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Finding 'The One'

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Early childhood education sets the foundation for a child's educational experience. Preschool is when children first develop social behaviors and learn about the world around them. Children under the age of 5 are undergoing the biggest period of brain development they'll ever have, and a lack of stimulation can have serious consequences.

"When kiddos are behind when they start kindergarten, they're the ones that will most likely become the dropouts," says Noreen Landis-Tyson, president and CEO of the Community Partnership for Child Development.

CPCD (cpcdheadstart.org) is the area's farthest-reaching resource for preschool-age kids, operating out of donated classroom space in districts 2, 3, 8, 11, 20 and 49. By administering the federal Head Start and Early Head Start programs, CPCD focuses on helping low-income families prepare children for school and success, even providing transportation to and from services at elementary schools. Meanwhile, its Colorado Preschool Program, a state-sponsored program that covers much the same ground, operates in the same districts, without income eligibility guidelines.

All part-day services are free, and with these three programs, CPCD serves about 2,400 children each year. It also offers health services, family support and parent education from its headquarters at 2330 Robinson St., on the west side.

School districts also offer their own options to parents, with programming ranging from basic childcare to hands-on learning activities to teaching beginning reading. Details for those are available from the districts themselves.

Church preschools offer a different, and often tuition-free, option. They have flourished in the Colorado Springs area, catering to parents who want religious education mixed in with other aspects of their child's early development. And, of course, there are plenty of privately owned, privately run preschools dotted throughout the Pikes Peak region. Of these, a small group of them utilize the highly individualized Montessori method, which emphasizes educating the whole child and giving him or her the freedom to be a self-directed learner. Local Montessori schools include: Born of the Golden Mountain (goldenmtmontessori.com), Giving Tree (gtmschool.com), Highpoint in the Springs (hismontessori.com), Hope Montessori Academy (montessorichild.com), Sidewalk's End (sidewalksendmontessori.com), Children's Haven (childrens-haven.com) and Rocky Mountain (rm-montessori.com).

While almost all schools that use the Montessori method are tuition-based and for kids under 6, Buena Vista (d11.org/buenavista) is a public Montessori school that provides half-day and full-day, tuition-free K-5 education through Colorado Springs School District 11.

leah@csindy.com

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