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  1. Guest

    Preschool Philosophies

    Thinking about preschool for your toddler but don't know where to start? Watch this informative discussion about the different preschool philosophies featuring expert panelists from preschools across the city. Topics include: Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia and other philosophies How to decide if these philosophies or others are a good fit for your child How preschool works during the pandemic Participating schools: Bennett Day School British International School of Chicago, South Loop Cardinal Bernardin Montessori Academy Mary Meyer School Urban Prairie Waldorf School Thank you to our presenting sponsor British International School of Chicago, South Loop.
  2. Overwhelmed by school options in the city? Chicago parents have many choices (and questions!) when it comes to private preschools & elementary schools. How do you know which school will be the right fit for your child? How will you fit in as a parent? How can you put your best foot forward during the application process? What do you want to know about financial aid but are afraid to ask? How do you find a "right-fit" school during a pandemic? Join us for an intimate panel discussion with admissions directors from some of the city's most sought-after private schools. We'll talk about different educational environments, how to find the best fit for your child and family, managing the application process, financial aid, school during a pandemic, and much more. Schools represented on the panel include: Bennett Day School Daystar Academy Latin School of Chicago Near North Montessori University of Chicago Laboratory School Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Bennett Day School.
  3. Guest

    Preschool Primer

    This session is for anyone who wants to learn when to start the preschool search, what to look for in a preschool, the various types of preschools available, how to determine "school fit" for a 2-year-old, when you should think about making a change, the difference between public and private preK, Chicago's universal preK initiative, and how to best prepare your child for preschool. When discussing preschool programs, this session will focus mainly on private preschool options and touch only briefly on public options. Recorded on 9-14-2020 for the NPN School Fair; all information is current through then.
  4. If you have ever felt confusion about Chicago’s public preschool admissions, procedures and offerings, you are not alone. The process and nomenclature have changed each year, with various names, programs and application processes to keep track of. Some programs were applied to via the GoCPS portal and others were via a city of Chicago portal. This year, however, CPS and Chicago are working together to streamline their programs and finally bring about Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) for all Chicago children who turn 4 years old on or before 9/1/22. While still called Chicago Early Learning, the portal is now under CPS’s umbrella and, starting at 9am on April 19, 2022, the online application will open. While details are still being finalized, these are some changes to expect: [Related: How to apply for CPS preschools] School-based full-day (7 hours/day) sites are prioritized for 4-year-olds; 3-year-olds may be offered half-day programs in community-based sites Families can apply for up to 5 program sites (must rank your order of preference) “Priority Points” will be given to families as follows: those with income or learning needs, siblings, neighborhood school and within a 1.5 mile proximity of a preschool site There will be an “initial application period” open for about a month, so applications are not first come, first serve until after that period closes in mid-May After first-round offers are given in May, the next rounds will be offered on a rolling basis with 24-hour notification starting in June Application portal is via Schoolmint (same platform as GoCPS) but will not require obtaining a CPS Student ID prior to applying Most families should get one of their top 5 choices Offers are verified through a Family Resource Center or directly at a school or community-based site, with proof of income, address and birth certificate. Waitlists will be offered for any programs ranked above the offered choice. Summer transition programs are planned ("Preview to PK" and "Kickoff to Kindergarten") with more information released after offers are sent. [Related: Preschool vs. Pre-K: What's the difference?] Read more at Chicago Early Learning & UPK FAQs or call the CEL Hotline: (312) 229-1690. While preschool is not required in Illinois, many families do try to have their children enrolled in some programs for socialization or kindergarten readiness. For 4-year-olds, CPS will house their preschool programs in school facilities with space or in regional “Early Learning Centers,” and applications are available through Chicago Early Learning. The portal also can help families of 3-year-olds find community-based host sites. CPS still has two tuition-free magnet Montessori-based elementary programs that begin at age 3 (Suder and Drummond) where the student can stay until 8th grade. These are the only preschool programs you apply to via the go.cps.edu portal. All other free preschool options should be applied to via the Chicago Early Learning web portal, opening April 19, 2022. Tuition-based pre-K will also no longer be offered and had already dwindled substantially over the years. In addition, changes to GoCPS’s elementary process for 2023–2024 applications are being proposed to give “priority points” for students to continue from their preschool and stay there for kindergarten. Starting this October, Chicago Early Learning 4-year-old students enrolled at a CPS school site for preschool can apply to continue at that school for kindergarten via the GoCPS portal. They will be given priority before out-of-boundary, unaffiliated new students are offered spots. With Universal Pre-K, the goal is to essentially start a student’s free public school journey at age 4 in preschool instead of 5 in kindergarten. With the newest Chicago Early Learning application, the first steps of that goal are closer to becoming a reality. Updated spring 2022
  5. Guest

