3-year-olds get head start

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Billie Jo Wicks asked Katherine Schumacher a very important question on Friday: Did she want “Happy Birthday” sung with “cha-cha-chas,” or without?

Opting for the less exotic version, the 4-year-old patiently stood at the front of the room as her classmates belted out the song before they split into two groups for bingo-marker art and a snack of Oreos and juice.

Children in Wicks’ class are the youngest students in the newest program at Austin Catholic Schools: the Tiny Shamrocks preschool; the 4- and 5-year-olds class is called Little Shamrocks.

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“We were the only preschool in town that wasn’t offering one for 3-year-olds,” Wicks explained. “The early childhood education is so important.”

Students, who must be 3 years old at the start of school, attend class Thursday and Friday mornings in Austin Catholic Elementary School. They learn beginner’s basics, like socializing and the alphabet; unlike other preschools, the education is faith-based.

For example, Wicks explained, “When we talk about flowers, we talk about how God made the flowers.

“That’s what kind of sets us apart,” she said.

The first month, they have been focusing on parts of themselves, like their names, and how “we all have a special smile,” Wicks said.

Later in the year, students will learn about friends and family, and how God made the world around them.

Wicks, whose duties also include K-3 library, fourth- and fifth-grade math and coaching cheerleading, said thus far, the program has been “very positive.”