New! Expanded Preschool Offerings for 2021-22

October 30, 2020 | Emily Ford Sytsma

Mustard Seed School is expanding our preschool offerings for the 2020-21 school year. We will have two classes: a three-year-old class and a four-year-old class. 

2021-22 Preschool Program:

  • Three-year-olds: 3 or 5 morning program with an extended day option to 3 PM.
  • Four-year-olds: 5 morning program or full day program. The full day program has an extended day option until 6 PM.

More about the Preschool Program:

Our early childhood program uses a Reggio-inspired approach. What does it mean to be Reggio-inspired? Reggio Emilia is a region of Italy where the preschools have developed a progressive, child-centered approach to learning. There are several aspects of our program that are modeled after these schools in Italy.  

Child, teacher, and parents are partners in learning

We call the child the protagonist of the experience at school. The child is at the center of the learning, not because children come to school lacking in knowledge, but because they are ALREADY capable, curious, and creative thinkers. We believe that the role of the teacher is to come alongside children and become partners in their learning. Our teachers value each child’s experience and they provide a stimulating and fluid environment that can respond to the ideas and questions the children have. 

We also understand that the family has a crucial role in learning.  What does this look like?

Communication. We want for you to know about what is going on at school and we provide pictures and stories and information through a family app, weekly newsletters, and blog posts. In non-COVID times, we invite parents into the classroom every day so that you can see the work and the materials and participate with your child.  

We offer a number of opportunities for parents to volunteer at school so that your gifts are seen and leveraged in our community as well. 


There are so many languages children can use to show us what they are thinking and to explain the theories they are developing. We offer drawing, paint, clay, wire sculpture, collage, blocks, dramatic play… and more. As children work with these languages, their thinking becomes visible.  They show teachers and each other what they know and notice. Teachers can prompt them to reflect and question and seek answers. In this way their ideas become more complete. Through art languages, children have independence in their own learning.  


The first thing that people notice when spending time in our classrooms is how many conversations are happening.  You see teachers are in conversation with students.  And teachers have designed ways for children to be in meaningful conversations with each other.  

We know that collaboration is a 21st century skill. When the children who are in kindergarten today enter the workplace in 20 years, they will need to know how to share ideas and work together in complex ways.  We intentionally teach the social skills that children need for effective collaboration.

Guided play and academic readiness

Play is not only a source of delight for the young child, it’s the basis for academic readiness. We know that in pretend play, children engage more areas of their brains than in almost any other activity because it involves the whole child. We want for young children to spend time playing at school. And we want to utilize every moment of that play time to the fullest and so much of the play in our program is guided play, not free play. Teachers are involved in the play, to offer new vocabulary words and concepts, to ask questions to stretch the thinking and to pose problems that students can work to solve.  It is in this guided play that teachers layer in academic skills and children develop a strong foundation they need to be ready for strong academic work in upper grades.  

Mustard Seed School is a Christian school that welcomes students from all faith backgrounds

We integrate a life of faith into everything that we do. We want children to know God loves them and is with them at all times and in all places. The school day begins with a time of worship that is developmentally appropriate and accessible to young children. Time spent in worship forms the basis for social-emotional learning. For learning the language of apology. Forgiveness. For caring for one another and serving one another. 

If you’re interested in exploring our preschool program, we encourage you to register for our Information Session on November 14. Or join us for a Virtual Visit by signing up here.

Emily Ford Sytsma

Early Childhood Director

Ms. Sytsma began her career as an educator working in inclusive classrooms in the state of Hawaii but found her roots began to grow here at Mustard Seed School when she came to teach in 1996. She joined the preschool team in 2007, after teaching for many years in the Middle School. She finds delight in the preschool’s approach to teaching and learning, inspired by the preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. As Early Childhood Director, she seeks to support teachers in their work helping children learn about thinking and creative expression.

Ms. Sytsma’s the mother of a MSS alum and a current student. When not at school, Ms. Sytsma enjoys traveling with her husband and two children. She tends a very simple rooftop garden in Jersey City Heights and on long Saturday mornings, she may be seen taking long walks along the Hudson River and listening to audiobooks or podcasts while organizing her thoughts and getting her heart rate up.

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