The do-it-yourself, socially and emotionally based pre-school program Joy School has revamped for greater ease of use online and on mobile devices.
Joy School creators Richard Eyre, a Harvard Business School grad and management consultant, and his wife Linda Eyre, a music teacher and violinist, originally coauthored a book in 1980 called “Teaching Your Children Joy.” The Eyres based their book on the Book of Mormon teaching that “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). They then developed 12 different joys that parents could teach to their children, as opposed to what Richard Eyre called “pushy academics.”
Richard Eyre’s mother, who had a background in education, developed rough drafts of lessons for a curriculum and Richard and Linda formalized the lesson plans. The program has remained essentially unchanged from the original release in 1983, although the 2014 update has transformed what once was printed manuals and cassette tapes to the modern, easy-to-use technology and updated activities of Joy School 2.0.
After Richard and Linda Eyre returned from serving as a mission president in London in 1980, Richard began working with the Reagan campaign. The Washington D.C. area, according to Richard Eyre, was a hot bed of new preschool academic strategies that made interesting claims about a child’s ability to start early and find success in academics.
“We felt like kids deserved to have a childhood and not be pushed into academics too early,” Richard Eyre said. The Eyre’s wrote “Teaching Your Children Joy” after consulting and developing ideas with other parents they respected.
They found that people who read the book used its concepts as a substitute to academic preschools. The Eyres originally presented the Joy School curriculum to BYU students, who made the base of the original consumers. The diaspora of BYU students using Joy School have taken the program all over the nation.
The online preschool program operates like a coop; a group of parents shares the costs of buying the materials and curriculum and rotates teaching duties of their preschool age children. This was what really sold Joy School to BYU students, according to Eyre. He said that the overall cost of the curriculum — about $100 a year plus membership fees — was shared between a group of parents. This total cost estimate is one-twentieth the cost of academic preschools, according to Eyre.
Charlotte Hutchins and her daughter participated in Joy School before Jenessa went on to preschool.
Hutchins divided lessons and locations between local parents after the manager of the program changed. As a teacher herself, she was able to tailor the lessons according to the parents value and the children’s academic needs.
“I have always thought that you are a teacher no mater what you profession is,” Hutchins said. “With your children, that is one of most important things you do, teaching your children with your friends.”
Hutchins said the parents in the program often would divvy up lessons from the curriculum but added several things that they wanted to teach their children.
“I remember the importance of being nice to people.” said her daughter, Jenessa Taylor. “I was kind of a shy kid but by the time I went to real preschool I wasn’t nervous,” She said she was able to overcome shyness and make friends by being nice to them.
About 200,000 have signed up and paid the membership fees for the program through valuesparenting.com, the umbrella company of Joy School. But Eyre said the number of actual users is likely much larger because of the coop nature of the program.
Eyre said the revamp has caused a resurgence in popularity of Joy School and anticipated the membership doubling quickly.
The focus on joy has positive impacts on the whole family, according to Eyre. Parents learning the curriculum and teaching their children how to have joy learn a lot about joy themselves.
“I think in terms of management by objective and being proactive,” Eyre said. “What we ended up doing with Joy School is we introduced that kind of thinking into parenting.”
Eyre said a parent can either be reactive or proactive by parenting with an objective. This means setting goals for raising and teaching one’s children.