Welcome to the Frequently Asked Questions: As you explore many preschool options it’s important to ask a lot of questions! Here, we will try to answer the most common questions/concerns.
How did Hazel Woods come to be?
Let me introduce myself, I am Patti Binder the founder and Director of this program. It has been a long a varied career path that led me here but without doubt you could say it was my calling. I have had three times in my life when I knew without a hesitation what my path should be. The first was as a young girl to be a paramedic and healer, the next was as a young woman to be a wife and mother, and third as a more experienced woman :) to open this preschool.
My greatest passion in my life has been motherhood. I have grown and learned so much over these past nineteen years. I am thankful every day for my amazing husband and daughters and life’s most beautiful gift of being a parent.
When I knew I was going to have children I left the field as a paramedic as those shifts were 24 hours long and obviously not conducive to motherhood. When my girls were young I worked part-time as an educator and as the Director of Education for UCLA’s Emergency Medicine Program.
Strangely enough, I left UCLA when my girls started elementary school because I found that was a time when my kids seemed to need me the most (and again as teenagers, believe me). Each day I was juggling to get them to and from school, to pick them up or stay home when they were sick, and to try to be involved in their classroom and school activities, and I wasn't really doing my best work at either.
So I happily stayed home for a few years and did lots of fundraising and volunteering, and spent much needed quality time with my kids.
As my daughters were getting older and more self reliant, I felt compelled again to find meaningful work. I sought out a position that would allow me to enjoy rich and fulfilling work and continue to be home when they were out of school.
In soul searching, what really appealed to me was a return to my original plan in University of Early Childhood Education. Having a long history with Ocean Charter School, a public Waldorf school I helped start, that my children had attended, and where I had served on the Board of Trustees for 3 years, I inquired there first.
I began right away working in the Kindergarten classroom. I found those years in the kindergarten to be some of the most rewarding, humorous and fulfilling of my life experiences.
There, I found without doubt my place at this time in life was to take care of little hearts and spirits and I was driven to create Hazel Woods Preschool. With wisdom that I had earned over the years I set out to make a serene beautiful place where children will always feel safe and secure and loved. My vision is what I would have wanted for my girls, if I had known then, all that I know now.
I have been fortunate enough to succeed in creating a thriving school and community and the rewards have far surpassed what I could have ever imagined. I believe that I have built something meaningful and magical and it continues to grow and evolve and thrive with the help of an excellent team of teachers and Wonderful families and we are all very proud of Hazel Woods.
Why in a home?
From the first moment I conceived
the idea of a preschool it was
to be in a home.
Home is where the heart is ~
not in a strip mall.
A home environment is
where children belong,
where children feel safe,
and where children thrive.
It should always be warm and comfortable; there should always be something cooking on the stove and fresh flowers on the tables. There should always be a garden, buckets of mud and water to play with, and fresh dry clothes to change into. There should be cool breezes or the warmth of the fire.
Preschool age children need to be tended to in a way that we believe can really only be provided in a home. We want every day at Hazel Woods to feel like a day at their favorite aunt, or cousins, or grandmother’s house. We feel the home we selected is the perfect setting!
Why a half-day?
The Preschool child needs to grow and explore the world, to learn to make friends and adapt to social situations. Challenges, like sharing, and making friends and reading are the fundamentals that we all want for them, but each of these should be in small manageable increments. With each new accomplishment, children should have a respite, time to decompress and to relax after a long day ~ and for the preschooler, 4 hours is a long day.
When my girls were in Preschool I worked 24 hours a week at UCLA. I believed the best situation was to work 3 full days a week so I could have more days at home with them. In hindsight, I see the mental and physical fatigue that sleeping in a dorm setting, and having to negotiate a long day can put on children and I regret that choice. I don’t have a lot of regrets but that is one for sure.
If I could do it over I would have had them attend a wonderful preschool 4 days a week, and had a nanny pick them up, take them home, get them in the bath, and watch over them until I got home. I would also have had the nanny clean up, push some laundry through, and start dinner while they were napping :).
Financially I needed to work, but paying a nanny a few hours a day would have been far better than putting the burden on my children. And the money... well, we always seem to find what we need for what’s most important. I probably could have replaced the weekly cleaning lady with a very part-time nanny and it would have all worked out the same.
