Understand the many approaches to early childhood education. Preschools subscribe to many different theories and philosophies of education. You may hear some of the following terms used to describe schools you’re considering. Montessori how to teach a child to read Montessori centered on establishing independence, self-esteem, and confidence while fostering learning at a child’s own pace.
This self-paced education is accomplished by changing the role of adults in the classroom from teachers of a whole class into that of “guides,” as they are often called, for the students as individuals. According to the American Montessori Society, guides have four principle goals, which encompass what the Montessori method hopes to achieve. The guide may introduce a lesson to the class as a whole, but will then focus on working with students in small groups as they investigate topics on their own in a carefully prepared classroom environment. This individualized attention means children with special needs — whether they are gifted or delayed — often do well in a Montessori environment. Waldorf programs strive to stimulate kids’ bodies, spirits, and souls with a nurturing, homelike environment that engages all five senses. Rudolf Steiner, who founded the first Waldorf school in Germany in 1919, believed that small children learn best by imitation and their physical surroundings.
Creative play is the most important means of learning in a Waldorf classroom, with a heavy dose of teamwork and togetherness. The goal of these programs is to let children learn by experimentation, exploration, and collaboration. Teachers and their charges tie the work they do in the classroom to real-world experiences and lessons. They play with materials that inspire exploration and pretend play, such as blocks and art supplies, and take lots of community field trips. In a projects-based program, children work independently. The teacher serves as a guide, providing advice or help when needed but largely standing back and letting the children decide how to handle a problem themselves.
The children negotiate with their teacher about the rules and directions for the project and what they want to accomplish with it. Many child-care centers, community centers, and religious organizations offer preschool programs. These typically feature the classic preschool experience you might remember from your own childhood, with an emphasis on both socialization and pre-academic skills. If age-appropriate religious instruction is important to you, you’ll want to consider one of these programs seriously. These programs vary greatly depending on the philosophy of the director and teachers. To varying degrees, children will learn by playing and experimenting with language, toys, and art materials. Some schools may have a stronger emphasis on pre-academic skills and direct instruction, while others will offer a more hands-on curriculum.
If you can’t afford a traditional preschool, or can’t find one with a philosophy that meshes with your own, consider looking for or even founding a cooperative school. In a cooperative preschool, parents take turns doing everything from managing the finances to washing the windows to assisting in the classroom. Usually, a professional teacher oversees the classroom, but parent volunteers recruit and hire her, serve as her aides, and help develop the curriculum. Many experts have hailed the Reggio Emilia approach as an exemplary system for helping children develop strong thinking skills. The primary goal of this method is to create learning conditions that help children develop these abilities through exposure to all matter of expressive, communicative, and cognitive experiences. Emergent curriculum: Topics for study are built on the interests of the children, determined by discussions with the class and their families, and by areas that fascinate many children, such as puddles and dinosaurs.