Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child

Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child
Who knew there were so many curriculum choices and other considerations when deciding to send your young child to preschool? For first-time parents, the curriculum information as well as the search and enrollment process can be overwhelming. Below is some basic information about the more common early childhood learning concepts and some questions to help in your search.

Early Childhood Curriculum Models

Bank Street (also known as the Developmental Interaction Approach)
Developed by the Bank Street College in New York City, this method uses a play-based approach that believes children are active learners, explorers, experimenters and artists benefitting from a diverse curriculum. Teaching focuses on history, geography and anthropology as this approach consider the world to be the best teaching tool.

Many community-based programs tend to follow this research-based approach of “active participatory learning.” The philosophy of HighScope is that children learn best, building language and cognitive skills, through hands-on experience with people, materials, events and ideas. Classrooms are set up for specific types of play and learning, and academic areas.

The Montessori approach was formed more than a century ago in Rome, Italy, by a pediatrician/psychiatrist and is a child-centered method that emphasizes the development of the whole child with teachers as guides to a child’s learning. While play-based learning is important in Montessori, there is a focus on academics and children learn at their own pace. Generally, programs include children ages three, four and five together in one classroom so that the older children serve as role models. It is not unusual for a child to have the same teacher for all three years which helps to strengthen the teacher-child relationship.

Reggio Emilia
Developed in Reggio Emilia, Italy, after World War II, this project-based learning approach was created to help children become better world citizens. It emphasizes communications, relationships, choice and problem-solving. Many of the projects originate from a child’s question or interest, and the teachers are there to help them explore and frame the activities. This method incorporates academics through play using natural materials instead of memorization.

Waldorf education is a play-based approach that engages the five senses. It emphasizes creativity and imagination over academics (meaning no handouts, tests or desks) and is known for its strong environmental and outdoor programs. Waldorf values the development of a child’s individualism and curiosity. Like Montessori, it is often has mixed-age classrooms and the same teacher for multiple years. This approach does not include computers, video or electronics for learning and prefers children play with natural materials instead of synthetic or electronic toys.

Other Learning Methods
Be sure to check into other preschool philosophies including Language Immersion, Parent Cooperatives (Co-ops), Outdoor, Inclusive and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

Questions to ask during your search

  • Is the child care program licensed, Quality-Rated, and/or NAEYC certified?

  • How do the teachers and program communicate information and news to parents?

  • What is the ratio of children to teachers?

  • How does the preschool approach academics?

  • What is a daily routine like?

  • What is the expectation for parent involvement?

  • How often and for how long do children get to go outside?

  • Does the school or parent provide the child’s meals and snacks while at school?

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