In Praise of Preschools

Tree with RootsThere are 515 Episcopal preschools listed in the NAES database. They range in size from about 30 to almost 300 students. Some are tucked away in the lower levels of parish halls while others occupy multi-story buildings. They include Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools, programs based in the best of developmentally appropriate practices, and an increasing number with outdoor classrooms and school gardens. Some of the most vibrant school chapels happen in Episcopal preschools, lively services with storytelling and skits, finger songs and child-centered prayers, enthusiastic Alleluias and student participation.

Episcopal preschools reach outward to the whole world, engaging and supporting all kinds of families and children, supporting and encouraging both as they shape a life together, parent and child. Regardless of size or style, they all share a deep commitment to a particular kind of human formation in a community of intentional practice that truly honors children and childhood. Joy and wonder, the care of God’s creation, connection and community, being seen, known, and loved – these are as much a part of what it means to be an Episcopal preschool as children’s chapel and expert teaching.

Early childhood education is getting well-deserved attention. Municipalities across the United States are recognizing the importance of quality preschool programs, as evidenced in a growing number of free or universal public pre-k programs.

Amidst these changes, Episcopal preschools continue to serve their communities with grace and purpose. They provide safe havens where both parents and children can bring their full selves to learn and grow together. They are living manifestations of the special place held by children in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.

This month, as we celebrate all Episcopal schools, I would especially hold up for our collective celebration the many Episcopal preschools who work tirelessly on behalf of the youngest among us.