This is probably the most-asked question by anyone under the age of three.  In fact, there has been an epidemic of “Why” in my classroom in recent weeks.


If you were to ask me “Why (is 'why?' the most-asked question by anyone under the age of three)?”, I could answer in any number of ways.  One would be “Because I said so; after all I'm a preschool teacher, I know these things,” which is certainly an answer, but it's an answer designed to stop rather than respond to the question.  Another would be “Because it just is;  I've heard dozens of two-year olds ask 'why?' dozens of times over more than a dozen years of teaching, so take my word for it.”  (Kids over the age of three ask the same question, by the way, just in increasingly complex and specific ways, which they learn to do partially as a result of experiencing the irritation in adults who have been asked the seemingly same question [“why?”] too many times in a row.)  But the best and the real answer to “Why do they ask why?” is that young kids want to learn how to get around in the world,  but they don't yet have the maps, and the answers to “Why?” will help them to construct those maps. 

Another way to interpret a child's initial question “Why?” might be to ask it this way:  “What happened before what just happened?”  And a great answer to this question and the ones that will likely follow would include not just explaining what happened before, but what will or might happen after, as these things relate to the child.  The conversation might go something like this:

Mommy is going to take you to the dentist tomorrow.


Because you have all of your baby teeth, and you need to go to the dentist.


Because the dentist wants to look at your teeth to make sure that they are strong and healthy.


Because you need strong and healthy teeth to eat your food.


Because eating food makes you strong and healthy so you can feel good and have lots of fun.


At this point, the parent could choose to continue answering these “why”s, or could turn the question back to the child:

Do you like to feel good and have lots of fun?  or  Did you know that Daddy went to the dentist last week and the dentist gave him a new toothbrush—do you want to see it? 

So here's the map this exchange has helped draw:   

(Start) baby teeth--- Child (you are here) --- dentist --- healthy teeth --- eat food --- feel good --- lots of fun (destination). 

Because the questions have been answered, the directions are clear.  Because the parent intuits the possible anxiety behind the questions, the road to be travelled is also clear and the desired destination is identified, and is not scary.  This is a map that can then be referred to (“Remember when you went to the dentist?”) and modified as needed for a trip to the doctor, to the allergist, to the audiologist, etc.

Of course it would be much easier (in the short run) for the parent if the exchange went like this:

Mommy is going to take you to the dentist tomorrow.


Because she made an appointment, and you have to go because I said so.  Don't worry.

This parent, like the one in the previous conversation, gets points for letting the child know well in advance of something new that is going to happen.  The trouble with this approach is that it has the potential to create much anxiety, because there are many unknowns.  Who is the dentist?  What is an appointment?  What will the dentist do?  The parent in this exchange has also felt the anxiety in the child, but has chosen to end the conversation in an attempt to end the anxiety.    

Here is the map for this exchange:  (Start) ??appointment??-----Child (you are here)-------??dentist?? (destination). 

A child with this kind of map (a mysterious point of origin and an unfamiliar destination, with lots of unknown stuff in between) may be afraid and therefore be uncooperative.  The parent who thought s/he had saved time by cutting off questions may actually lose time in trying to get to their destination, because the map has a lot of uncharted (for the child), unacknowledged (on the part of the parent) territory.  And maybe this same parent thought that they were saving their child from unnecessary worrying by assuming that the child wouldn't worry if there were no details.  But a child's mind, just like nature, abhors a vacuum, and will insert details if none are given, some of which may be frightening or may lead to disappointment (“Big Brother told me the dentist was just going to give me a balloon and some stickers!”).  I still remember being told as a child that I had to go to the doctor for a shot, and thinking the doctor was going to shoot me with a cannon-type contraption.

So the next time your child asks “Why?”, think of it as a variation of the game of Jeopardy.  You've given an answer, now you just have to figure out what the real question is that will take you to the next answer.  So you and your child can both win. 

Collected Advice on Kindergarten Readiness From a Mom and Preschool Teacher

In today’s transition to kindergarten, we parents have had to make big decisions about our children’s educational paths based on very little information. You have done all the possible research, read the websites, visited and toured the schools, signed up for the lotteries, fallen in love with some of the schools, waited for the results, and gotten the news. Maybe you love your neighborhood school, or maybe you got in to the charter or magnet school of your dreams. Perhaps you moved into the district of your choice and are getting to know a new neighborhood. It’s possible the results are not what you were hoping for and you are disappointed and worried about what will come. Regardless of the process or the results, what matters now is that you know where your precious child will be going. Now is the time to lay the ground work for a positive outlook toward your child’s elementary debut!

