As young people, most of us competed in some sport or hobby. We dreamt of being the next NBA All Star, but on the way to our illustrious and humble ambitions, we found ourselves sweating through hours of drills; shooting three-pointers for over an hour and running lines certainly didn’t feel necessary nor worthwhile, and had little flash for all its substance. This principle carries into all areas of life – practicing scales doesn’t feel like headlining Carnegie Hall, studying color wheels doesn’t clearly transfer to one’s acclaimed exhibit in the National Art Gallery, and learning to chop an onion never made anyone a Julia Child.
During Mrs. Hevia’s first grade class last week, she brought a young man to the front and asked him, “What has prepared you to do your work so excellently? What pointers can you give to the class?” His answer was: Kindergarten. It wasn’t getting more sleep, taking summer classes, or getting glasses – though, depending on the child, those things certainly can’t hurt.
He was, in a word, answering a question we often get: “Why should I send my child to Kindergarten at ECS?” At its core, Kindergarten scratches the same preparatory itch as linebackers doing ballet, but even better. It combines fundamental aspects like scales and drills with a thriving community to help our youngest students excel in both character and ability.
First, Kindergarten bestows a rather practical and pedestrian skill-set within a setting of order and clear expectations. It helps students truly learn their phonograms and practice reading drills, and most Kindergarteners are reading by the time they proceed to first grade. They begin learning their math-facts, they gain experience singing in a choir, learn chords, and even study art and appreciate the beautiful through cursive writing and Penmanship Awards. They don’t excel in these things because we only accept geniuses. These are entirely normal children who cover a radical spectrum of giftedness, talents, abilities, and aptitudes. They learn them because they are taught by teachers who love them and their subjects, and who expect complete obedience within the learning environment. Surely you can teach all these skills at home, just like you can learn basic athletic skills from your father or mother – or perhaps at another Kindergarten (though it’s harder, honestly, with alternate programs and learning objectives) – but I can attest to the fact there is something different about learning at ECS, which primarily has to do (and must be fused) with, our second major advantage.
In a mysterious way, reading drills directly transfer to future success in Omnibus, as three-point drills help you nail the game-clincher, but the second major advantage of Kindergarten at ECS is the culture, and I would address two major elements of this. First, the Kindergarteners are surrounded on all sides by living goal-markers: first grade, sixth grade, twelfth grade, teachers. They see the goal, and they observe the steps along the way…and these “steps” bandage their knees when they fall, call-out their shenanigans on the playground, and sing and speak and work in ways that can’t help but inspire and shape a little soul. I often rode horses in front of my parents or friends at lessons or while practicing at home – and it was wonderful. But it was an entirely different ball-game to find myself in an arena surrounded by the best in the nation, practicing and honing my skill-set and my vision amongst them – amongst what I wanted to be some day. At a very young age, Kindergarten allows your son or daughter to play and train with a flawed but awesome set of students, and the only way you get that kind of influence and molding is to actually be here in the middle of the training camp.
The other way our culture seeps into these young sponges is through the absorbent flavor of the school – garlic lodges in your pores no matter how you get it, and it stays with you a long time. The same is true of gnomes, laughter, interclass fellowship, work-ethic, and so much more. Your student can certainly acquire excellent Kindergarten skills any number of places (though I would argue ECS is still the best place because, Mrs. Hall), but will they smell good in the process? Will they learn how their twitching affects the person sitting right next to them? Will they begin to see the larger picture of how to answer in a group, how to open doors for ladies, and how to speak both in unison and stand alone when needed? Will they, at an early age, begin to understand the fundamentals of fellowship and teamwork and community? I can testify that my daughters began to learn all these things in the home – it is the core bedrock of their obedience and learning – but they have been cemented in Kindergarten and continually molded through subsequent years at ECS.
We certainly care about the individual and the home – and no matter your background, or whether or not you attend Kindergarten at ECS, if you’re the right fit for the school, we will delight to have you. But it’s harder without the foundation – walk-ons can thrive in a college environment, but it can be challenging to adjust to the team when you’ve just been playing pick-up games. And if you can get the skills and the culture of an excellent team, wouldn’t you take it? If you could merge humility and homonyms, subtraction and strength, responsibility and reading, why would you ever not?