Why a mixed-age group?
If we were to go back in time a hundred years, and to any time before that, we would witness our young children growing up with extended families, communities, and villages where there would be large groups of children of mixed ages learning and growing, mentoring and teaching other children of varied ages. Learning and teaching in this manner provides the children the most natural, healthy and rewarding way to develop their confidence.
Conversely, when children are segregated by age too early in their development they are sometimes unintentionally categorized, i.e. "He or she is the fastest, slowest, smartest, tallest, shortest, best artist etc.”. By teaching the children in a mixed age group we create a family environment that eliminates the labeling that frequently happens early in childhood.
Why no nap time at school?
Sleep is as important as food and warmth. In creating Hazel Woods we wanted the ideal, and the ideal is children sleeping in their own beds, naturally, for as long as their bodies need. There are few things better in the world for a child than being able to rest their bodies and their minds and wake to the familiarity and peace that their own home provides.
As far as sleeping at school goes there is no winning scenario. For the children that are tired and anxious to get to sleep it is more often than not too chaotic, uncomfortable and disruptive to fall asleep. And when they do, they are then woken up when they are in a deep sleep.
For others, it is far to difficult to reach a level of comfort to actually fall asleep and they are left sitting on a cot with no toys or playmates and nothing to do except have to lie down, not fidget, and not make any noise. You can see it doesn’t look good either way.
Why no partial enrollment and only four days a week is offered? We believe one of the greatest gifts we can offer your child is the stability of one consistent group of children that will be his or her classmate's every day. It's important to make friends, to build relationships, to feel safe and to have the comfort and routine that only one class can offer.
The 4-day a week program is really again, the ideal. Children thrive in an environment of routine, they like to know what they are doing each morning, they like to know what they can expect at school, they like to carry-on the game from yesterday, they like to see the same friends every morning.
Many schools with the licensing for 12-14 children can have upwards of 40 kids enrolled. A revolving door of kids and parents that come on varied days and hours is very confusing and destabilizing. Our program is 4 days a week with ample seasonal breaks because it provides a nice stable routine without too much gap time.
How does Hazel Woods prepare my child for kindergarten?
A terrific amount of thought, study and research went into building the curriculum for Hazel Woods Preschool. Our goal is to create a daily experience that is warm and nurturing and creatively splendid, while simultaneously providing all the necessary tools for kindergarten readiness.
The Waldorf Whole Child curriculum is outstanding in meeting most of the areas to be assessed, but not necessarily all of them. So by design, Hazel Woods Preschool is "Waldorf inspired", as opposed to following Waldorf pedagogy in its entirety.
In recognizing that many of our students will not attend a Waldorf elementary school, we feel it's important to support reading readiness. Therefore, we live fully in the realm of traditional Waldorf storytelling and puppetry, but we also read books at Hazel Woods every day to support letter and word awareness along with phonetics.
Our objective is to delight in all the beauty and purity of the Waldorf curriculum, as well as meet each marker for kindergarten readiness.
Waldorf education and early reading academics really do work together seamlessly, if it is allowed to happen naturally without
Gross Motor Skills
Walks forward and backwards in a straight line, jumps on two feet,
hops on one foot, kicks a stationary ball with accuracy, throws a ball with accuracy, skips, hops, and dresses himself/herself.
Fine Motor Skills
Uses a spoon and fork properly, uses scissors properly, draws a circle and a square, draws a triangle and an X, and holds a pencil or crayon properly.
Creates a string of 3 or more rhyming words, is able to supply words that begin with the same sound as a given word, and claps once on each syllable when repeating one, two or three syllable words.
Understands positional words - up, down, over, under, far, high, low, etc., follows one-step and two-step directions, identifies common sounds (for example, dog barking, car horn, helicopter, radio, etc.)
Identifies 5 colors by name, identifies circle, square, and triangle by name.
Math and Number Awareness
Counts from 1-10, identifies numbers 1-5 and can recognize groupings of ones, twos, threes, and fours.