I am a preschool teacher, and through my years of spending time with three- and four-year-olds, I have become convinced that children do their very best when they feel comfortable with their environment and the expectations of those charged with their care and teaching. As my own children progressed through preschool and elementary school, I received some really good advice from some of their teachers on how to help them to succeed. I have used this advice with my kids repeatedly as they have progressed through their school experiences. I also discovered a few valuable kindergarten tricks that helped my children a lot.  I will share these tidbits with you now. 

At my first ever preschool conference, I asked Teacher Helene if there was anything I could do to help my daughter to do her very best in preschool. What she told me was so very simple but I have emphasized it with my kids so often that I believe it to be the most fundamental principle of success in school. She said, “Just tell her to listen to her teachers.” This turned out to be the perfect advice for my children’s elementary education, which was at a Chinese immersion elementary school. Of course, that is what you want kids to do! But they get distracted, bored, tired, frustrated…. So I also told them that if they are having trouble listening, they should just pretend to listen. Point your face at the teacher and don’t look away. Ignore the people who are trying to talk to you on the carpet! Watch what the teacher is showing you. Try to understand what she is doing, as well as what her words are. 

When my kids got to kindergarten, they knew the alphabet, but they weren’t reading English yet and they didn’t know any Chinese. They both learned to read by the end of the first quarter, and they had learned a lot of Chinese, too. The main support I gave them was constant encouragement to listen to the teachers and try their best.

The next teacher gem of advice I received was from Teacher Maureen. My younger daughter was very much attached to me and did not want to separate at school. I asked Maureen what I could do to help my daughter with this, and her answer was also very simple and also has become a fundamental part of my and my husband’s parenting approach. She told me that I should reassure my daughter that I knew that she could do it. We did this in preschool, and it worked. We did this when we left her for the first day of kindergarten, and it worked. And we do this now for every challenge that comes to us. We tell our children that we know that they can do whatever they set out to achieve; then we help them set a goal and make a plan.

The third piece of advice I appreciated was from my daughters’ kindergarten English teacher, Katie Jiang. My kids are two years apart, and in this program, they spent kindergarten and first grade with Ms. Jiang, so we spent four years in her classrooms and got to know her systems really well. At some point she said, “If you don’t believe everything they tell you about school, I won’t believe everything they tell me about home.” I gave this one a lot of thought. I tend to believe what my children tell me, but sometimes, they draw incorrect conclusions or misunderstand situations at school and at home. This statement by this teacher really brought home to me how important it is to have good communication with your child’s teacher. As soon as possible, find out the teacher's preferred communication method and use it! Offer to help and really follow through. Be a room parent if you can. Helping your child’s teacher helps your child! And if or when your child tells you something about school that is troubling her or you, trust it, but verify and clarify it in a respectful way with the teacher.

Here is a list of things that we did and said to help our kids as they progressed throughout their kindergarten year:

1.        Before the school year started, we went to play on the playground so it was a familiar place.

2.       I brought them breakfast in bed, but there was no TV during the school week.

3.       We took our daughters on a tour of the school and looked at the bathrooms and the cafeteria.

4.       I got the lunch and snack schedule and started feeding them at those times in the summer.

5.       I bought them water bottles with a shoulder strap so they would stay hydrated all day because I learned that there was not time to stop at water fountains, and unless they were wearing the water bottle, it would not be used.

6.       I packed a home lunch each day but let them choose school lunch if they wanted.

7.       We really studied the classroom behavior strategy.

8.       We were always excited about homework and used it as a way to talk about what happened at school each day.

9.       We tried to arrive early at school so we could play a little outside before the day began.

10.   We talk positively about tests. We say, “Tests are a chance to show what you know. Just do your best.” 

Well, that’s the way we did kindergarten.  A lot of these things we have kept doing all through middle school, and we are getting ready to see what works for high school. I’m going to start out with, “Listen to your teachers, even the ones you don’t like the most”and "I know you can do it; let’s make a plan!”

Good luck on your new journey!

Teacher Hannah

The Cooperative Family

Back in the fall of 2010, my oldest son started a Parent Morning Out program at Family Preschool. That program was Family Preschool’s very first Duckling class! Now, seven years later, my youngest son is finishing up his last weeks at Family Preschool.

