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Navigating Early Education: Choosing Between Montessori and Play-Based Learning

August 31, 2023
By Fremont Christian School

When looking for the perfect educational fit for their child, many parents prefer a Montessori school. What many don’t realize, however, is that play-based learning can fulfill many of the same goals. Here’s how play-based learning can align with Montessori values while offering a different perspective on your child's growth.

Montessori Values and Play-Based Learning

These are just a few of the more important ways that the two learning methods are similar. 

Fostering Independence. Montessori education is renowned for nurturing independence through self-directed activities. Play-based learning similarly encourages independence by allowing children to explore and make choices based on their interests.

Individualized Learning. Montessori schools focus on tailoring education to each child's unique pace and preferences. 
Play-based education inherently adapts to individual learning styles, ensuring that children engage with activities that resonate with them personally.

Hands-On Exploration. Montessori classrooms offer specialized materials to engage children in hands-on learning experiences. 
Play-based learning is grounded in tactile, hands-on exploration, providing a variety of materials and activities that stimulate creativity and critical thinking.

Joyful Learning. Montessori emphasizes that children learn best when they are genuinely engaged and joyful in their exploration. 
Play-based education thrives on creating an environment where learning is synonymous with enjoyment, fostering a lifelong love for learning.

Mixed-Age Interactions. Montessori classrooms often group children of different ages, allowing younger ones to learn from older peers. 
Play-based settings naturally facilitate mixed-age interactions, especially during outdoor play, enabling younger children to learn from their older playmates and develop important social skills.

Choosing Play-Based for Montessori Goals

So, why might you consider a play-based school even if you're initially drawn to Montessori education?

Holistic Growth. Just like Montessori, play-based learning promotes holistic development, nurturing cognitive, social, emotional, and physical growth through imaginative play.

Flexibility in Exploration. Play-based classrooms offer the flexibility to explore a wide range of interests and activities, allowing your child to discover and develop passions organically.

Natural Learning Rhythm. In a play-based environment, children engage with learning at their own pace, aligning with Montessori's goal of individualized education.

Nurturing Self-Motivation. Play-based learning encourages intrinsic motivation, as children actively engage in activities that pique their curiosity and enthusiasm.

When considering the educational journey for your child, it's essential to weigh your priorities and values against the options available. While Montessori education boasts its unique strengths, it's worth recognizing that many of those same goals can be achieved through a play-based approach. As you explore the possibilities, remember that the right choice for your child ultimately depends on their unique personality, learning style, and your educational aspirations. Whether Montessori or play-based, the goal remains the same: to provide your child with a solid foundation for future success and a lifelong love for learning.

Nurturing Young Minds: Fremont Christian School's Unique Blend of Play-Based Academic Education

August 15, 2023
By Fremont Christian School

As a parent of a toddler or preschooler, you've probably encountered the ongoing debate between play-based and academic education. It's like choosing between letting your child explore freely and preparing them for structured learning. But what if there were a way to have the best of both worlds?

Play-Based Education: The Heart of Fremont Christian School

At Fremont Christian School, we believe in the power of play-based education for our toddlers and preschoolers. Imagine a classroom where children's laughter fills the air as they engage in imaginative play, hands-on activities, and creative exploration. Here, play is more than just fun; it's the foundation of learning. We've discovered that through play, pre-elementary children develop essential skills that set them up for a lifetime of success:

  1. Holistic Growth. Our play-based approach nurtures every aspect of your child's development — cognitive, social, emotional, and physical. Through play, they become creative thinkers, problem solvers, and confident individuals.
  2. Intrinsic Motivation. When children are having a blast while learning, their motivation comes from within. They eagerly explore, ask questions, and discover, building a lifelong love for learning.
  3. Social Superstars. Play-based education at Fremont Christian School promotes teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution. Your child learns to interact, cooperate, and form meaningful friendships.
  4. Stress-Free Learning. Our approach recognizes that children learn at their own pace. By emphasizing play, we ensure that the educational journey is filled with joy, not stress.

Academic Excellence: Building Strong Foundations

While play is at the heart of the approach on our Early Education campus, academic excellence is also a cornerstone of Fremont Christian School. We understand the importance of preparing your child for academic challenges ahead. Through our unique blend of play-based and academic education, we offer:

  1. Structured Learning. Our academic curriculum is thoughtfully designed to introduce foundational concepts in a structured manner. This provides a clear path for your child's educational journey.
  2. Early Skill Development. At Fremont Christian School, academic learning starts early, giving your child a head start in reading, writing, math, and more. This foundation lays the groundwork for future success.
  3. Confidence Through Achievement. Our academic focus helps students excel in assessments and tests. This achievement boosts their confidence and prepares them for future educational milestones.

The Fremont Christian School Difference: Play-Based Academic Education

What sets Fremont Christian School apart is our commitment to an integrated approach that combines play-based learning with academic excellence. It's a strategy that acknowledges the importance of nurturing your child's natural curiosity while equipping them with the skills they need for school and beyond.

