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Junior Kindergarten at the Early Learning Center

Junior Kindergarten at the Early Learning Center


“This is an awesome kindergarten that meets children where they are and integrates their interests into classroom activities. It has been the PERFECT place for my “reading but not old enough for kindergarten” kindergartener.” –Ann Taylor, alumni junior kindergarten parent

Families have some big decisions to make when deciding upon primary school entrywebkk25 for their young children. We’ve heard it called “The Great Kindergarten Conundrum” and we couldn’t agree more. Junior kindergarten may offer a solution for some families with not-yet-five-year-olds or children with late summer birthdays.

To be eligible for traditional kindergarten at the ELC as well as in Knox County public schools, children must turn five years old prior to August 15th of the year they are to begin kindergarten. At the ELC, we know that a birthday alone does not dictate which grade/group placement is best for all children. We are pleased to offer spaces in our kindergarten classroom for children that don’t meet the age requirements for traditional kindergarten. Our administrative team and educators work closely with each family to determine if a junior kindergarten placement would be a good fit for their child.

Junior Kindergarten Commonalities

While each individual child is unique and has his or her own own set of interests, experiences, and needs, there are a few commonalities among our junior kindergarteners. Typically, children entering junior kindergarten:

  • Have completed preschool in our program here at the ELC or a preschool program elsewhere.
  • Will have a birthday in mid/late August, September, or October. Occasionally, children with later birthdays have been admitted, though it is uncommon.
  • Attend a traditional kindergarten program elsewhere after completing junior kindergarten at the ELC. There have been some rare exceptions in which children have progressed to first grade if that was deemed to be the best fit for the child by the teachers, family, and the school system the child is entering.
  • Participate in the same activities and experiences as the traditional kindergarteners, but their goals and expectations in those experiences may be slightly different based on their individual needs.
  • May be eligible for our summer camp programming following their junior kindergarten year, which is typically open to rising first-fourth graders. Decisions are made based on individual children’s needs.

webkditl053Junior Kindergarten Benefits

The junior kindergarten year gives children time to grow and develop in an intellectually rigorous classroom that employs the same philosophy and values as the rest of the ELC program. Play, project and nature based learning practices are at the core of curriculum development. Children’s curiosities play a large role in the classroom and teachers work to incorporate the children’s theories and questions into classroom investigations. The social and emotional development of the junior kindergarteners remains a high priority for the kindergarten educators as they work to help children form and build relationships with others, hone their emotional intelligence, become more responsible and independent, and build confidence.

Children deeply engage in the typical academic subjects through in-depth studies of language and literacy concepts, mathematical thinking, scientific reasoning, social studies and the arts. We believe that a strong foundation in these academic areas is crucial to understanding complex and abstract concepts and skills that build as they move through elementary school and beyond. Junior kindergarteners spend a lot of time exploring and building on these foundations alongside their kindergarten-aged peers during their year with us. Children leave the junior kindergarten year with abundant experiences and practice with early academic concepts that have been explored in the context of small group work, project-based explorations, writer’s workshop, and in-depth investigations of their own theories and interests. They are confident in their own abilities and are ready to embark on their next school adventure.webdsc_0050

If you think junior kindergarten at the ELC may be a good fit for your family, let us know and we would be happy to arrange a tour to show you our program in action and chat about options for your child. We can be reached at or 974-0843. Click here for existing open house dates.