Independent Pre-K to 12 School in Atlanta

The Paideia School
Half day class

Half Day

Think about the adults you most admire.  Are they people who can reason and solve problems? Are they curious and flexible? Can they integrate information from a range of perspectives? Do they know how to relate well to others, and how to make and sustain friendships?

When thinking about how to educate young children, it makes sense to keep in mind the characteristics we value. In our half-day program we want children to become socially competent, learn to engage others of all ages, know when to ask for help, learn to resolve conflicts, and practice flexible thinking. We want them to connect ideas, take risks, benefit from mistakes, grow in empathy, and become life-long learners.

If you value these characteristics as much as we do and are excited to learn more about our program, we invite you to explore the rest of our website and visit us on campus.

The Importance of Play

two young children at play inside

“Play is a central component in children’s mental growth. Play helps children make meaning in their world, it helps them learn about themselves, and [just as important], it helps them to learn how to get along with others.” *

Imaginative play is a precious commodity often devalued or encroached upon when adults get anxious about academic achievement and standardized testing. Rather than a diversion from important learning, childhood play is the foundation upon which long-term learning is based. As children play out their ideas, they take on the role of others and experience the world from another’s point of view. This type of thinking underlies reading comprehension and abstract reasoning. When children participate in imaginative play, they are engaged physically, mentally, and emotionally. They use language, make and sustain social connections, and try out and elaborate on their own ideas.   Rules for learning to play together are paramount. The classroom is a place to learn how to share, hear another person’s ideas, accept differences, sometimes lead, and sometimes follow. A basic ground rule of playing together is that when someone asks to join in, the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”

* Roberta Michnick-Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Diane Eyer, Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really  Learn—and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less  [Rodale Books , 2004], 240

Engagement and the Role of Teachers

teachers reading and teaching small children in a well lit roomOverwhelming evidence indicates that the foundations of long-term academic and intellectual development arise from interactions with others – warm, reciprocal connections with people who are close to us. 

For young children, this means being played with and read to often. When you enter the half-day classroom at Paideia, you will see teachers talking with children individually and in small groups. Children’s language develops when they have chances to talk and to be part of extended conversations. A priority for our half-day program is building in time for the teachers to listen to children, probe their thinking, and help them extend their thoughts.

Because play is fundamental to everything we do in the half day, teachers not only encourage dramatic play, they join children in it. They often set the stage then, given the interests and ideas of the group, support the players as needed. The adult might design the space, perhaps helping to negotiate where the gate goes in the fence or gather the materials needed for a rocket launch. Often children simply need an adult to tell them when five minutes are up so a coveted item can be shared fairly. Teachers will help a timid child figure out how to participate in a play being acted out, or help a child who tends to take charge become better at waiting and listening. They might say, “I wonder if you would like to try this,” or offer a variation by asking, “What if we move the blocks over here to make the garden?”

Reading for Deep Understanding

Research confirms that the foundation for reading comprehension and for becoming a lifelong reader is not rote learning, but rather experience with the richness of language and literature. Teachers in Paideia’s half-day classes help children learn to love reading by immersing them in the best of children’s literature—imagining the stories, delighting in the humor, and delving into the ideas and emotions of characters.

We devote time to exploring the sounds of speech, from rhyming to taking words apart and putting them back together. Games that involve beginning, middle, and ending sounds provide practice and exposure that will help children be more phonemically aware. With practice, children get better at hearing, isolating, and manipulating the sounds of speech, and then associating them with letters.

Many children become fluent young readers in the half day. In addition to being read to every day in either large groups or one-on-one, each child has an individualized reading plan appropriate to the skill he or she needs to master next. Some proceed through these skills relatively quickly. Others take longer to crack the reading code; they benefit from explicit teaching that enables them to recognize unfamiliar words and then put words together in sentences. For most children, part of every day is spent in reading instruction of one kind or another.

Creating, Building, and Exploring

In the Block Room children practice with three-dimensional construction which promotes the visual-spatial understanding needed for math and science. In what was once a formal living room and is now called the block room, children eagerly construct castles, airports, and entire cities out of magnetic blocks, LEGOs, and wooden blocks of all sizes. Children need very little, aside from their imaginations, to create complex scenarios.

Three children building with wooden blocks

When children are not natural builders, teachers help out. Teachers play “mental math” games with students, using objects to help with counting. We have toys for problem solving, measuring, graphing, counting, creating patterns, sorting, and organizing information.

Common Questions about Half Day

  • Why half day?
    Many families wonder why we offer a half-day program for young children. We have been very intentional about our half-day program from the time Paideia opened and we see the shorter school day as developmentally appropriate for our youngest students.
  • If my child is a 5-year-old in half day, will they be in kindergarten or first grade the following year?
    A child who attends our half-day program as a 5-year-old will most likely be a first-grader the following year.
  • What factors determine whether my child is in the morning or afternoon half day class?
    We work hard to balance ages and genders in the two classes. When you apply, you will be asked to let us know which session you prefer and why, and we will do our best to accommodate these preferences. Some families are surprised to find that they prefer the afternoon schedule and that it works well for them. 
  • How do working parents make half day work logistically?
    We understand that the shorter school day can add another logistical layer to a family’s decision to send a young child to Paideia. Many Paideia families have two working parents, and they come up with different plans to make our morning or afternoon class work. Some have a nanny, some share a nanny with another family, some have flexibility in their work schedules, and some have a family member who can help out. There is often a gathering of children, parents, and caregivers on the half-day playground after the morning class and again after the afternoon class. Families looking for a small group setting before or after school may choose to enroll their children in a program which dovetails with our half-day schedule and is directed by a Paideia alumni parent.

    We’re happy to help you think about options that might work best for your family.

Research Informs What We Do

In defining our program, we attend to unfolding research on child development. We review what we do in the context of current research and also by observing children. This doesn’t mean that we change in response to every new research claim, but we are aware of and consider the best thinking in the field and its possible implications for teaching and learning. Below are a few articles we find instructive.

Let the Kids Learn Through Play 

Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School 

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids


Barbara Dunbar

School Psychologist;Half Day Coordinator