Developing Your Child’s Writing

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In order to write, children must have a combination of mental and physical development.  Children need the skills of concentration, memory, and language. They physically must have the strength and the use of muscles in their fingers and hands.

Here is an outline of the most important stages of your child’s writing to recognize and encourage:

ScribblingThis stage begins around 15 months to 2 ½ years. Scribbling is exploring space on paper, connecting the top and bottom, and the space in between. Children begin to understand that movements make scribbles.

Drawing Around 2 to 3 years, children draw purposeful lines. They may draw open circles and diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines of all sizes. They hold markers between the thumb and index finger. Children like using a variety of colors and textures and working with scissors.

Phonemic StageAt 3 ½ years, children begin to draw patterns, lines, dots, and curves. They imitate writing and know that drawing and writing convey meaning. They may name letters, and “words” will include consonants first and vowels after.

Transitional Stage Writing begins to look like their native language. Spelling reflects how the word sounds rather than the spelling of it. This develops into correct spelling. In this stage, children explore words being written on more than one line. They learn to write their name before writing other words.

Pictures and Words At 4 to 5 years a child’s writing includes words and pictures. They have the intellectual ability to hold images in their brains long enough to transfer it to paper. They make creations and label them, and may plan their writing or drawings ahead of time. Writing skills will continue to progress through schooling.


*Writing skills are developed best when parents and teachers guide their child in practice


Adapted from Rose Welton  1/13/17

The Upper Room Child Development Center practices curriculum to help your child build these skills in writing from an early age. For more information on our Child Development Center click here.

Contact Bethann Roitz for details on how to enroll your child in our center today!

Emotional Sensitivity and Your Child

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Your child may not always be able accurately to express how they feel. So it’s on us as parents and educators to identify and address their emotions through the signs that they give us. That’s why Bethann Roitz with The Upper Room’s Child Development Center recently released some guidelines to help determine and manage emotional sensitivity with your child.

Emotionally Sensitive Children and their Temperament

  • Do you have emotionally charged children whose reactions are excessive?
  • Cry or upset over small things
  • Do they rarely get upset or express feelings?

Emotionally sensitivity is an inborn part of our temperament which consists of ten traits and makes children unique.  It is the ease or difficulty to which children respond emotionally to situations. The trait is measured by how tuned a child is to their feelings and, why some children do not seem to be aware of what they are feeling, appearing to be non-responsive to what they see around them.

A child may be aware of their own feelings, even to the point of being self-absorbed, while not aware of other people’s feelings, and vice versa.

Emotional Sensitivity – To One’s Self 

Is your child able to express clearly what they are feeling?

  • When watching a scary movie do they react “over the top”?
  • Do they cry often and have a hard time “letting things go”?
  • Do they get overly upset when someone disciplines, criticizes or comments negatively to them?

(No) 1                       2                      3                     4                     5 (Yes) Unaware of own feelings                                                         Feels Strongly

Higher scores indicate a child is more emotionally sensitive by showing hurt, sorrow, worry, embarrassment, fear, empathy or anger, straightforwardly or dramatically, than those who are less sensitive.  Parents can support children by;

  • Not dismissing their feelings, teach them to express their reactions in appropriate ways.
  • Let children share how they feel about every little thing.
  • Listen if they feel wrongs strongly, (treatment of siblings).
  • Do not take their intense emotions personally.
  • Wait, because they may hold on to feelings longer. Teach forgiveness so they learn to move on.
  • Be patient, they may be overwhelmed when they see strong emotions. Monitor TV and games that are frightening or sad.
  • Sensitive children may be more considerate and empathic.
  • As adults, they do well in careers in the helping professions.

Emotional Sensitivity, to others 

  • Does your child notice when others are upset or hurt?
  • Do they seem to “feel what others are feeling”?
  • Does your child show empathy or sympathy towards others who are upset?

(No) 1                    2                   3                   4                     5 (Yes)              Insensitive to others’ feelings                                      Emotionally tuned in

Lower responses may mean they are less sensitive; rarely upset or may not make a “big deal” about things. They may not be aware of others feelings and may be considered insensitive.