It’s hard to believe that it’s time for him to head off to kindergarten. I've had seven years of fun learning in the classroom as a helping parent, meeting new friends (both those my own age and some pretty special little ones), and building a community. I have to say that when my oldest was “graduating,” I wasn’t super nostalgic, but now that it’s my youngest, I am feeling all the feels and wondering how our time here has come to an end so quickly.

I will miss the morning playground chats and exploring the world through the kids' eyes. Family Preschool has been a truly special place for our whole family. The cooperative model really gave my children a great lesson in what it is like to pull together as a community and create a place where the sum is so much greater than its parts.

I offer much gratitude to all the teachers at Family Preschool for giving my kids a gentle place to learn, play, and grow. As we move on to the next phase of life, I am comforted to know that many friendships will carry forward, so some of this community will always be with us.

With love and thanks,


Board President


End-of-Year Reflections

Dear FPS Families,

Wow, how time flies when you’re having fun! What an awesome year of experimenting, learning, growing, bonding, and loving we have had here at Family Preschool. I continue to be amazed at what this cooperative preschool brings to these lucky little ones. Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you on this journey. I feel very special to have been a part of each child’s experience here this year. 

It’s the time that many of our friends are moving on to kindergarten and so are many families who have remained vigilant to the core philosophies of our program. We will truly miss all those who are not returning next school year. Please keep in touch -- send emails, visit for school activities, and keep us up to date on how things are going.

I would like to send a big “thank you” to this year’s board, led by Liz Snyder. The board has dedicated countless emails and many hours of work to stay the course for this preschool “ship”. I am excited to begin the next year with our newly elected board, led by Sarah Margargee-Hineman. There will be a potluck dinner at the Snyder residence on Monday, May 15th to welcome the new board members. Everyone is welcome –- please contact Liz Snyder if you plan to come.

Thank you to the heart and soul of Family Preschool, the outstanding teaching staff who have been with us this school year. Teachers Alison, Sue, Hannah, Ashley and Molly have magically lead children through this year of discovery. Their dedication and commitment to FPS goes above and beyond what I have ever experienced at any preschool. I have thoroughly enjoyed popping into their classrooms to see children happily engaging with teachers and friends.

Most of all, thank you to YOU – the parents of Family Preschool. Thank you for your days of being Helping Parents, committing to your co-op job, coming in as Guest Speakers, completing odd jobs for the school, soliciting businesses for fundraising, supporting and honoring our teachers, and for offering your unwavering support of Family Preschool and its principles. We are only as strong as the sum of our parts – the parents, teachers, and children working together.

Please join us on Friday, June 2, for our Annual End-of-Year Popsicle Party on the playground at 11:15 a.m. Following the party, please stay and join us for a Potluck Lunch!

A few reminders for May:

Summer Camp

There are still a few openings in Week 4 of Summer Camp (June 26-30). Please let me know if you are interested in signing up so I can secure your space. It's going to be a fun summer! Our summer camp is open to alumni, as well.

Memorial Day Holiday

Please remember that Monday, May 29, is a holiday, and we will not have school that day. 

School Clean Up Day

On Saturday, June 3, we will have our End-of-Year School Clean-Up day. John Mogensen, our VP, will be setting this up, and there will be two sessions for cleaning: one from 7 a.m. - 10 a.m. and one from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Thank you for being a part of this whole school clean up!

Thank you again for a memorable year!

Fundraising and the Spring Auction

Parents are a big part of fundraising at Family Preschool, which helps to support scholarships for some of our families, professional development opportunities for our teachers, and classroom materials and enrichment programs for our students. The single most important fundraiser for Family Preschool is our annual Spring Auction. Each year, our families solicit wonderful donations from local businesses throughout the Triangle, as well as contribute their own talents and services for the auction. In the past, we've had everything from gift certificates to Celebrity Dairy in Siler City to a photography session with our own talented Molly Cronenwett.

Each year, it is a bit of a surprise to see what will be available for bidding in the auction. This year, everyone will get a chance to see what great items are available starting on May 6. You don't have to be a family at FPS to bid! Everyone is welcome to try their luck with their best bids through the close of the auction on May 12.

Typically, FPS generates between $5,000 and $6,000 through the spring auction, much of which supports our scholarship program that helps ensure that all types of families are able to attend the school. In the past, the money raised through the auction and other fundraising activities have also supported professional development opportunities such as our teachers attending workshops on project-based learning, as well as a plethora of amazing projects and art activities.  

