In her living room, 4-year old Autumn isn’t just playing an on-line video game.
She’s attending preschool.
“Learning to put words together,” she says. “To make words.”
Run almost entirely online, it’s called Waterford Upstart.
“We were just looking for an alternative to the preschool options that were here,” her mother Vanity Ray said. “It’s not an extra bill. It’s not an added stress on so many families that’s already strained with finances anyway.”
Preschool can be expensive– ranging from $4500 to $13,000 per year but this simple program requiring just 15 minutes a day, five days a week is free.
The goal is to bring educational tools to children earlier, improving literacy and ensuring kids are ready for Kindergarten.
“What’s happening right now is if you have just a one size fits all model, you’re going to be leaving a lot of children behind,” Waterford President and CEO Dr. Benjamin Heuston said. “So we’re trying to keep children on that track towards literacy.”
Early education experts, though, say programs like this- can leave kids behind in other ways.
“Part of the way in which we measure quality, is the social interactions, of the children with other children and the children with the adults in the care,” Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of the Brookings Institute said. “All that happens in the mix of a high quality preschool education.”
But for families like the Ray, whose daughter, also attends day-care, say they can see the difference after being registered for just a month
“One day I came in and she’s like, ‘Dad. we learned about syllables today’,” Autumn’s father Neil Ray said. “And I’m like, ‘OK’. I’m like, ‘How many syllables the syllable have? And that became a game for like 15, 20 minutes of us, me throwing words out. Her counting the syllables.”
For more information or to register your child, go to waterfordupstart.org