Way, way, way back when our two oldest children were preschoolers, we were having a hard time choosing a preschool.
We lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and there was no shortage of options. There were intense, early-reading preschools. There were preschools that featured dance and the arts. There were preschools that promised to teach your kids science and long division.
Somehow, none of them seemed right for our kids. In fact, we wondered if we should have them in a preschool at all or just keep them at home with us.
Some parents told us our children would be behind in kindergarten if they didn’t have preschool first, and others told us we should not let them out of our sight until they were 5 because they would be in school long enough.
We felt torn, and so did some of our friends. One night we asked ourselves the critical question: “What do we really want most for our preschoolers? What do we really want them to learn?”
Once it was asked, the question seemed easy. We wanted them to be happy!
During these most impressionable years, we wanted them to learn life’s most important lesson, which was how to find joy in their brand new lives.
We decided that there were some kinds of joy that children possessed naturally and other kinds that they needed to learn.
We decided that joy was something that could actually be broken down into parts or subdivided into the various kinds of joy that could work together to make a child feel confident, well-adjusted and ready to happily start school when he or she turned 5.
We ended up with 12 “joys” and got so excited about them that we decided with our friends to start a “joy school” for our kids, rotating teachers and holding it two or three mornings a week in one of our homes.
It worked well, the kids loved it, we saved money and the joys were fun to teach.
They ranged from "the Joy of the Body" and "the Joy of the Earth" to "the Joy of Sharing and Service" and "the Joy of Imagination and Creativity." We organized them into a book called "Teaching Your Children Joy," which was published initially by Deseret Book and later by Random House and still later in a revised version by Simon and Schuster.
My (Richard’s) mother, who was a gifted early childhood major, started a large, 80-student preschool in Logan called the Joy School. During the three years we were in England on service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she perfected the teaching methods and activities that effectively taught each of the 12 “joys.”
When we returned, we offered the curriculum and methodology to groups who could rotate as teachers and teach the joys to their children much as we had done initially in Washington, D.C. Talented people came out of the woodwork to help with the music and art activities.
The whole idea of a "Joy School" seemed to strike a chord with parents. Before long, there were thousands of neighborhood Joy School groups throughout the U.S. and in several foreign countries. Families “joined” and paid modest monthly dues for use of the workbooks and tapes they received through the mail.
Since those early days, Joy Schools have continued to grow. Several hundred thousand families have now participated.
One of the most gratifying aspects for us is the frequent comments we get from kindergarten teachers who say that kids who have been through Joy School are well prepared socially and emotionally to start formal schooling.
Further information is available at www.JoySchools.com and we would love to hear from you, especially if you have done Joy School, on the comments tab there or via the comments button here in this article.
Hopefully Joy Schools continue to enhance the joy we teach our children as well as the joy our children teach us.
And what could be better than that?