We invite everyone to check out the auction when it opens next week and find some great goodies. You'll find some great bargains, and you'll be supporting a wonderful community preschool that offers an inclusive environment for all.

Best of luck!


- The Auction Team

Why I Love Teaching the Project Approach

I love the project approach because it enables our students to go in-depth with their learning. Preschoolers love to investigate and explore the world around them, and project work takes them on an intellectual adventure in which they can initiate, investigate, and follow through on their questions and interests. This level of investigation results in more meaningful learning and increased engagement from our students. They become “experts” on their project topic and are proud to share what they have learned. Our project culminations display the breadth and depth of their investigations.

But I also love the project approach because it covers all areas of the curriculum in an engaging way. It allows us to teach the necessary academic skills while also achieving more complex intellectual goals (such as formulating questions, problem-solving, cooperation, making predictions, and speculating about cause and effect). Academic tasks such as early literacy skills, letter recognition, counting, color and shape recognition, writing, etc., are all achieved through the active student participation in the project approach—without any boring, repetitive worksheets! In fact, because the children are curious, absorbed, and interested in a project topic, they more eagerly approach academic goals that might be met with resistance if offered in a discrete, decontextualized manner.

During the early stages of our box project, for example, we offered graph paper and helped students practice drawing “boxes.” This required excellent pre-writing practice including proper pencil grip, making straight lines, and drawing the right angles required by many letter-formations. But I can guarantee that the students were more excited about “drawing boxes” than they would have been about rote letter-writing practice!

Students also used early math skills in purposeful ways. We measured boxes for our grocery store. This included counting with one-to-one correspondence and recording numbers and results. We also used early math skills for box-nesting activities, comparing different size boxes, and graphing the results of various box-related surveys.

Even more important than these early academic tasks, however, were the intellectual goals we achieve during the project. During our box packing and egg-drop experiment, for example, we practiced scientific inquiry. We asked a question (will the egg survive the drop?), predicted an outcome (yes or no?), tested theories with an experiment (packed and dropped the boxes full of eggs), analyzed the results (opened the packages), and reported the outcome (on a graph).

During our box boating/voting activity, the children had to work together to move their team across a large room (the “ocean”) in a big box (the “boat”) in order to cast their vote in a ballot box. They had to negotiate who would ride and who would push, how many could ride at a time, how many were needed to push effectively, and how to take turns to get everyone across the room. The children were also required to work together to effectively choose and pack a box of containers during one of our field experiences. This involved cooperation and trial-and-error.

Projects engage students, allow them to become experts, and accomplish curricular objectives — all while simultaneously achieving higher-level intellectual goals. At the end of a project, students have been challenged by and engaged in the topic, have increased confidence in their own knowledge, have solved problems, have learned from asking and answering questions, have developed their early literacy and numeracy skills in purposeful ways, and have worked cooperatively with their peers.

We announce our new project today!

In anticipation,

Teacher Molly




Planting Little Seeds in the Community

This weekend, some Family Preschool members went to downtown Durham to join the farmers' market crowd. The outing was both a chance for current families to gather with alumni friends and for the greater Durham community to get to know about our school. We chatted, blew bubbles, and we shared a basil planting activity with any child who wanted to join us.

Planting basil seeds echoed some of the play-based spring time learning we are doing in the classroom. Back at Family Preschool, you will find bean plants sprouting on the windowsills. Soon the kids will be able to take them home to plant in a bigger pot and watch them continue to grow and produce beans that they can eat. We have also been planting herbs and flowers to brighten our playground and provide another space for learning while watching things grow.

We hope our community outreach from this weekend will inspire even more children to plant seeds, watch them grow, and learn.

If you missed us on Saturday, keep an eye out at the Durham Farmer's Market in Downtown Durham. We plan to host some more play dates at the market in the future.

Happy Spring everyone!


- Board President

Spring Has Sprung!

Happy April everyone! What an interesting March we have had! Some cold weather, some hot weather -- and we’ve ended it with lots of rain. We have had days of shorts and sandals, days of rain boots and mud, and days when we needed our extra glove box on the playground.

