The benefits of pre kindergarten education for children have been well documented, but that doesn’t mean that all early education is equally beneficial. And furthermore, since all children are different, a preschool that has worked out well for other children may not necessarily be the best preschool “fit” for your son or daughter. If you’ve already started looking for the best preschool for your child, you may be finding that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish among the major education philosophies that dominate preschool education. To help, here’s a rundown of the three most prominent schools of thought when it comes to preschool:
This approach was developed by Maria Montessori, and has been around since the early 1900s. The philosophy is child-centered, and teachers are thought of as guides. Games and puzzles are often used to help children learn at their own pace. One major feature of Montessori preschool classrooms is that 3- to 5-year-olds are all in one class together. This builds trust and community over the course of several years, and also allows natural leadership patterns to emerge (with children first being helped by older kids before becoming leaders themselves).
The Waldorf approach is play-based and incorporates a variety of creative activities, but those activities follow a more predictable structure than they might in a Montessori classroom (gardening always being done on Thursdays, or something along those lines). That can make it a good fit for children who enjoy singing, acting, reading, etc. while still needing a bit more routine. Students also spend quite a lot of time outdoors in a Waldorf program, rain or shine. The goal of a Waldorf education is not to teach children what to think, but rather to teach them how to think, with a focus on individualism.
- Reggio Emilia
Although Reggio Emilia is a slightly less well known program, elements of it are often incorporated into classrooms that don’t follow it strictly. The focus of a Reggio Emilia education is teaching children to be good “citizens.” What does that look like? Education is mostly project-based and child-led, meaning that the teachers help children explore their interests, rather than dictating a curriculum. Reggio Emilia preschools also place a strong emphasis on cooperation, fostering children’s ability to solve problems and resolve conflicts as a group.
Which of these do you think would be the best preschool philosophy for your child? Share your thoughts in the comments.