This article was originally published Sept.1, 2008.
The opportunities for learning that children can receive even before kindergarten are astounding.
But what if you’re a stay-at-home mom on a tight budget, and the costs of local private and church-affiliated preschool programs is a barrier? Luckily, the state of North Carolina has a great program to ensure that preschool is available for all children through the Office of School Readiness’ More at Four. You may have heard other parents talking about enrolling their kids in pre-K. There are many public schools and even some private childcare centers around the area that have free, public education for 4-year-old children thanks to funding from the More-at-Four program, as well as financial help from other sources such as Title I.
These programs a great opportunity to enroll your child in a program that will prepare them for kindergarten, from teaching them letters, colors and numbers to helping them learn how to sit at a table and listen to the teacher, walk in a line and play with other children. They are also exposed to music and art, and depending on where your child goes to school, they might take swimming lessons at the local Y or gymnastics classes at a Gymboree.
While the perception is that this program is only for low-income children, it’s actually open to many more than that. The basic requirement for eligibility in More-at-Four programs is the low-income requirement, defined as an annual income at or below 75 percent of the state median income by family size. But some children whose families are above the income requirement can be eligible if they meet other criteria, including limited proficiency in English, a disability, a chronic health condition or a developmental or educational need.
“Eligibility for More-at-Four has recently expanded to also provide services for children with a parent or legal guardian who is an active duty member of the United States Armed Fources of the North Carolina National Guard [deployed or on alert status] or other state military forces,” said John Pruette, the executive director of North Carolina Office of School Readiness.
For many families, finding out about the More-at-Four program happens through their caseworker. Beth Darnell, a parent in Elkin whose son with a speech impairment qualified for the program, found out about it through the county administrative that was helping Samuel with is speech. “Going to the pre-K program was very beneficial to him,” Darnell said. “It helped him to be in a group setting with other kids, and in addition to the preschool curriculum, he also went to speech classes at least twice a week.”
For more information on the More-at-Four program or to find out if your kids are eligible to enroll, visit www.osr.nc.gov or call (919) 981-5300.
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