School activities have been highlighted by all things spring. The 1-year-old Ducklings have been painting rainbows with watercolors. The 2-year-old Tree Frogs have been creating flower bouquets with photos of spring flowers. The 3- and 4-year-old classes completed their Box Project with a showy culmination of all their knowledge and awareness of all things boxes. The Hedgehog, Penguin, and Zebra gatherings are now embracing spring and have been busy planting flowers in the garden, learning about the parts of a plant, and even using play dough to make flower arrangements.

Also this month, Family Preschool celebrated it’s 47th birthday. Each gathering celebrated in their own way: Making banners for the big day, baking cupcakes to decorate, and wearing festive party hats. The older students made a birthday cake out of boxes and wrote their wishes down for the school. Our families also got in on the celebration by purchasing special gifts for the preschool and the playground. We received quite a haul of new playground toys, ranging from new buckets and pails to new cars and trucks to ride. Thank you all for your generosity -- we are so lucky to have such an amazing community of families!

The school received an anonymous donation to complete the additions to the playground that our Playground Committee has drafted. The donation came from a special family who loves Family Preschool very much and wants to see the playground learning and fun continue for many years to come. We will have Go Out & Play come out during our spring break (April 10-14) to work on these additions. Keep your eye out for the following new playground enhancements: 1) a riding track near the wooden picnic benches,  2) a slackline at the top of the hill, 3) an angled climbing wall on the playhouse, and 4) a rope climbing area near the small slide near the bridge. We are so excited that these updates will be made this month so our friends this year (and many years to come) will enjoy them!

The Family Preschool Auction Fundraising Event is happening soon! Please ask your favorite places (restaurants, shops, play spaces, and other shops) to donate to help our school raise money for scholarships and other needs. Letters asking for donations are available in mailboxes and on top of the cubbies. Check out the "Information for Current Families" tab on the website for more information. Or ask auction chairs Kate Mauldin or Shane Nye or your classroom representative if you have any questions!

Summer camp is filling up for our four weeks of camp in June. We will have one more call for current families to sign up, and then we will open this wonderful camp to friends of FPS. If you have any friends that would be interested in signing up, please let them know we have space in Weeks 1, 3 and 4!

Important dates to remember:

  • Friday, April 7, is a make-up snow day for Family Preschool.  The Wednesday Ducklings, the 3-day Tree Frogs and all the 4- and 5-day gatherings will have class on Friday.
  • Spring Break will be April 10-14. No classes will meet that week. Teachers will be here for a workday on Tuesday, and Go Out & Play will be here all the week working on the playground. If anyone would like to come help lay the track on the playground, we could use some parent volunteers. We plan to tackle that on Tuesday morning. Please let me know if you are interested and available to help.

We still have a few spaces for enrollment for the 2017-18 school year. We have two to three spots in our 1-year-old program, one to two spots in our 2-year-old class, and two to three spots in our 4-year-old class. Please let your friends know if they are looking for a fun cooperative preschool experience for their child(ren). We will be leaving a flyer in each cubby tomorrow for you to hang up at a place you frequent.

Thanks for all you do to make Family Preschool to special and amazing community it is!




Family Preschool is Among 100 Certified Living Wage Employers in Durham

Family Preschool is committed to offering one of the best preschool educations in Durham. As part of that goal, we hire only the very best preschool teachers to be part of our family. We hire teachers who are experienced, who have extensive training in the educational philosophies that we embrace, and who are as committed as we are to our children and their development. And because we want only the best teachers, we are committed to giving them the best, as well. That means paying them a salary that shows our commitment and our understanding of the important work that they do.


Recently, Family Preschool was recognized as one of only 100 Durham employers that have been certified as providing a living wage for their employees. The Durham Living Wage Project provided the recognition, which was given to businesses that pay their employees at least 70 percent more than the federal and state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That means that these businesses pay all their employees at least $12.53 per hour if they do not provide health insurance. Those businesses that do provide health insurance and pay at least 50 percent of the cost can be certified under the Durham Living Wage Project if they pay all employees at least $11.03 per hour.

Family Preschoolactually pays our teachers well above the guidelines established by the Durham Living Wage Project, which was launched in March 2015 as an initiative of the People's Alliance Fund to promote a just economy. We believe that quality pay attracts quality teachers, and that is reflected in the cost of an education at Family Preschool.

At Family Preschool, your children don't just play. They learn through play. In fact, they do their most important work through, learning academic concepts like colors and spatial relationships, honing their gross and fine motor skills, developing their social skills, and strengthening their emotional intelligence. Our teachers guide children in this important work and give them the opportunities and skills to grow.