Social and Emotional Development
Talks in sentences, expresses feelings and needs, follows simple directions, is comfortable asking questions, plays with other children, initiates independent play without adult direction, interacts comfortably with peers, stays focused and completes simple tasks, shows empathy for others' feelings, says please and thank you, can tell a story about a past event, is able to share, is able to find compromise, can separate from parents and can use the bathroom by
Letter and Word Awareness for children entering Kindergarten
Can recognize all letters in his first and last name, can consistently recognize and produce the sounds of 15 or more letters in the alphabet, can recognize and read 5 or more sight words, claps once on each word when repeating a three or four word sentence and can recite the alphabet song.
Visual Discrimination for children entering Kindergarten
Recognizes his/her written name, can write his/her first name, points to specific items in a book (for example, point to the house or the bird), can comment on differences between pictures in a book (for example, that dog is bigger than that dog), begins to track the words of the reader in simple story books, understands that words in a book represent what is being read to tell the story, and attempts to read by telling a story based on the pictures.
What are the conflict resolution guidelines at Hazel Woods?
We believe peaceful, respectful problem solving is accomplished through mindfulness, consistency and cooperation. At Hazel Woods, you will find interaction between children and teachers has a tangible feeling of respect and compassion.
Initially, with conflicts, teachers are on hand to "hold space" for the children to try and resolve it themselves. We do not rush to an immediate resolution of an adult creation. Oftentimes, by allowing them space and time, children will find a place they deem to be "fair" on their own.
The teacher's role is to offer support and ensure their bodies and feelings remain unharmed. It is lovely to witness young children figuring out a workable solution to their dilemma, walking away laughing together, more emotionally and socially enlightened than before.
That being said, if it looks as though a resolution is not in sight, then we look for ways to offer guidance and tools through alternatives or re-direction. Perhaps we will have something on hand to offer up that may result in a winning scenario, or we may ask them if they have ideas that can help solve the conflict, and lastly it might be that we ask if it's okay to take turns, for example if it's a toy (it usually is), and if it is okay if we can set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes and then we can trade.
We also believe when someone has been hurt physically or emotionally that it needs to be acknowledged immediately. Children need to know that they are being heard and that their feelings matter a great deal. This is the cornerstone for trust and respect between teacher and child.
We'll work in collaboration with the children to first understand the quarrel from all sides, then to see what we can do to make it better for everyone. When we talk to children in conflict we get down to their level, look each in the eye, speak directly and quietly to find out what happened. Once we hear what they are telling us, we confirm with them that we actually do understand.
Example: Teacher: “Sophia, I understand that you were playing with the doll and Emily tried to take it away? "Yes." "And this made you angry?" "Yes." "And so you hit her?" "Yes". Teacher: "Emily, so I understand, you thought it was your turn to have the doll and so you tried to take it?" "Yes". "And then she hit you?" "Yes." "And how did that make you feel, Sophia?" "How did that make you feel, Emily?" Teacher: "Sophia, I think it hurts Emily when you hit her. Can you say your sorry? And Emily I think Sophia was feeling frustrated. What do you think we can do to help each other feel better?" Sophia: "I can get her some ice and say I'm sorry." Emily: "I can let her have the doll for a while." Teacher: "Maybe we can all look for another doll. I think I know where one is and maybe you guys can play doll together?” "
The goal is helping children develop non-aggressive skills to communicate, which in turn supports their emotional and social development, as well as cognitive development and kindergarten readiness.
Do you require children to be potty-ready? We do not require potty readiness as we don't want to put undue stress on the kids or the parents to meet a timeline that may not coincide with the child's timeline. We do however ask that the parents be working towards that goal in a healthy, realistic manner.
What is the Star Child?
Each day when the children arrive there is a star wand in one of their cubbies which signifies it is their turn to be Star Child. Each child will have a turn every 12 - 14 school days to be the Star Child. This is a special day when they get to line up first, sit next to Ms. Patti at snack and lunch, play the music to call everyone to mealtimes, and choose the storybook for the day. It is not assigned on merit in any way. They all deserve and enjoy having special days. It’s a long time to wait for a birthday when you 2, 3 or 4 :).
When do you do Interviews/tours? These are done on a rolling basis as needed as spaces are available. They are usually scheduled on Wednesday afternoons from 2:00pm-3:30pm. To limit the number of tours to only serious applicants there is a $100 fee to schedule a private tour. If enrolled, this fee is applied to your tuition.
