Friday, September 7, 2012

Early Childhood Education Choices - Part Two

In part one we focused on some basics about starting young children in an early childhood program. Part two is exploring the different philosophies of types of early childhood programs and program essentials.

Each program has its own philosophy of teaching and how children learn best. When considering a good fit look for programs that match your own philosophy. How are concepts introduced to children? What is the philosophy about play and exploration? Is there a balance in active and quiet activities? Some programs stress a balanced curriculum while others put more emphasis on pre-academics, music, math or science. What is a typical daily schedule and how does that fit with your child's personality an demeanor?

Typically Montessori programs emphasize child selected work rather than teacher selected projects. Materials available to the children are specific in nature and have a step-by-step procedure to develop a concept goal. The child works independently and moves about the room at will choosing materials. Children are encouraged to take care of themselves as much as possible (bathrooming, snack, clean up, etc.). Classes are generally not segregated by age, although this varies due to the physical capacity of the facility and classrooms. Montessori encourages individual progress and embraces the concept that children will learn at their own pace. Most Montessori schools will also incorporate some group and outdoor play time in their daily routines.

The guiding elements in a Montessori school are:

  • Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½ or 3 to 9 years old by far the most common
  • Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time
  • A constructivist or "discovery" model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
  • Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators

  • Reggio Emilia
    Reggio Emilia is a program based on respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum. Newer to the middle of the country this school style is popular on the east and west coasts. Children's interests are the focus rather than a set of curriculum of academic goals. Children are encouraged to work in groups. Materials offered are diverse. This program believes children can express themselves through various visual media, not just speech. Children's work is displayed emphasizing that their work is important and so that they see their own progress.

    The four principles of the Reggio Emilia school are:

  • Children must have some control over the direction of their learning
  • Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing
  • Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that children must be allowed to explore
  • Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves

  • Waldorf Schools
    Waldorf schools embrace the whole child (mind, body and spirit) and believe in whole-learning approach. Play is viewed as the work of the child where storytelling and fantasy are incorporated into the curriculum. Simple toys and materials are incorporated are used to encourage imaginative play and problem solving. The Waldorf philosophy stresses that the child is a social being and the development of social skills is as important as any other concept. Teachers model good social behavior by joining together in movement, singing and group games building community and problem solving skills. There is routine and structure to the day that children can count on, as well as focus on seasonal themes. In early childhood learning is largely experimental, imitative and sensory based. The educational emphasizes learning through practical activities. Waldorf schools start in the preschool years and go through high school. Some home school families use Waldorf curriculum and philosophy as well.

    Co-Op Programs
    Programs that are co-op in nature may have varied philosophies, but all require parent/adult participation. How often participation is expected also varies from program to program. Nannies and parents are expected to assist with curriculum implementation under the direction of the staff. This is a wonderful way to observe the child in a group setting. Typically co-op early childhood programs have lower enrollment fees because parents, nannies or other adults are helping the staff both in the classroom and in support capacities. Often these programs are run by a board of directors which include staff, parents and other community leaders. Some co-op programs are sponsored by larger groups such as churches or community education.

    Preschool Checklist
    Regardless of the program you choose the following list of learning opportunities should be taken into consideration. Each preschool will implement these into their curriculum in variety of  ways.

    You'll want to be sure your child is having experiences with . . .

  • Emotional development - understanding their feeling and the feelings of others, able to manage their emotions in a group setting, expression, etc.
  • Communication skills - talking, listening, expression, writing, etc.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the world around them
  • Mathematical awareness -  patterns, numbers, measurement, comparison, etc.
  • Physical development and physical health
  • Play - opportunities to play alone and with others, active and quite play, indoors and out
  • Teamwork - building skills for playing and working together which includes social skills
  • Self-help skills - including bathrooming, meals/snacks, clothing, clean up, etc.
  • Social skills - group activities, sharing, cooperative learning, communication, emotional control
  • Critical thinking - problem solving, decision making, logic, understanding others, organizing information, etc.
  • Creative arts and expression - drama, open ended art, crafts, special projects, music, dance, etc.
  • Literacy - rich language development, storytime, phonic games, alphabet activities, support early readers and writers, etc.
  • 1 comment:

    1. The early childhood years involve a vast amount of knowledge gain and is an influential time for learning. Quality early childhood education programs offer a variety of educational activities that allow lots of hands-on interaction. Programs often include introductory letter and reading skills, math skills and science concepts.