Our family loves Ava Wanas. This was our boys' first pre-school experience, so I was nervous about how they would adjust. When I picked them up on their first day, they didn't want to leave and have been having fun ever since. The teachers are very loving and the environment is so warm that it feels like a second family for our children. They've learned so much there in just 6 months--academics, life skills, social skills, and independence. Our oldest, who didn't know how to write letters when he started, is now writing full words and is very interested in reading. Our youngest, who has a speech delay, is now talking up a storm and has so much more self-confidence. They both come home talking about their new pals, singing new songs, showing off their craft projects, exhibiting new-found manners, and doing all sorts of things I didn't even realize they could do for themselves.
When we toured a few other full-day pre-schools, their environments felt a bit cold--6 ft tall solid vinyl fences enclosing play areas with little grass, tile-floored rooms where kids of the same age stayed much of the day, and staff that attended to the children's needs but didn't seem super-warm. At Ava Wanas, the kids spend a lot of time outside running around amongst the chickens, tending to the garden, getting dirty, and making "soup" out of twigs and leaves on a large, grassy play yard. The mixed-age classes engage in a variety of self-chosen independent "work" as well as group lessons and team activities like baking banana bread, where they take turns grinding fresh nutmeg, mashing the bananas, and cleaning up in the school's kitchen. The older kids take the younger ones under their wing, for example holding their hands and leading them into the next classroom, or offering to help them with something. And when the teachers cuddle, carry, hug, and comfort the kids, you can tell they are caring for them as if they were their own.