Why aren't children allowed at the interview/tour? We ask that children do not attend so we can have a meaningful non-distracted conversation. There is no need to meet the children since it would put an unnecessary stress on everyone, be a false environment to "judge" a child's behavior. And since we already know that we are going to like all of the children there is little value in it :).
Why don't you schedule group tours while school is in session like many other schools do? We receive over a hundred inquiries each year for approximately 4 openings. We feel it's necessary to have a vetting process for anyone who comes to the school- i.e. application, photo, etc., so we know who is coming to the school.
Additionally, we didn't want the kids to feel like they were on constant display, or like they were in a zoo. So although it takes dozens more hours of time on our end to do the private interviews, we feel it is the best way to find the right fit for both the school and the families. This format also allows parents to have a private forum to ask questions and provides a much better scenario for us to get to know each other.
Why do you charge to schedule an Interview/tour? We try to provide as much information as possible on our web-site so parents can really do their due-diligence ahead of the interview process. Once you are confident that Hazel Woods is what you are looking for, the the interview/tour is the next/last step ~ leading to enrollment or to a short wait list. We try to limit the number of interviews/tours to a close approximation of how many openings we expect with a short a wait list. This is not in an effort to generate revenue (as the $100 will be applied to an enrolled families tuition) but more as a way to reserve private tours for only seriously interested applicants who are ready to make a decision.
What type of Science and math do you have in your program? Science and math are integrated in almost everything that we do, every day. Math and science is found in our following the seasons, and learning the passage of time, to the measuring of ingredients to bake fresh bread.
We study rocks and minerals and sea life; We have educational presentations from the Star Eco Station and the Petting Zoo; We have frequent nature walks and exploration; We have a main science lesson watching caterpillars turn into butterflies; Having an ant farm; Raising Praying Mantis', and Lady Bugs; Growing our garden from little seedlings to a harvest of green beans, cucumber, sunflowers, carrots, and watermelon;
We also have Sadie the dog (a little fluffy ball of pure love) who spends every other Friday with us. Sadie spends Mondays working with a clinical psychologist as therapy animal - and the kids LOVE her! If your child happens to be fearful of dogs, have no fear here - Sadie has helped several kids work through it - she is a lover, who also helps the kids learn so much about animal science and training!
What will my child "learn" at Hazel Woods Preschool? At a good Waldorf play-based school your child should not only be learning music, dance, yoga and art. They should also be be learning manners, and how to behave in public, and how to be appropriate and prepared for elementary school.
At Hazel Woods they will learn: how to say please and thank you, how to wait in line, how to ask a teacher for help, how to advocate for themselves, how to care for each other, how to be compassionate, how to solve problems, how to resolve conflicts, what to do in an emergency - fire, earthquake, etc., how to plan a social gathering for parents, how to perform in front of an audience of 60 people, how to prepare a meal, how to set the table and clear the table, how to wash dishes, how to fix things when they break (nothing makes the kids happier then when we get out the toolbox), how to water the lawn, how to take care of pets, how to plant seeds to grow food, how to harvest food from the garden, and so much more!
Not to mention math, science, writing and and literacy so they are ready for Kindergarten!
We are very proud to share that we get frequent feedback from Kindergarten teachers that they can always tell when they get a child from Hazel Woods, and they are always thrilled, because the children are always sweet; confident; well mannered; they engage with their teachers; and they can have a productive day at school when many kids in their classes can't sit in a chair for a full minute.
Can I bring my child's own food? You are welcome to provide part/all of your child's meals provided that you are on top of it, and have everything we need each day with minimal prompting. We prefer in general that the preparation of meals and the mealtimes be shared experiences so we prefer that the majority of the meals be the same as the classmates. This is usually is a situation where for example a child does not have dairy - then the parents would provide an alternative, but the rest of the meals would be the same. Tuition would not be adjusted for alternative food provided.
What does the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment include?
Hazel Wood's Preschool program supports the child's development through the Waldorf curriculum in the following manner:
Frequently Asked Questions
Hazel Wood's Preschool
Program supports the
through the non-
curriculum in the
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