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Starting Early

The work of Christian character education begins with our youngest students in the Early Childhood division.

Posted on | Caroline Friday

On a cloudy February morning, I walked down the colorful halls of the PDS Early Childhood (EC) building, past paper snowmen, and into Sandy Kilgore’s and Marlana Gruby’s PK classroom. Carpool line was finishing up, and the halls were filled with tiny people lugging blue and red tote bags as big as they were.

This morning, Mrs. Kilgore and Mrs. Gruby had designated a little blond boy the “Greeter.” He stood at the door and, although he spoke softly, he looked every boy in the eye and greeted him by name. As he walked into the classroom, each boy responded to him by name — a routine that starts every day.

As one boy walked in, Mrs. Gruby asked him, “Did you eat an apple last night?” Seeing my confusion, she explained, “Yesterday’s bold adventure on the calendar was to try a new food. He hates fruit, so yesterday we decided that, when he went home, he would try an apple.”

Once the chatty 4-year-olds had found their assigned squares on the carpet, the greeter stood up with a toy microphone and welcomed everyone to class. He announced, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” which opened up the floor for all the boys to sing.

Kilgore called on one of the boys, and he popped up, already knowing what to do. As Mrs. Kilgore cheered him on, he counted the days until he got to Thursday the 7th. Attached to the 7th square was the daily challenge from the Virtue Challenge calendar for February. The Virtue Challenge calendar goes out to every student in the school from YK-6th. Each day on these calendars has an activity that supports personal and spiritual growth related to that month’s virtue. February was Bold Adventurer month, so the boys are encouraged to dream big, live their lives to the fullest, and have bold adventures at any age!

Today’s adventure is to wear something you don’t typically like to wear. The EC teachers adapt this for their young boys, turning it into a challenge to pick out their own clothes for school the next day and dress themselves in the morning. That might seem mundane to a grown-up, but to a 4-year-old, that is a bold and even intimidating adventure. The EC teachers know this and take time to encourage the little guys: “Tomorrow morning, if you find yourself feeling nervous about putting on your pants or shirt or shoes, if you feel like you aren’t able to do it, I want you to remember that ‘the Lord your God is with you wherever you are’ and he calls us to be ‘strong and courageous’ just like our verse for this month.”

The teachers in EC have high expectations for the boys in their care, and the boys rise to meet their expectations. Mrs. Kilgore sat in her rocking chair and turned her full attention to the verse for the month of February, Joshua 1:9. With Mrs. Kilgore leading the way, they all started to repeat a paraphrased version of the memory verse for February slowly and rhythmically: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you are. Joshua 1:9.”

To help these verses stick in the boys’ minds, Bible teacher Darilyn Christenbury sets the words to a rhythm. That helps the young boys pick it up in no time, bobbing their little heads to the beat every time they repeat it. In addition, as the boys recite the verse, Mrs. Kilgore is prompting them with full-body motions to help them remember.

The virtues don’t stop there — in Bible class, Early Childhood boys learn about Bible characters and stories that display the virtues they are learning about.

EC teachers know how important this age is, and they take the responsibility of teaching these young boys seriously. They teach them everything a YK-SK boy should know to be prepared for the coming years of learning at PDS. But the reason they came to PDS was so that they could teach these boys more about God. Building Boys, Making Men is designed for that same reason. Those involved in Early Childhood are establishing a foundation that will be built on for a lifetime. We are so proud that the foundation they are building is one built on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.