  • Help them identify feelings by naming and talking about them.
  • Understand that emotional sensitivity is a part of your children’s inborn temperament.
  • Avoid labeling; “whiner” or “cry-baby” or “selfish.”
  • Use positive words; “sensitive,” and “intense.”
  • Acknowledge temperament and help them to understand it.
  • Know their reactions/behaviors to avoid shaming.
  • Understand how your temperament fits or doesn’t fit with your child’s.
  • Let them know that you appreciate them and help them to feel good about who they are.
  • “You have very strong feelings.”
  • “You express yourself strongly.”
  • “You care a lot about other people.”
  • “You are aware of how others are feeling.”
  • “You can feel what you are feeling and then move on.”

By using these guidelines, we can better identify our child’s feelings and help them express themselves in a healthy way.

For more information on The Child Development Center’s focus on education or to enroll your child in our program, visit our Child Development Center page, or contact Bethann Roitz at

Hogan Preparatory Academy Will Begin Leasing The Mary Kelly Center from The Upper Room in 2019

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Collaboration Among Education Organizations Results in Win for All Parties

November 1, 2018 (Kansas City, Mo.) – In a strategic partnership that benefits local education organizations, Hogan Preparatory Academy will begin leasing The Mary Kelly Center from The Upper Room in 2019.

“We are pleased to be returning to our primary service area,” said Dr. Tanya Shippy, Interim Superintendent of the HPA school district. “This will better enable us to serve our students and families,” added Shippy.

“Through this collaborative process, we quickly realized our communities are stronger and healthier when we work together. We began referring to our partnership as a win for our organizations and above all, the children and families we serve. When we unite our vision, we serve our communities more effectively and efficiently and that’s a win-win-win,” said Dr. Alexis Petri, HPA’s School Board President.

Hogan Preparatory Academy, the K-12 public charter school district, grew out of the former Bishop Hogan private Catholic high school. When Bishop Hogan High School closed, a group of parents and teachers founded Hogan Preparatory Academy in 1999. Wanting to make a difference for younger students, HPA opened its middle school in 2011 and its elementary school in 2013.

The third beneficiary of this collaboration is The Upper Room, a not-for-profit providing early childcare, after-school and summer academic programs. HPA will lease the Mary L. Kelly Center building, located at 2803 E. 51st Street, and will partner with The Upper Room to deliver programming outside of the school day and year.

“Having Hogan Prep Elementary utilize our space for its instructional needs is a perfect complement to our offerings and it enables us to share resources that will greatly benefit both organizations,” said Tonia Gilbert, executive director of The Upper Room.

The HPA elementary school will continue operating in this location through the end of the 2018-2019 school year. During the summer of 2019.

“This is a great example of area charter schools working together to benefit the children and families they serve,” said Dana Cutler, education lawyer and recognized advocate of quality public education. “We should look for more such collaborations among our public schools, both charter, and district, to increase opportunities for access to quality education for all children” added Cutler.

About The Upper Room 

The Upper Room provides high quality, out-of-school educational programs while actively engaging and challenging a diverse population to enjoy learning from cradle to college. 

About Hogan Preparatory Academy 

Hogan Preparatory Academy is a premier college prep district developing educated, compassionate, self-motivated leaders who prepare for lifelong career options and give back to their community. 

Seven Reasons That Music is Important to Your Child’s Development

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Seven Reasons That Music is Important to Your Child’s Development

When you send your child off to school you hope for the best educational experience that they can get. You want them to learn as much as they can in a way that is fun and engaging. There are several ways to motivate students toward learning, but music remains a key tool for encouraging enthusiasm in the classroom. Few people realize the benefits that music can have on our brain development and learning. That’s why Upper Room KC’s programs have always had a strong focus on music education. Recently, the National Association for Music Education (NAFME) provided a list of benefits of music. Here are just a handful of those reasons your child’s development can have a positive influence by incorporating music into their curriculum.

According to the NAFME, Students who study music have a more positive attitude about learning as a result of the direct feedback a child gets from learning music. Music can be a fun activity that everyone identifies with when they learn an instrument or song. This association of learning with enjoyable activities like music can influence a child’s excitement for school and make them more likely to excel in other subjects.

A musical ability can shape the character and personality of students. As students learn to play with others, they follow a common goal of something as simple as a rhythmic beat. Studies published on show that this social interaction results in students in band or orchestra being less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can also contribute to children’s intellectual and emotional development as it promotes their personal expression.

