Marea JaNae Hodge packs everything she needs for a few hours of teaching: Worksheets, colorful cups, small toys in matching colors and a board that reads "Miss Jae's Little Learners."
“I’ve been taking care of kids, or working with kids or been in an educational system for 25 years,” said Hodge.
In April, she launched a pilot "preschool on-the-go" program called Miss Jae's Little Learners. The idea was to give parents an alternative to taking their children to preschools, which were limiting attendance because of COVID-19. Hodge couldn't provide a full- or half-day of preschool, but she could provide one-on-one lessons that would help prepare preschoolers for kindergarten.
“When I came up with it, it just makes it easier for the parent to be able to do what they need to do and know 'It’s in my home. I’m safe. My child is safe, and I know that they’re getting the education that they need,'” she said.
Kaitlyn Chappell said she has seen a difference in her 4-year-old son, Kaevion, since he became a little learner. She said within four weeks he could recognize letters and was beginning to write his name. And he's excited when Miss Jae comes to the door.
“He started opening the door instead of the parent," said Hodge.
Parents have the option of selecting either a six-month curriculum or a nine-month curriculum. The six-month plan is for students who already attend preschool but could benefit from some one-on-one instruction. The nine-month plan is for students who have little to no preschool experience. However, regardless of the length of the program, each is tailor-made.
“All my children are different," Hodge said. "So I don’t teach them all the same. They all have their own separate curriculum."
Their goals, however, are all the same: “Recognize their letters. They need to be able to count to 20 without skipping numbers. They need to know all of their colors. They need to know their address."
She makes the home classroom fun for the preschooler, but she is also a stickler for making sure her students follow instructions and have the right answers.
“If I don’t correct them when they do it, they’re going to continue to do it wrong. So, I always say, 'No, we got to start over.' Or, if the handwriting is crazy, I make them start over,” she said. “If they don’t know the basics, they can’t really be ready for kindergarten.”
Hodge said she researched the needs of preschoolers to ensure she's teaching them what they need to know to be ready for kindergarten and designed her programs from what she found.
Meanwhile, Hodge is learning, too. She's working to get her bachelor's degree and wants to pursue a master's degree.
Hodge said she loves teaching the kids, and the parents are happy with the convenience.
“They don’t have to dress their kids or anything," she said. "They can do school in their pajamas, and they’re learning.”