in school longer!

About Ashley:

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Experienced School Manager and education professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry.

Dearest After-School Series: Manhattan Country School

For this week’s “Dearest After-School Series,” we are featuring Manhattan Country School’s after-school program. Ms. Chawon Williams, the director of the after-school program, gave us an in-depth look at how their program impacts the social and emotional development of students.

Manhattan Country School (MCS) is a co-educational, independent day school that follows a curriculum that is deliberately progressive and incorporates a ‘country’ perspective on issues, particularly regarding sustainability and interdependence. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideals, the school envisions its students to gain academic excellence, intellectual freedom, social awareness, self-confidence and first-hand knowledge of the natural world. At MCS, thoughts on how to create change through their commitment to social justice and diversity remain a constant goal.

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With that in mind, the MCS after-school program was designed to focus on social and emotional development, while fostering a hands-on learning environment for its students. It is an opportunity for different grades to interact, learn from each other and form friendships. We reached out to the director of the said after-school program, Ms. Chawon Williams, to get more information about what happens after the bell rings at MCS.

The after-school program is based upon a ‘whole child approach,’ wherein students are encouraged to learn beyond the four corners of their classrooms to prepare them for long-term development. Different age groups are mixed together to encourage cross collaboration and for older students to practice leadership. With a total population of 268 students, there are around 60-65 students who participate in the after-school program each day. The students in the program are mostly from the lower school, with 30-50% being kindergarteners.

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Starting at 3:00 pm, from Mondays through Thursdays, students begin the program with snacks and supervised free play followed by a 2-hour enrichment class. There are 4 to 5 different classes offered each day and students can partake in the class of their choosing. These cover the staples such as African drumming, theater, and chess, but also include more diverse offerings such as robotics, ‘advanced magic’, and Mandarin. They can also participate in sports such as tennis, or fitness classes like yoga and dance. One of the more popular offerings is a fashion design class that incorporates math into art. Aimed to develop confidence and encourage self-expression, the culminating activity is a fashion show for the students to showcase their own designs. Another new addition this fall is a ‘playgroup' class called, Kids Club, that serves as an educational filler for kids who want a more relaxed setting to play and socialize after a long day in school. While they promote mixed age grouping, certain classes such as animation and coding are offered for the upper school kids only, as it requires more advanced skills. The rates for after-school classes are kept reasonable to allow families to take advantage of their enrichment classes. The full program costs around $1700 per semester.

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MCS believes in establishing long-lasting relationships with the students, parents, and teachers. A lot of thought is put into determining the mix of classes to be offered every year. According to Ms. Williams, they study the student population and their interests, while considering the skills and knowledge of the MCS teachers. Their teachers are also given the opportunity to create classes, and even MCS alumni come back to teach at the after-school program. Third-party providers are only hired for classes that need a specialization or technique to learn, like coding.

One of the main goals is to provide support for the families which became the driving force in starting this after-school program. MCS is actually one of the few schools that does not charge parents for late pick-ups, instead believing that the program works best with a culture of mutual respect and cooperation between parents and faculty. They also offer an emergency childcare service to accommodate last-minute changes in parents’ and caregivers’ schedules. 

There are many schools that offer after-school programs, but what makes them unique, Ms. William says, is the vibrant community they’ve built together. She believes the success of the program is attributed to the inclusiveness and support of the parents and teachers for the students. MCS might be one of the smaller schools in Manhattan, but it focuses on building the right environment for building individual's social and emotional skills. Every person is engaged, and even after 10 years of working with MCS, Ms. Williams has always believed that the number one priority should be the children - for them to learn and have fun while doing so.