Music is often referred to as a language, and for good reason. The theory of music follows a structure similar to all languages. Music provides a way for students to express that language skill in a way that is fun and easy to understand. Studies from The National Association for Music show that students who include music curriculum with their education will develop the vital areas of the brain that relate to language and reasoning. This left side of the brain specifically gets better developed with exposure to music that promotes growth in young minds and leads to better language skills.

Musicians of all ages are tasked with using their memory constantly to recall and perform a given piece of music. Students of music use the skill of memorization even when performing with sheet music. This ability can quickly translate into all aspects of education and beyond. In fact, music is often used as a device to help remember complex lessons. Music jingles in commercials show proof that a simple melody can help us remember phone numbers and company slogans. If you’re prepping for a test, setting your study notes to a tune can be a great way to remember important details.

Rhythm and repetition are common themes in music. These rhythms are nothing more than a series of patterns that they comprehend more easily with the assistance of music. Children can often develop their pattern-recognition skills more quickly with the help of musical education. Pattern recognition also greatly increases a student’s ability in mathematics and geometry.

All of the reasons listed above show that music education is great for your child’s brain and development, but what are the results? Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation are more likely to score higher on the SAT. The last two reasons we provided talk about improvements in language and math as a result of music education. released a report that indicates 63 points higher SAT scores on verbal test scores and 44 points higher on math scores for students in music appreciation courses

Finally, kids who learn to play an instrument can quickly understand the value of a disciplined routine. In order to learn an instrument, students have to set aside time to practice and give the focus it takes to achieve the coordination and timing of mastering an instrument. The rewards come quickly as each new song is learned and a new opportunity of playing music with others is not far away.

Upper Room Music Education Programs

At Upper Room KC, we strongly believe in these benefits as they apply to our students. Whether your student already has an interest and education in music or not, we provide a fun musical learning environment in our after-school, summer academic program and early child development. Click Here to contact us today and see how we can partner with your child’s school!

Staff Spotlight – Lee Barnes, Jr.

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Lee Barnes, Jr. 

Director of Operations at Swope Corridor Renaissance/Upper Room, Inc.

Tell us a little about your family and where you are from.
I am from Kansas City, MO. I have a wife, Terri Barnes, and a son, Lee Barnes, III.

How long have you been at the Upper Room and in what roles/capacity?
I have been here for 13 years; started as Director of Operations and been here ever since. In June of 2016, I began as Interim Executive Director.

What made you desire to work for the Upper Room?
I guess I had been working with the DuBois Learning Center and the director there asked me if I would help them run their summer program and that got me in touch with the Upper Room and that was the start. I was kind of asked if I could help them.

What is your favorite program that the Upper Room provides, and why? (I know people aren’t supposed to have favorites, but everyone does!)
Probably the music program, because I am a musician myself and understand how music helps children enhance other skills.

What hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?
I enjoy music and play the drums in a band called “Ground Level.” I like sports, I used to play baseball through high school and college, and now enjoy watching all sports.


Former Student Writes a Letter

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It isn’t very often that we get to read something that a former student has written about their experience with the Upper Room. However, we have been lucky enough to receive a letter written by a junior at University Academy, Safiya M., who was part of our Summer Academic Program for about 7 years. When her younger sisters were enrolled in the summer program this past year, Safiya returned as a volunteer because she wanted to help out. “When I attended the program I enjoyed it and always wanted to come back and volunteer,” Safiya said.

Her former teacher in the program, Pamela Peppers was the one who showed us this letter. “She is so special. She started in the program years ago and was very involved in her studies,” Ms. Peppers said. The Upper Room has been so touched by Safiya’s letter, that we decided to share it. We believe that all of our teachers, volunteers and supporters should read it and see the impact that they have made on our students.

“My name is Safiya and I am 17-year-old junior attending University Academy. I’ve attended the Upper Room program for about 7 years and I have gained a lot from it. Through the Upper Room program I’ve gained an even greater interest in reading and doing my best to succeed. Now, I am an Honor Roll student and a part of National Honor’s Society. I was also chosen amongst other candidates to travel to Tanzania for 5 weeks. Through my journey to get to where I am today, the Upper Room and many other accelerating programs have played a huge part.”

Thanks, Safiya for letting us share your letter! We love seeing how the Upper Room has shaped the next generation of young leaders.