Throughout 2018, Alamo City Moms Blog will be spotlighting one local nonprofit each month as part of its ACMB Cares campaign. Our goal is to familiarize readers with nonprofit organizations that are making an impact in San Antonio through their connection with moms and/or children. This month, we are featuring The Acorn: A School for Young Children.
I’ll never forget the time I first asked my husband to recall his preschool memories. He looked at me blankly. “I don’t really have any,” he replied. Puzzled, he then asked, “Do you?” I stood, dumbfounded. By contrast, my memories of preschool and Kindergarten are vivid. I remember bright, colorful parades, giant teepees, culinary creations with real food, and each and every teacher. I remember crushing maize with a mortar and pestle, embodying a tiger in a costumed performance, experimenting with instruments—from xylophones to pianos—and recounting to my mom my first experience with oil pastels.
I’m a proud alumnus of The Acorn: A School for Young Children, and when it came time for my husband and me to decide where to send our daughter for preschool, in my mind there was no other option worth considering.
Founded in 1980 by Rich & Kitty Lange and now in its 38th year, The Acorn is a private, nonprofit corporation with 501(c)(3) charitable status, offering preschool and Kindergarten programs unlike any other in San Antonio. Its unique approach to childhood development and education is what drew my parents to its campus back in 1984 and what made me return to it once I became a parent myself.
Here are five reasons I fell in love with The Acorn:
1. The Curriculum
In a society that seems to be forever pushing children to spend more time at their desks and less time actively learning, The Acorn is a welcome breath of fresh air, focused on exploratory learning, creative play, and positive reinforcement. Children are not only allowed but encouraged to take risks, to experiment, to learn by doing. The Acorn takes a “back to the basics” approach that doesn’t rely on iPads or screens, but on tried-and-true methods that appeal to children’s imaginations and foster building confidence. The Acorn helps students to master the building blocks of childhood education—numbers, phonics, writing, etc.—in engaging and constructive ways, and instills in children an appreciation of art and artists, music and composers, cultures and traditions, and beginning Spanish. But what I love most is that The Acorn emphasizes so much more than educational basics. Developing kids who are kind, compassionate, social, and self-assured are of paramount importance, and encouragement of questions, exploration, and discovery through the use of senses are all cornerstones in its curriculum. At The Acorn, the goal is not to manufacture students who robotically repeat what they’ve been told, but to create outside-the-box thinkers who actively seek knowledge—as its directors know that a true love of learning in a confident child is a lifelong gift.
2. The Campus
The school itself is not your typical school building; in fact, it’s actually a two-story home that has been converted into a schoolhouse, so it has a comfortable, homey look and feel, complete with lofts, book nooks, and art rooms where children can literally get their hands dirty. Musical instruments abound, as do arts and crafts and books, as well as a menagerie of costumes for dramatic play. Outside, a towering playground awaits, complete with wooden climbing structures, tire swings, playhouses, slides, a fire pole, sandboxes, bikes and riding vehicles, and more. It’s a child’s paradise, really, designed to engage little minds for hours through environmental exploration, movement, and creative play.
3. The Teachers
If you’re like me, you’re probably pretty cautious about with whom you leave your child(ren) in your absence. But when you have a child at The Acorn, that’s one less worry on your plate, as its childhood educators are unmatched. Not only are the teachers equipped with backgrounds in childhood development and education, but they have boundless energy, infectious enthusiasm, and a genuine interest in each individual child. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to know that each day I dropped off my daughter, I was releasing her to people who really knew and loved her, who took the time to identify her individual strengths and struggles, who could instantly tell if she was having an “off” day, and who would foster her growth in a positive way. In fact, to make sure every school year starts off on the right foot, your child’s teachers trek out to your home—no matter where in or around San Antonio you live—to meet and become acquainted with you and your child in the weeks before school begins. Not only are these home visits key to establishing rapport with children prior to the first day, they also allow parents to ask questions and engage in a one-on-one discussion about expectations for the coming year. And because The Acorn’s student-to-teacher ratio is so small—5:1 in preschool classes, and 7:1 in Kindergarten—parents can rest assured that their child is receiving plenty of personalized, individual attention every day at school.
4. The Experiences
When I asked my daughter what she loved most about The Acorn, the unique experiences topped her list. From box car parades to Mother’s Day and Father’s Night celebrations, The Acorn provides several exceptional experiences to its students and families. Each spring, eggs are brought in from local farms and kept in incubators so that the children can witness the magic of baby chicks hatching firsthand. To teach children about science, Acorn founder Rich Lange performs live dry ice demonstrations. Together with their families, Kindergarten students and teachers spend the weekend in Lost Maples at the annual Kinder Campout, where they hike, swim, cook out, play games, and enjoy the outdoors. On Mud Day, the playground is transformed into a water wonderland, complete with mud pies and shaving cream slides. Students celebrate Thanksgiving by preparing their own Thanksgiving Feast, and in April, students enjoy face paint, cascarones, and piñatas at The Acorn Fiesta. Even better: Parent involvement is both encouraged and expected at The Acorn, so you’re able to share many of these memorable moments with your child, his/her classmates, and other Acorn families.
5. The Community
Perhaps the most distinct thing about The Acorn is its strong sense of community. To join The Acorn is to become part of a lifelong family—one that you never stray far from, even after your child has graduated. Because of this sense of community, it isn’t unusual for former classmates and parents to form lasting bonds, both with each other and the staff. (I myself have remained friends with several of my preschool and Kindergarten classmates for more than 30 years—and even despite our living in different states/countries!) Alumni are always welcome at the annual Fall Fun Fest potluck dinner, which usually takes place down the street at Kiddie Park, not to mention the Alumni Campout; and The Acorn hosts a yearly gathering for former students—now graduating seniors—to return to the campus and catch up with both each other and the staff. This personal connection is why so many alumni—15 this year alone!—return to The Acorn now as parents. Like all solid family units, The Acorn cares for its children long after they have left its grounds, and likewise, parents and former students have a sincere interest in supporting the continued success of this phenomenal school that has helped shaped them into who they are today.
Located at 3501 Broadway, The Acorn offers morning and afternoon half-day preschool classes for two-, three-, four-, and five-year-olds, as well as a truly exceptional Kindergarten program. To read more about this amazing school, click here, or call (210) 826-8804. Registration for the 2018–2019 school year will begin on January 31st for new families. All parents of potential new students are required to complete a tour of the school prior to registering. The next tour for new families will be given on Saturday, January 20th at 10:00 A.M. Call Rich Lange, Jo Mrvichin, or Wendy Starnes at (210) 826-8804 to schedule your spot today and give your child the framework to become a confident, lifelong learner. As is written on the Kindergarten classroom wall, “Tall oaks from little acorns grow!”