Homestretch, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was founded in 1990 to help homeless families rebuild their lives. Homestretch is a comprehensive program offering subsidized transitional housing and support services aimed at helping families become self-sufficient. Their highly-valued Child Services Department links families to community resources. One service families need immediately is access to quality child care programs which have a strong school readiness component.
The Child Services Department found that finding quality early childhood programs was very difficult for low income families. Centers were frequently full and expensive; preschool programs such as Head Start had lengthy waiting lists. Some children were not being exposed to a structured learning environment before they entered kindergarten! The Child Services Department knew that research showed children in poverty who do not attend high-quality preschool are more likely to struggle with delinquency, drop out of high school, and earn less than their peers as adults. With the help of many in the community, Homestretch opened Kidstretch in August 2012 to fill the gap so that children can get an early start on their education.
Almost all of the children we serve come from low to moderate income families, most of whom are in Homestretch. Kidstretch is also open to the public and provides full-time care to children regardless of their economic status. We place high value on diversity and believe that it is beneficial for children to interact with one another regardless of their economic, social, or religious backgrounds
The Kidstretch mission is to empower children to develop the skills they need to build their own knowledge, prepare for the next school environment, and cultivate a love of lifelong learning.
Kidstretch teachers are highly motivated and love working with young children. Most hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Special Education, or a child-related field. Staff members are active on a Fairfax County School Readiness team and partner with professionals from City of Falls Church Schools and Child Find. All teachers are required to participate in ongoing professional development.
Kidstretch engages in best practices in early childhood education. Our program goals:
- Connect with children and families to support growth across all areas of development in a safe, nurturing environment
- Explore children’s curiosity through hands-on learning and enrichment experiences to prepare for success in kindergarten and beyond
- Facilitate independence and responsibility through consistent classroom routines
- Encourage friendships and develop conflict resolution skills
- Inspire leadership skills through a mixed-age classroom
Kidstretch supports the relationship between children, their families, the preschool staff, and the community. Students actively participate in the community through partnerships that provide enrichment experiences. Our partnerships include:
- Monthly story time with Fairfax County’s Early Literacy Services
- Physical education with Wee Play
- Performing arts with Wolf Trap’s Institute for Early Learning through the Arts
Kidstretch also takes multiple field trips throughout the year. Students love trips to the local library, parks, farmhouse, Children’s Science Center, bowling alley, and an indoor playground for motor and movement classes.
Kidstretch teachers follow the HighScope curriculum. This provides a consistent daily routine for the children, with a mix of child-initiated and teacher-directed activities. A typical day includes center time, morning circle, small group (art, reading, math), meals, naptime, outdoor play, afternoon circle time, and music and movement. Learning through the HighScope curriculum is focused on eight content areas, which are based on dimensions of school readiness named by the National Education Goals Panel. The preschool curriculum content areas include:
- Approaches to learning
- Social and emotional development
- Physical development and health
- Language, literacy, and communication
- Creative Arts
- Science and Technology
- Social Studies