What the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program aims to do is give your child a head start in learning and social interaction. Kindergarten is an integral and essential aspect of childhood education as well as development and therefore the kindergarten that your child attends will shape their mind, learning ability and thinking skills.
What is the VPK program?
The Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program offered at Providence Children’s Academy is designed to make sure that your child is ready to start school the following year. Provided by the Early Learning Coalition (ELC), our school year program includes 540 instructional hours. The program is free for all 4 year olds living in Florida, and prepares them to adjust to a learning environment while giving them all the necessary skills needed for academic success.
The program is for all 4-year-old children born on or before September 1 and includes an age-appropriate curriculum that focuses on early literacy. The class sizes are kept small to make sure your child gets the attention they deserve by qualified and experienced instructors.
What is the curriculum?
The VPK focuses on literacy – reading and writing, and social skills, because of the VPK objective of preparing children for full-time kindergarten. The program follows the Department of Education guidelines which emphasizes a focus on early literacy. The quality of education is high and enhanced by the limit of teacher to student ratio. The maximum class size is 20 children per class, and the general ratio is 1 instructor to 11 children. This ensures that the teacher can give individual and quality attention to all students in the class. Children are given various activities to do and sometimes given homework tasks, teaching the children about responsibility.
What are the types of VPK institutions?
There are various public and private VPK institutions, providing parents with the opportunity to choose the type that best suits their child’s needs. There are many free VPK providers and institutions to choose from – public, private, faith based, and care based.
There are also two VPK program options to choose from: one being a full year program in which 540 instructional hours are used, and the other being a summer program in which 300 instructional hours are used. An important point to remember is that enrollment starts in March and programs start in August.
How does this program work?
The VPK program helps to increase your children’s enthusiasm for school and learning, and prepares them intellectually, emotionally and socially to start school. The program jumpstart’s your child by enhancing their pre-reading and pre-math skills, as well as helping to develop their language and social skills. This helps to create a much more enjoyable and beneficial schooling experience for your child as they get older.
How to register for free VPK
1) Register with the ELC
You will need your child’s social security number. The ELC has only two eligibility requirements for registration with the free VPK program:
- Proof of child’s age in the form of a birth certificate, Florida certification Immunization records, military ID or passport
- Proof of Florida residency – which must match the address of where the child resides and the address on the application – in the form of a current Florida driver’s license, current Florida state ID, mortgage statement, lease agreement, recent utility bill, vehicle registration, paycheck stub, tax return
You can register in one of two ways with the ELC:
- Online- you will need a working email address and PDF scan of the required documents.
- During walk-in hours at one of their offices- you will need copies of these documents, as you will not receive them back after the registration. They will make copies for you at their office, however if you do it beforehand it helps to speed up the process.
Once you have filled in and submitted the registration form with the required documents and your child has been registered for the free VPK program by the ELC, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility. If you applied online you will receive the document in PDF format via your email. If you applied at the ELC office you will receive two hardcopies of the document (one yellow and one white).
2) Choose your free VPK provider and enroll your child
Once you have your Certificate of Eligibility you can look for a free VPK provider. Your ELC office should send a list of free VPK providers in your county, or you can go to the office of early learning to view free VPK providers and their readiness rates. Bear in mind that you should find the right fit for your child as the process can only be done once. After you have chosen the right VPK provider for you and your child, you will need to present the certificate to them. If you have two hard copies, you keep the white copy and the yellow copy is to be submitted to your VPK provider. If you have it as a PDF on email you may email it.
How do we choose our teachers?
When it comes to choosing teachers, only the most-qualified teachers are selected to teach the VPK program. All teachers must at least have a child development associate for the school-year program, or a Bachelor’s degree in early childhood or any related fields for the summer program. All international teachers are also screened by the government prior to their appointment.
What are the benefits of VPK?
Enrolling your child in a VPK program will put them at a great advantage. In 2011-12, 79% of children who finished VPK were ready for kindergarten, compared to 55% of children who were ready from the group of children who didn’t attend VPK programs. VPK programs stimulate the brain at an age-appropriate level, and expose children to aspects of kindergarten. Their social development is faster because of the exposure to the classroom and peer environment. By the time they reach kindergarten, many have already developed good social and interactive skills, aiding their learning. Furthermore, the focus on literacy speeds up literacy learning when the child does reach kindergarten. It is also an opportunity to pick up early on whether or not your child may have a learning problem.
Contact Providence Children’s Academy today to enroll your child in an excellent VPK program in Florida.