When your child gets closer to the age of 4, you will start noticing comments especially in online parenting groups about getting your child signed up for a VPK program. I remember feeling stressed out about my first child going to school and being away from his family. However, my husband and I knew we wanted to enroll our son in VPK.
As parents, we all want to make sure our children receive the best of everything, especially quality education. That’s why I encourage parents to enroll their child in VPK to get a head start with their education.
This post is in partnership with The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County. However, all opinions on this post are my own.
WHAT IS VPK?
Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) is a state program designed to prepare all 4 year olds in Florida for kindergarten and build the foundation for their educational success. VPK is provided to everyone regardless of family income. You can register your child for either a 540-hour school year program, 300-hour summer program or VPK specialized instructional services. It is a great way for children to get an early start on learning, preparing them to be successful in school.
FUN FACT: Florida was one of the very first states to offer this kind of program.
THE BENEFITS OF THE VPK PROGRAM
As a former preschool teacher and VPK teacher assistant, I know the many advantages of enrolling your child in a VPK program. One of the main benefits of VPK is it builds social and emotional skills such as problem solving and collaboration, which are necessary in all aspects of life.
I enjoyed watching my students collaborate during small centers and outdoor play time. If they had an issue amongst each other, there was at least one student who was able to find a resolution without involving a teacher. I also noticed the changes with my first son once he started VPK. His social skills improved and he became more confident. I am looking forward to his brother starting VPK in the fall of this year. He is so excited to start big kid school.
Participation in the VPK program can help prepare a child for success in elementary school and beyond. My oldest was able to start kindergarten as an advanced reader. His VPK teacher made sure he was prepared for many of his subjects. This was beneficial because at the time he was enrolled in At-Home learning for Kindergarten due to the pandemic.
The VPK program allows children to practice age-appropriate skills as they play to help them learn to follow directions, be attentive, work with their classmates, recognize letters and numbers, and so much more.
HOW TO APPLY?
I’m sure you’re wondering how to get your child registered for VPK, especially in Hillsborough County. Listed below are two steps to get your child registered for VPK.
Apply for your child’s VPK Certificate of Eligibility
Visit the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County’s website and click on the Apply for VPK link. You can start the process on January 1 of the year you plan to enroll your child in VPK. If your family does not have internet access to submit the VPK application online, contact the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County. They will make sure you are set up before the deadline.The processing time for your child’s VPK certificate can take up to 10 calendar days. My advice is to register as soon as possible.
Find a VPK Program Provider
The VPK program is offered through select public schools as well as through private providers throughout the state of Florida. If you are interested in attending VPK at a private preschool, you will have to contact each school directly – they all have their own application process. Unfortunately, VPK programs at private preschools tend to fill up quickly. I had to call several schools before finding one that did not have a long waitlist.
My advice is to contact your school of choice as soon as possible for a better chance of getting your child into their VPK program. Schedule a tour of the school to make sure it’s a great fit. If they allow your child to come with you, I highly recommend bringing them along. We had the opportunity to explore my son’s new school before his first day in August. He enjoyed checking out the playground, toys and meeting a few teachers. It was a great way for me to see how he responded to a new environment as this will be his first time away from his family.
My son’s school offers two schedules for their VPK program, one at 8:00 am until 11:00 am or 12:00 pm until 3:00 pm. Choose whichever works for your family. Check with your school of choice to see what times they offer for their program. Each school varies, especially your local public school.
For additional information on Hillsborough County’s VPK programs, please call the Early Learning Coalition office at (813) 515-2340 and their friendly staff can answer any questions and guide you through the process.
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