BC’s popular early learning class here benefits caregivers, parents and kids

At snack time, Bhaskar Koganti speaks to his son, Arnav, 2. Koganti heard great things about the program, and plans to enter his 9-month-old son into the program, too. - Linda Ball/Staff Photo
At snack time, Bhaskar Koganti speaks to his son, Arnav, 2. Koganti heard great things about the program, and plans to enter his 9-month-old son into the program, too.
— image credit: Linda Ball/Staff Photo

Kris Schlik said “she forgot to have kids,” so she takes her nephew, Nigel Schlik, 2, to the weekly parenting education and early learning class, held at Redeemer Lutheran on Mercer Island.
“I’ve learned so much from parent education (this class),” Schlik said. “I’ve learned how to work in harmony with the kids.”
Schlik also brought Tobin Schlik, Nigel’s 4-year-old brother along, too.
Parenting education and early learning program has been around for more than 40 years. It is offered through Bellevue College. The parents who attend earn three clock hour credits, per quarter, in parent education through the college, but that’s not the motivating factor for them. They just want to spend quality time with their kids.
While the children play and work with teachers Laura Smith and Kathy Cannon, the parents learn valuable skills from parent teacher, Cubba Reese. The goal is to give children a positive outlook about school from the beginning. Rather than just being dropped off at a strange place, mommy or daddy are right there, so they feel secure., she said.
Reese said lifelong relationships are formed for both parents and kids during these early learning years. She said at her son’s high school graduation, one of the class speakers asked “remember co-op?” to his classmates.
Bellevue College provides funding for faculty, whereas the children’s teachers, rent, supplies, insurance and other expenses are paid for from tuition, which is $612 per year for a one-day-a-week program. A parent advisory committee makes scholarships available through various fundraising events.
The class is a place for parents to come and see their children in action, sort of like a lab, Cannon said. The children do sensory activities such as working with play-dough, beading, painting and putting together puzzles. There are at least 20 stations for the kids to go to, and if they want to stay at the same station for the duration of the class, that’s fine. The only real organized time is circle time for music.
The teachers change the theme every two weeks. For example, the next theme is transportation, which will be followed by a farm theme, when the kids will plant spring plants that they can bring home.
Bhaskar Kognati comes to class each week with his 2-year-old son, Arnav.
“It’s amazing,” Kognati said of the class. “It’s a chance to be here together.”
Kognati said it helps to talk to other parents about various issues — how to manage different situations; sleep issues, behavioral issues and potty-training issues, for example. He didn’t even know there was college credit involved; he is just there to spend time with his son. He plans to enroll his 9-month-old son into the class for 1-year-olds as soon as he can.
Michelle Chin’s kids are grown, so she works as a nanny for her best friend’s cousin. Chin has been taking little Madison Siekhaus to the class for two years.
“I just think it’s really encouraging for parents to see their children explore their world,” Chin said. “And it’s a good social outlet.”
The Bellevue College Parent Education Program will hold an open house from 10 to 11 a.m., Wednesday, March 9 at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 6001 Island Crest Way. teachers and BC faculty will be on hand to answer any questions about the toddler classes, and to tell you about their schedule of summer camps.
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