It’s time to send your little one to preschool and you have no idea where to start. Which school philosophy and structure is best for your child?
The good news is that the preschool teaching philosophies are relatively similar across the board with a tweak here or there that might make the difference between one fitting your child versus another.
The Montessori program was founded in 1907 by pediatrician and psychiatrist Maria Montessori. The program’s focus is to allow children to learn at their own pace through hands-on activities specifically designed to teach a certain subject, such as categorizing objects, sounding out words, and doing mathematics.
Classes often consist of students with a wide age range, promoting learning from one another while instructors guide them as needed.
Parents looking to foster independence in their children may want to consider the Montessori method.
The Waldorf school, developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century, focuses on enthusiasm in learning and predictability, helping preschoolers feel protected and secure in a home-like environment.
Teachers engage in practical activities the students can imitate such as baking, crafts, and gardening, and students often remain with the same teacher through eighth grade, fostering trust. All of the items children play with are natural, such as stones, wood, pine cones, cotton, silk, shells, and other objects from nature.
Parents looking to provide security and environmental appreciation may want to consider the Waldorf school.
The Reggio Emilia method was developed in Reggio Emilia, Italy during the 1940s centering around the child’s curiosity as a springboard to learning. Teachers take the child’s lead in a project-based approach, turning things like a simple observation of a flower into a full lesson in how flowers grow. The difference between this and other methods, however, is that the teacher guides problem-solving by the students, encouraging them to “find out together” rather than directly answering questions.
Like Montessori, Reggio Emilia is another program that fosters independence, though they aren’t exactly the same. Montessori is structured in its lessons, dividing activities into categories and allowing children to use one at a time. Reggio Emilia is more free-flowing, better suited for parents who want to encourage an open style of learning.
Co-ops are a great resource for parents who are looking to save money and are available to participate in school activities. These preschools are based upon a foundation of parents volunteering to help in the classroom and serve in other capacities such as helping with the school’s upkeep or preparing snacks as a way to drive down the school’s cost. Professional teachers are hired, but may be assisted by a parent in the classroom.
Parents looking to have an active role in their child’s preschool education who may also be looking to drive down tuition costs may want to look into Cooperative preschool environments.
Other Preschool Options
While these are the primary preschool options, there are countless others. Parents can find programs at their YMCA, community center, or religious organization. Regardless of the choice made, the mere fact that parents are interested in researching the best education choice for their child gives a high likelihood that, whichever decision is reached, the child will be off to a promising start.