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:
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:
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.
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.
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 . . .