  1. Cultivating Flexible Thinkers. Our unique blend of play and academics fosters cognitive flexibility. Your child becomes adept at adapting their skills to various situations, setting them up for success in an ever-changing world.
  2. Learning with Depth. By weaving play into academic concepts, we provide your child with a deeper understanding. Learning about science through hands-on experiments or history through role play makes education come alive.
  3. Tailored Learning. At Fremont Christian School, we recognize that each child is unique. Our approach allows teachers to tailor instruction to your child's individual learning style and pace.
  4. A Future-Ready Education. Our students graduate with not only strong academic skills but also the ability to think critically, work collaboratively, and approach challenges with creativity.

Choosing the right education for your child is a significant decision. At Fremont Christian School, we offer a balanced approach that marries the benefits of play-based education with the foundations of academic excellence. With us, your child doesn't have to choose between play and learning — they get to experience the joy of both. Discover how our unique blend of play-based academic education can unlock your child's full potential and set them on a path to a bright future.

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Cultivating Growth: Exploring Our Bountiful Garden Science Program

July 31, 2023
By Fremont Christian School
Ms. Prewitt beside one of the garden's peach trees.

Among FCS’s many unique features, our thriving garden science program stands out as a testament to our commitment to nurturing young minds and connecting them with nature. 

The purpose of the garden science program goes beyond mere horticulture. "We aim to develop certain values in the kids — curiosity, observation, engaging all the senses,” says Ms. Prewitt, our garden science teacher. “Our goal for the program is for students to learn stewardship, cooperation, and consistency, as well as how to find joy in tending to the plants.” The garden imparts valuable life skills, such as growing and preparing food, instilling a profound connection to the environment.

At FCS, garden science is a requirement in junior high and an elective in high school. “I give a questionnaire at the beginning of every trimester,” says Ms. Prewitt, “and some of the junior high kids just aren’t interested in the beginning. But it doesn't take long before they open up and become interested — almost fascinated. Most of them end up taking ownership of their garden responsibilities very seriously.” 

Hands-On Learning and Collaborative Spirit

At the heart of our garden science class lies the spirit of hands-on learning. Students actively participate in planting, weeding, composting, and harvesting, witnessing the magic of growth firsthand. In the culinary portion of the garden science class, students learn valuable kitchen skills. “Some of them are amazed that we even let them hold a knife,” says Ms. Prewitt. “When they find they're given room to grow and realize how capable they are, they start to own it and really savor the experience. They want to experiment — to try this and try that. They have all kinds of ideas. It’s truly amazing to watch the transformation.”

Some of the favorite recipes from the last year include applesauce, bruschetta, pizza, homemade ranch dressing with veggie sticks, and hand-squeezed lemonade with lavender. This past year, the students grew and cooked artichokes, which was the first time many of them had tried the vegetable.

Even though Ms. Prewitt has detailed lesson plans, she gives her students a lot of leeway in decision-making, such as how many onions to plant or how much garlic to use in a recipe they’ve voted to make. “I think they stay engaged when they have more decision-making. They get a kick out of it.”

Our school garden yields a rich bounty throughout the year. Tomatoes, squash, peas, green beans, kale, onions, and lettuce thrive under the students' care. Edible flowers such as zinnias add both beauty and flavor to the garden and the culinary projects it inspires. “We just planted sunflowers with seeds harvested by another class,” Ms. Prewitt explains. “It's the whole process — the full circle, from seed to flower. The kids love that aspect of the class.”

The garden was founded by the former garden science teacher, Terry Gregory, who retired in June 2021. Both Mr. Gregory and Ms. Prewitt were trained by the Edible Schoolyard of Berkeley, a nonprofit founded by legendary chef Alice Waters, whose influence is still felt in the garden and the kitchen classroom.

Working in the garden also emphasizes environmental stewardship. “We've observed monarch caterpillars transform in the classroom,” Ms. Prewitt explains. “The students loved it, and some butterflies were attracted by the plants the classes planted to create a habitat for them.”

Overcoming Challenges and Family History Projects

A student tends to plants in the FCS greenhouse.

California's favorable climate means the garden can be run all year round. However, as with any garden, pest control can be an issue. Ms. Prewitt's solution involves organic methods, such as planting marigolds and using fabric screens to protect tender shoots.

Recently, the garden expanded, with four new beds and the butterfly garden, to make it a total of 21 beds and a greenhouse. But Ms. Prewitt is realistic about the rate of growth. “I think we've done some growing. Now we need to grow into the new space before expanding further.”

The garden science program also fosters meaningful connections between students and their family members. Ms. Prewitt describes one such project. “The students conducted interviews with their grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and other relatives about a food memory, many of which were memories from other countries. The stories were very touching. It was a really positive experience for the students — and probably for their relatives to be asked questions they'd never asked before or thought about before. I really enjoyed listening to the papers the students shared during those assignments.”

Senior Spotlight: Harsha Rajkumar, Stephen Lo & Melody Zhang

May 30, 2023
By Fremont Christian School
Harsha at Duke University, which he will be attending in the fall.

As our latest class of seniors prepares to move into the next phase of their lives, Fremont Christian would like to recognize three standout individuals, starting with our valedictorian, Harsha Rajkumar, who will be attending Duke University in the fall. Although Harsha originally planned to be pre-med, he’s now leaning towards a double major of bioengineering and computer science, with a bent towards AI (artificial intelligence).

