Voluntary Prekindergarten or VPK was designed to prepare children for elementary school by enhancing their pre-reading, pre-math, language and social skills. By developing these skills at an early age, children are more likely to be successful in grade school. Here are a list of common questions and answers for parents interested in Florida’s VPK program:
Who Qualifies for VPK?
By Florida law, Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) programs are available to children of Florida residents. In order to be eligible, the child must turn 4 by September 1st of the school year. This is a free program provided by the State of Florida. Participation is voluntary.
Why Should I Enroll My Child in a VPK Program?
It’s been said that every child is born a genius. That is, from birth, an infant’s brain is ready and able to accept information, and the potential of that child is almost unlimited. It’s no secret that the most important, rapid, and significant development in the human brain happens by the age of five. Children are naturally curious and have a built-in thirst for learning and discovering. VPK programs take advantage of this most fertile time in a child’s life and tap into the amazing possibilities for growth and development that are present in these early years.
It has been observed that children who are involved in such early childhood educational programs develop better language skills, social skills, and have fewer behavioral problems when they enter school. Also, their pre-reading and pre-math skills are stronger when they begin Kindergarten. A love of learning is instilled from an early age.
What Is a Typical VPK Program Like?
There are both structured and unstructured activities. Children will study certain subjects and be involved in various group instruction and activities. These may include playing with blocks, construction toys, art, and dramatic play. Other activities involve language, music, science, social studies, math, and health and safety. Outside play is a regular part of the curriculum, and during the day teachers will play alongside the children to help them develop physical, social, motor, and cognitive skills.
Groups are kept small; the average ratio of instructors to students is 1 to 11, and class size will not exceed 20 children in the school-year program. For summer programs, class size will not exceed 12.
Assessments are an important part of the VPK program, and they are done in accord with specific requirements and standards established by the State of Florida. These assessments provide information as to a child’s progress and development toward year-end goals and expectations. This information is invaluable to the teachers, as they use it to help meet the individual needs of each child.
Can I Choose Which Program My Child Will Attend?
Yes. You can choose a program that best suits your family’s needs, either a participating private child care program or a public school provider. Options also include faith-based education and licensed family child care homes. All programs must meet stringent standards. There is no registration fee.
How Do I Register?
It’s easy. Registration can be completed online. Proof of Florida residency is needed (e.g., utility bill, bank statement, driver license) and proof that your child turns 4 by September 1st (e.g., birth certificate, passport, immunization record). You will receive a certificate of eligibility, and then you simply need to visit the VPK provider of your choice, show them the certificate of eligibility, and enroll your child. There are a number of private child care and public school providers offering the VPK program across Hillsborough County, including Suncoast Academy. Visit vpkhelp.org to register your child. Once you’re registered and approved, contact us to reserve your child’s spot!