    CPS Preschools Decoded

    Learn the differences between CPS magnet preschools, tuition-based preschools and Chicago Early Learning preschools. Get insight on finding the right preschool setting for your little one. This hour-long video covers the various types of programs available, factors to consider, application processes, and how to time your search to find the best preschool option to meet your family’s needs.
  6. As summer nears, families across Chicago inevitably start to ask themselves if their child should go to preschool or pre-kindergarten. If they are currently enrolled in an early childhood program, they start to wonder if they need to find a pre-kindergarten program when their child turns three, leaving their current program even if they are happy there. In a city full of early childhood options, it’s no surprise that families find themselves asking this question as they start to think about where they would like to send their 3- or 4-year-olds for early education experiences. The number of options can make the decision an overwhelming task! But it’s important to note that when it comes to preschool and pre-kindergarten in Chicago, the two are used interchangeably for programs that provide care and education prior to the start of kindergarten. [Related: Play all day? That's exactly what your preschooler should be doing] What’s the difference? The biggest difference in these labels is actually a political one. The national conversation around universal pre-k centers around the idea that all 4-year-olds should have an opportunity to participate in early childhood programs. The term pre-k is used to define the year prior to kindergarten, while preschool is the term used to define all early learning programs from birth to age five. In Chicago, the differences between a program that refers to itself as a preschool and a program that refers to itself as a pre-kindergarten are rooted in the program’s individual philosophy, marketing techniques, and the image the program wants to present to families. What are parents really asking when they are asking about preschool or pre-k? I’ve discovered over the years that when families ask if their child should attend preschool or pre-k, what they are really asking is which program will best prepare their children for kindergarten. That answer isn’t as simple since each family needs to take into account their own ideas about early childhood education, their child’s personality, and what program makes the most sense logistically for their family. [Related: Chicago Preschool Primer (members-only video)] What questions should families be asking if not “preschool or pre-K”? Do we need an early learning program that also provides full daycare? Do we want our child to attend an independent school that may start admissions at 3 or 4 years instead of kindergarten? Does it make more sense for our family to have our youngest child attend a CPS preschool program in the same school as our older children? What do we want our child’s early learning experience to be? For example, do we want a program that promotes outdoor education, or is rooted in the arts or the sciences, or is centered on community and learning to be a good citizen? If there isn’t a difference between preschool and pre-k, what should families look for in an early learning setting? Is the program clearly able to articulate their philosophy, curriculum, and child development? Do the teachers and administrators have training in early childhood education and child development? Do the classrooms focus on the development of the child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive growth?
  7. As you are researching preschools for your little one and weighing your options, did you know that Chicago Public Schools offers many part-time and full-day, school-based and affordable preschool programs at select CPS schools across the city? Perhaps more importantly, if you thought you missed the preschool application boat for next fall, it’s not too late to apply for a seat in this program for the 2022-2023 school year. It’s called Chicago Early Learning (CEL), formerly known as “Ready To Learn” or “Preschool for All.” The application window typically opens in April, and will stay open until seats are filled. Unlike CPS’s full-time, tuition-based pre-K (TBPK), which requires you to apply directly with each school for admission, the CEL program’s application process is centralized with application sites located throughout the city and tuition is based on a sliding scale. You can apply online at www.chicagoearlylearning.org and find out quickly if you have a spot or will be put on a waitlist. Here are a few more details about Chicago Early Learning: Programs are either half-day (2.5 – 3 hours) with morning and/or afternoon sessions available at each school, or full-day (7 hours, which CPS has been increasingly adding) options, so be sure to filter your search. (Universal PreK for 4-year-olds is gradually being implemented.) Programs offer a well-rounded and evidenced-based curriculum with assessments to ensure students are on track for kindergarten. Tuition is on a sliding scale based on household income. Families can search for and review sites with the Find & Compare online tool, which can filter by hours, duration and program feature. Out of 600 school and community-based programs, each child may apply up to 2 sites but can only be accepted to one. Separate applications for each child can be made under a family’s account, but CPS cannot guarantee that siblings will be placed together. Chicago Early Learning does not include private schools, magnet, Montessori or tuition-based schools. Priority is given to 4-year-olds for CPS based programs, while 3-year-olds will have community-based program sites to choose from. How to apply: All Chicago residents, regardless of income, are welcome to apply for a seat to any CEL program location. Families can apply online, in person at one of several Family Resource Centers, or by phone at 312-229-1690. When applying online, there are 3 steps: 1) create an account, 2) fill in family employment and income info, child’s info and rank up to 2 program choices, and 3) if selected, you will be instructed how to verify your child’s spot. Verification requirements for CEL include: Proof of child’s age (children must be 3 or 4 years old and potty trained by September 1 of the entry school year), proof of residency, and proof of current income of parent(s) or guardian(s) of child. The City of Chicago prioritizes eligibility for these programs based on factors such as age, income, and child or family history. Starting in June, families may be notified immediately if they are placed in a program or if they will be put on a waitlist. If a family is offered a spot to their top-ranked school, they will not be placed on a waitlist for their second-ranked school. Families have up to 2 weeks to “verify” placement by visiting a Family Resource Center. After verification, the final step is to enroll your child at the preschool site. Many parents across the city find the Chicago Early Learning preschool program not only affordable and convenient, but also a great way to transition children into a preschool curriculum with the flexibility of a shorter school day, if available, or full-day options nearby. With many CEL programs housed in neighborhood and/or magnet schools, they're also a good way to help you determine whether a particular CPS school (or public school, in general) is a good fit for your child and your family. These programs do not guarantee admission to the participating school’s elementary program, however, unless that school is your assigned neighborhood school. Visit www.chicagoearlylearning.org for more information about the program and to access a complete list of program locations and application sites. Helpful FAQs can be found here. Updated winter 2022

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