“But that might change, too,” Harsha says. “There are so many opportunities.” He is particularly interested in the research aspect of science, with which he already has a great deal of experience for someone his age. After transferring to FCS his freshman year, he became a mentee to Edward Njoo, a PhD candidate in chemistry at Stanford University. His first project was on the medicinal properties of certain herbs, which was followed by more internships at the GRIPS (Genomics Research Internship Program at Stanford) program, where he researched complex organic chemistry synthesis reactions. Last year, he was a finalist in the Genes in Space competition, which allowed him to travel to Washington, DC, to present his project to a group of astronauts.

Harsha also participated in track and field for most of high school and joined the varsity baseball team (who placed first in their league this year) as a senior, an experience he enjoyed so much that he hopes to join a club at Duke. He credits this surprise love of the sport to Fremont Christian. “It's a small school but has so many opportunities,” he says. “The teachers and students just care for each other so much that you can get involved in any activity.” Even if the activity doesn’t yet exist: Harsha was instrumental in founding both the Medical Research Club and Speech and Debate Club. “That’s another plus for FCS: If you're interested in starting something, it's pretty easy to do.” 

He also feels that the close relationships with the teachers were beneficial in his education. “With small class sizes, I was able to learn a lot more. The conversations I had with teachers and students after class are something that I probably won't forget.” 

One of Harsha’s closest friends is co-salutatorian Stephen Lo. The two hit it off from their first day at FCS, back in freshman year, and not just because they had the exact same class schedule. “He's always smiling and laughing,” Harsha says. “He lights up everyone's mood.”

That’s an important trait to have when you’re the basketball team’s captain and MVP, as Stephen was. “Even though he's academically and sports driven, his personality is something that's gonna take him really far,” Harsha says about his friend.

Like Harsha, Stephen plans to study bioengineering, although he’ll do so at Pasadena’s California Institute of Technology, where he’ll also play for the school’s basketball team.

Stephen attended preschool at FCS but then went through the public school system through middle school. When he tried to enroll in high school, however, he wasn’t able to take the classes he wanted, so he—and his twin brother—transferred back to FCS. “Fremont Christian has a very flexible schedule and they let me take every class that I wanted,” he says. The twins’ younger brother soon followed suit and transferred as well.

In addition to basketball (and taking every AP class that FCS offers), Stephen also participated in choir, an



Stephen at home on the court, where he was team captain and MVP.


experience that saw the group perform in the FCS rendition of High School Musical, take second place at the Golden State Choral Competition, and even play at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall. He and Harsha also collaborated with the Alameda County Science Fair to form a nonprofit called the More-STEM Initiative, which partners previous fair winners with underprivileged students for virtual mentorships; Stephen and Harsha helped add a face-to-face component to the program. Somewhere in between all that, Stephen found time to act as head chaplain for the student body council and president of the Health and Science Club. 

“I just wanted to share a passion that I had, which was to help in science, and it was so easy,” he says, grinning ear to ear.  “It goes to show that anything you want to pursue [at FCS] you can. They provide the opportunities for you to achieve your full potential.”

Stephen is also very proud of his friend Harsha’s achievements. “FCS isn’t like a lot of other schools, where students don't want to help each other because everyone wants to be the best. Seeing Harsha and I both succeed at the highest level makes me so happy. It’s like a family dynamic at FCS. That's something I want to emphasize because we don't see each other as competitors. We’re all here to support each other and lift each other up to be the best that we can be.”

Co-salutatorian Melody Zhang echoes that sentiment. Melody transferred to FCS from a local public school just under two years ago—and she’s incredibly glad she did. “At FCS, you can actually feel the positive energy in the air. There’s so much school unity,” she says. 

Melody with her winning entry, “With Heavy Heart,” which is currently on display in the White House.

Once she landed at FCS, Melody made fast friends with other students—and even her teachers. FCS’s art teacher, Ms. Yuan, recognized Melody’s talent early on. 
“Over the last two years, I have witnessed tremendous growth in Melody 's leadership, self-management, and teamwork,” Ms. Yuan says. “She is creative and a good leader—and adept at problem-solving.I believe she will be a great artist in the future.” With Ms. Yuan’s encouragement, Melody entered the 2022 Congressional Art Competition, which she won for her district; her entry is currently on display at the White House. 

Melody cites Spirit Week as one of her favorite FCS memories. Due to her aptitude in art, she designed and drew all of the posters for this year’s homecoming court. She also participated in Mandarin choir and founded the Creative Cards Club, which sends greetings to residents of senior homes. “We write uplifting messages and affirmations to remind them that they're not alone in the world and that there's always someone thinking about them,” she explains. 

After FCS, Melody will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to study graphic design and user experience. “Those are both really useful and a lot of fun,” she says. She hopes to use her degree to work on websites and potentially video games. “It's fun to see how even little changes to the design and the interface can totally enhance the experience,” she explains. 

FCS is incredibly proud of our seniors. We wish you the greatest of success!

Big-School Opportunities in a Small-School Environment