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Preschool grows from little steps to big leaps

POULSBO — Co-ops. Christian schools. Montessori schools. Day-cares.

There are many kinds of preschools for 3-5 year olds, who are in a critical stage of childhood development.

And just what kind of school will Naomi Gormanson, owner and teacher of the new Big Leaps Preschool off Rova road, establish?

“I observed a lot of preschools and took a little bit of everything,” Gormanson said. “I think (the area’s preschools) are all wonderful and after observing many of these, (I’ve) brought a little (of) each one to our philosophy, curriculum and discipline.”

Gormanson, a 1997 North Kitsap High School graduate, enrolled in Olympic College and received her certificate in early childhood education. She’s also working toward completing her degree in the same subject.

She said part of her motivation to open her own preschool stems from what she learned from her mother, Karen Shelbourn, a former Wolfle Elementary paraeducator of more than 20 years.

“I love to see their growth and how they develop learning abilities,” Gormanson said of her further rationale. “It’s exciting, rewarding and challenging. And always surprising.”

Gormanson has been working with preschool-aged children for six years, the last three at Peace Lutheran School.

“I’ve been thinking about (opening a preschool) for a long time,” she said.

That dream has now come true with the opening of Big Leaps, which will offer three days a week in preschool education to 4 and 5 year olds and two days for 3 and 4 year olds.

Preschool is a critical age for children, she said, as they are introduced to social settings, schedules and learning in a classroom for the first time in their lives. They also make a big leap with regard to the curriculum.

“When they come here, they probably won’t recognize many of the letters in the alphabet,” she said. “By the end of the year, they should be able to recognize almost all of them.”

Gormanson will have help in the classroom from her friend and mother-in-law Judy Gormanson, who said she thinks parents will be drawn to the preschool’s schoolhouse atmosphere and 5-acre lush property, perfect for nature outings.

“Some (preschool teachers) run them out of their own homes but we actually have our own school here,” she said. “So, it’s more of a school environment.”

The school — nestled between large cedars and Douglas firs in a building that resembles a quaint cottage — is filled with books, toys, puzzles and all the educational tools necessary for preschoolers to excel at learning and have fun, Judy Gormanson said.

Naomi Gormanson is also a parent, with her husband Brian, of two children: Austin, 9 and Audree, 7.

She knows first hand just how important a child’s first times in the classroom can be.

“Children’s experiences during preschool not only influence their later functioning in school,” she said, “But also can have an impact throughout their lives.”

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