Category: Articles by Natacha

#speaking at #CreativeMornings #Vancouver

#speaking at #CreativeMornings #Vancouver

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.05.57 PM

Most countries in the world offer two to three years of junior kindergarten education to children, before grade one.  Depending on the country, this education comprises early reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as arts and crafts (think of it as two or three years of kindergarten).  These programs are usually a part of the school system, and are considered very important, since children are at their peak learning years before the age of six.

Canada did not provide junior kindergarten education, until 1998, when Natacha V. Beim, an elementary school teacher specialized in European junior kindergarten, founded Core Education & Fine Arts (cefa).

In designing the curriculum for cefa, Beim created a way to stimulate children’s development in those curricular areas, but in a very different, exciting and playful way.  In other words, children learn to read and write, as well as math and science, by playing games designed by cefa to teach the skills children are ready to learn, and at the same time, ensure that children feel like they are playing, enjoying their friends and exploring an ever-changing classroom!

The curriculum also includes yoga, dance, music, visual arts, culture immersion, drama, sports, languages, and many other great activities, designed to enrich the child’s experience, entice the desire to learn, and discover the child’s interests all within one program.

Cefa teachers receive one year of training (in addition to being qualified early childhood educators) to understand how and why to teach a child to to read, write and reason at an early age, as well as how to work with cefa’s detailed, comprehensive curriculum.

Children are active participants in their learning throughout their three to four years at cefa.  They learn in an ideal environment of 12 to 16 children, where teachers focus on the individual child, as well as the group.  Like in elementary school, children in each classroom are the same age (Junior Kindergarten 1 for two year olds, JK 2 for three year olds, and JK3 for four year olds).

Children have the opportunity to learn not only about different subjects, but also to learn in every possible way: by experimenting with the material and by reasoning (like Montessori), by working on long-term and short-term projects of their own interest (like Reggio), by interacting with the teacher (like in elementary school) and also with their peers.  By exposing the children to diverse styles of learning, cefa ensures that each child has the chance to learn, no matter what their learning style is.  The cefa method also selects its material very carefully, to ensure that each learning experience is enriching for the child, and contributes to the development of his or her intellect.

In addition to this wonderfully stimulating environment for children (and a magical place, if you have had the opportunity to visit any of the cefa schools), Core Education & Fine Arts focuses also on the uniqueness of each child, and the ability of each child to contribute to our community and to the world, individually or as a group, by learning and working on projects that range from recycling to exchanging letters with schools around the world and adopting endangered animals.

More information about Core Education & Fine Arts is available at

Does early education really promise a brighter future?

Most parents who send their children to pre-school or junior kindergarten school are very happy with their decision.  Some say it is a great way for children to meet friends, some find it an essential step for them to learn to socialize. Some even notice that their children learn a great deal!  But few of these parents believe deep down that thanks to those pre-school years, their children will be, well, smarter.

How can that be? After all, the academic knowledge given to the child during those years is not so unique compared to elementary school. Does it really matter if a child can read at age three or at age six?  Is it really that important to know all the numbers before kindergarten?  Why not just let them play and enjoy life?

Firstly, the secret ingredient is not in the academic component itself.  Children who attend early education programs are better equipped to learn because they have received the right type and the right amount of stimulation at the right time (which, of course, implies a great academic program!)

Secondly, what most of us don’t realize as adults is that for children, learning is enjoyable.  Take newborn babies, for instance.  When they are not sleeping, they are constantly learning.  They learn to recognize our voices, their environment, the patterns of their mobiles and the many things we are excited to bring closer to them.  One and two year olds are discovering language, and figuring out their role in the household.  They even have their own scientific agenda, which they carry out quite well by experimenting on everything they can find (electrical outlets included).  They are constantly asking us questions! The world is a fascinating place for a young child.  Once they gain a greater understanding of their environment, they need a higher level of reasoning and intellectual stimulation.

From birth until about age six, a child’s brain is forming all the pathways it will use during adult life.  This process considerably slows down after that age.  Those pathways can only be formed through adequate stimulation, which explains why young children are constantly looking to learn. This means that what the child learns early on in life, will determine how much he or she can learn as an adult.  You can compare this process to the child’s physical growth.  A one year old is so much more developed than a one day old, but it is harder to see the difference between a seven year old and an eight year old. As parents, we pay special importance to what our children eat, because we know that it will impact them for life.  If they do not grow at that age, they will certainly not start growing in their thirties (at least most of us have given up hope by then).  Similarly, what you “feed” your child’s brain during the first years of life determines how easily you child will be able to learn, for life.  And since school in Canada officially starts at age five, early education is not only a good idea: it is essential for the proper intellectual development of your child.

A good program is very enjoyable for children. It enables them to keep pursuing their interests at a much more stimulating level.  Of course, not any program will do. A good pre-school or junior kindergarten school will stimulate your child at just the right level, and in many different ways.  Simply providing a nice atmosphere to socialize and a craft project for the day is great fun, but it is not the level of stimulation that your child needs in order to develop adequately.  Instead, look for a program that offers activities that take into consideration each child’s interests and level of understanding, and is varied in nature. Music and arts are just as important at that age, as reading, or science.

This does not mean that your two year old will be sitting at a desk, pen and paper at hand.  Good programs are very creative in their approach to learning, and “disguise” the projects and concepts taught as games and fun activities where your child is always an active participant. Look for a program that can present a challenge as well as a fun, magical environment.

Early education is an essential step in your child’s life, and one to welcome. You may never be able to measure how much it impacted your child, but you can trust that it did, and as much or more than those meals you prepare with such love and care! And, if nothing else, at least you can say that it is a great way for children to meet friends!

Articles by Natacha: School before school: is it important?

Research shows that at the age of 2, a child’s brain is at its peak.  Before age 6 is when a child learns the most.  Yet, it is at 6 that a child begins attending school.  How to meet those needs until then?  What type of learning is appropriate?

Some children may not be ready to read by grade 1, but all children are definitely ready to learn at an early age. The key is in how you provide those learning opportunities.  Forcing a child to memorize the letters and numbers at home or school may get you the desired results, but it will only be that: memorized results.  Most programs cannot fulfill your child’s needs, so why think of pre-elementary school?

Because same age socializing, structured learning opportunities and exposure to the arts, music, science, and early literacy is not a luxury, it is crucial during the early developmental years.

Not every program contains everything a child needs.  It is very important to find one that offers various subjects and interests, a balance of structure and time for children to interact, build their own understanding of our rules and values, reason, learn from others, explore and be creative.  A good program will adjust to each child and not ask you to conform. It will not exclude the curriculum needs of elementary school or offer a learning system opposed to what children will face in kindergarten, it will encompass it, with great understanding of a young child’s stages of learning.

Offering your child an opportunity to discover the world and learn without being afraid of learning too much is our duty as parents.  The learning experiences of a child during the early years will affect a child’s education for life.

Natacha V. Beim
Founder and CEO of Core Education & Fine Arts