Plus, just like our parents and our children, our teachers are part of our school family, and we want to treat them as such. Teachers do such important work. We feel that if all teachers were paid as well as they deserved, our children would all be thriving.

You can see the full list of Durham Living Wage Project certified employers here. Note that Family Preschool is the only secular, half-day preschool on the list.

Building Community at FPS

As adults, it can be really tricky to make the leap to friendship, especially if you are someone who has moved to a new town or who isn’t naturally outgoing. It's not as easy as it is for our kids, who seem to make friends simply by sitting near someone in a sandbox. But a wonderful benefit of being in a cooperative preschool is finding your “tribe,” and Family Preschool offers plenty of great opportunities for parents to build a community.

In the cooperative setting, you have a chance to casually get to know your fellow parents while working in the classroom as helping parents. From there, it's easy to get more involved in the community through fun events like our Parents Night Out meetups, or even just hanging out after pickup on our playground. One of my favorite parenting tactics is lingering on the playground for as long as possible, which my kids love and has the added bonuses of avoiding battles about watching television and getting to spend the afternoon chatting with other parents - win/win! They would be perfectly happy to stay there playing until close to dinnertime (so would I), and I believe we have done just that at least a few times.    

Another way FPS encourages community building is through our annual spring camping trip. This year, we will be visiting Jordan Lake. A lot of our families will be coming out to sleep out in the woods, meet a ranger who will share some information about the wildlife we might spot at the park, and, of course, swim or paddle canoes in the lake. The memories our kids make together will last a lifetime, and activities like these are a great way to connect with other families. This will be my third campout, and I am really looking forward to spending time with our friends and getting to know some of the newer families. The roots of our FPS community go deep, and I have made many friends during my years here.

Hope to see you all at the campout!


- Family Relations Chair

A Lesson in the Laughter

I expect that almost everyone reading this will have seen the video that went viral of Professor Robert Kelly in his interview with the BBC about South Korea. Or maybe it was North Korea? 

But who cares?  

If you haven't seen the video, here it is:  

The most memorable part of that interview was the intrusion of his children, followed by his reaction and then his wife's swift -- or as my niece put it, "ninja-like" -- removal of the children, and his immediate resumption of answering the question that had been put to him. It was very, very funny, and as the parent who shared it said, we've all been there.  But I found it informative, too.  

This is what I saw:

First of all, Professor Kelly was so focused on what he was saying that he had to be told by the interviewer that one of his children had come into the room. Perhaps she had entered quietly, but judging from the little dance she started immediately after opening the door, I doubt it. This tells me that Professor Kelly was probably used to such intrusions, and on some level was comfortable with them. Then when the little girl got close behind him, he reached back, gently found her shoulder, then equally gently tried to push her back, all without taking his eyes off the camera. A smile and slight laugh were the only indications of his reaction. This, or something like it, has happened before to him (and likely to most of us).

At this point, the baby then wheeled into the room in her walker, equally joyful, adding to the commotion, followed almost immediately by a woman who must surely have been a softball player at some point, judging by the skillful way in which she skidded into the room. She in turn grabbed the children and, keeping as low a profile as possible, dragged them carefully (not roughly, not angrily) out of the room and closed the door gently but firmly. At which point Professor Kelly, still relaxed and focused, and after a very slightly bemused but sincere apology, resumed his answer to the question.

I've watched the video several times (okay, more than several) and shared it with a few friends (okay, more than a few). I would not have done so had either Professor Kelly or his wife handled the situation with anger or frustration, or even indicated that they were feeling angry or frustrated but had repressed it. Instead, their reaction to normal childhood behavior was appropriate, efficient, and -- above all -- considerate of the feelings of those involved, and it made me want to be there again, laughing with them.  

Thank you, Professor Kelly.  I learned a lot from you today.

Teacher Sue

Project 2: Exploring Boxes

The second project that our 4- and 5-day friends are exploring this year at Family Preschool is "Boxes." I love how project-based learning can take such a simple idea like boxes and inspire so much creativity in the teachers, kids and parents! We've seen the kids make such fun discoveries in the classroom through their different activities, and they have embraced the box play enthusiastically.

