The Greenwood School

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Positivity and trust shape preschool’s curriculum

It’s Monday morning, and the backyard of The Greenwood School, a home-based pre-school for children ages 2–5, is alive with quiet activity.

Young children dig in an open sandbox. A pair of boys talk as they ride tricycles down a slight hill.

A few of the older children remove stones from a wheelbarrow and start building a path.

No one is screaming, crying or hitting anyone else.

That serenity is the most obvious byproduct of The Greenwood School’s entire philosophy and curriculum, which is informed by children’s mental and physical development.

Owner/director Tracy Schagen said that Greenwood fosters feelings of comfort, security and acceptance.

“We want the school to be a safe place where kids can blossom so when they go on to kindergarten, they’re [outwardly focused and receptive],” she said. “[The children think] school is a happy place and learning is great. If children are scared or unsure, they withdraw.”

Soon it is “circle time,” the first of several throughout the day. A teacher sings a song that calls the children to form a circle. Everyone sings to greet the day.

Most importantly, they repeat the school’s mantra, a simplified code of behavior that is reinforced throughout each day: “I will use my walking feet, my listening ears, golden words, loving hearts, gentle hands and inside voices.”

The school’s approach seems to follow the logic and behavior of children. Take a common challenge: Two children want to play with the same toy truck.

“If that trust has not been developed yet, I may say to the child, ‘I promise you will get to play with the toy after Toby is done with it,” Schagen said. “I’ve given my word and will sit with the child and [entertain him or her]. Meanwhile, Toby’s playing with the toy. When Toby gets bored with the toy and moves on, I can say, ‘See, here is the toy,’ and that trust has been built.”

What if Toby wants to play with all of the toy trucks?

“We say, ‘OK, you can play with them. Everyone else, let’s play over here,’ and Toby’s left alone with the toys. So he gets that experience of playing with the trucks, but soon it does not seem as fun as playing with all of his friends. He’ll rejoin the group,” she said.

This is called the art of allowing. Toby gets his toys, and the other students trust that they’ll get their turns soon.

Schagen said the school is not for everyone, but that parents are pleased. The school has a waiting list for the summer and fall and plans to expand to a second building.

A wealth of activities at The Greenwood School

  • Outdoor play
  • Coloring
  • Yoga
  • Helping service dogs
  • Caring for chickens
  • Rest time
  • Snack time
  • Playing pretend
  • Cooking activities

The Greenwood School, 8319 Haskel Drive, 394-9171, www.greenwoodschool.net

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Joe covered Southwest Austin news for Community Impact Newspaper from January 2011 to April 2015. His reporting focused on new businesses, development, transportation, industry and Travis County issues. He was named the paper’s managing editor in April 2015. Joe hails from New Jersey.

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