So far, our children have:

  • Shared their own special boxes from home. We've seen treasure boxes, jewelry boxes, and music boxes to name a few so far.
  • Played with cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes and made them into new things. This week, the children turned recycled boxes into a giant birthday cake to celebrate the 47th birthday of Family Preschool.
  • Discovered food that can be made from a box, like brownies and pudding. (And what a delicious exercise that was!)
  • Painted mailboxes and sent letters to themselves in the mail.
  • Packed eggs in boxes to see whether they would survive a fall.
  • Gone on a field trip to the FedEx store to learn about packing fragile things in boxes.
  • Gone on a field trip to I Must Garden to learn about the shipping process and to participate in a scavenger hunt for the right shipping box.

We have also enjoyed a great number of parent "guest experts" in the classroom. Our experts have visited the class to do special presentations on:

  • Sewing boxes
  • Electrical boxes
  • Tool boxes
  • Produce boxes
  • Box collections
  • Guitars made form boxes
  • Putting together pieces to make wooden boxes
  • Dog crates

At Family Preschool, we believe that children learn best through experiences that are meaningful to them. As we explore our projects, the teachers work on integrating math and literacy activities in to kids' investigations as a great way to enhance and develop emergent skills in these developmental domains in a natural way.

I can't wait to see what the box project has to offer next, and I can't wait to see what our next and final project of the year will be!

Happy learning,


FPS Board President

Not boxed in!

As part of the project approach at Family Preschool, the children get to explore how concepts relate to their everyday lives. We talk together about what the children already know about a topic, and we explore new information from the connections they've already identified.

Right now, our 4- and 5-day friends are engaged in their box project. They've done everything from build wooden boxes in the classroom to create an entire box city out of recycled cardboard boxes. Yesterday, they got the chance to get out of the classroom and learn about boxes out in the world. They visited I Must Garden, a Chapel Hill business that makes all-natural and earth-friendly pest repellents.


The owner, Marilyn Cox, introduced herself to the children and told them about her company and the products it makes. The children were then taken on a tour of the facility, and they got to learn how the pest repellents are made and watch them get bottled up and put into boxes for shipping. They learned about the different sizes and types of boxes used in shipping and why they are important.

Afterward, the children participated in a scavenger hunt. They were split into five teams, and each were given five different bottles and asked to find a box for each bottle that would be the right size to send it safely.

The children had a wonderful time learning about the company and learning about some of the many ways that boxes are used. They also loved getting a chance to see the father of one of our 5-day friends at work. It was actually the friend's mother who put us up to the idea to organize this field trip. It's one of many examples of how our families come together to make our school a better place and to improve the education that our children get.

It was another great day learning and growing together at FPS!


Happy Birthday Family Preschool!

Hi Families,

We are now well into our second semester of Family Preschool. It has been fun to look back at the family pictures taken during the summer home visits and see how much our friends have grown already!

The children have become very comfortable in their gathering groups and know the routine well. Teacher Alison has done an outstanding job in the Duckling classroom, and all our little ducklings -- even ones that just started last month -- are doing great! The Duckling friends have especially enjoyed making their Eric Carle-inspired mural in the classroom. Teacher Sue’s Tree Frogs have had a fun winter season with activities like making rocket ships blasting off to the moon (using baking soda and vinegar) to taking care of baby dolls with kindness and band-aids. The 4- and 5-day gatherings have been busy with their box project, including practicing drawing squares, esearching different boxes they can find around the school, and enjoying guest expert visits from so many FPS families. They also had a field trip to the UPS Shipping Station.

In March, we are celebrating Family Preschool's birthday. We are 47 years old this year! The week ofMarch 13th-17th, we will be celebrating our birthday with the school. During the week, we will prepare for our big birthday celebration by making wrapping paper and enjoying other activities. We will have classroom-specific birthday celebrations on Friday, March 17, and parents are invited to join us for a cupcake. Check with your child’s gathering teacher to find out the plan for that day! If you would like to purchase a present for FPS, we are focusing on playground toys this year. We will post a wish list of items that need replacing on the preschool door (and in the parents' section of the website). Items can be toys that you are retiring from your home collection or new toys. You could even pitch in with some other families in your gathering for a larger gift.

I have been so fortunate to have such an amazing group of parents and families here at FPS. Thank you for all your openness, guidance, and dedication to our school. Thank you to all the helping parents and on-call families who keep our school running so smoothly. A special thank you to our board, who have worked hard to support the school so successfully!

I cannot end this post without thanking our outstanding team of teachers. We are so fortunate to have this talented group of ladies working at FPS. I feel so thankful to be working in this warm, family friendly environment.