Choosing the Right Preschool for your child
Preschool occupies a very significant place in the life of a child and parents. During the early growing years of a child, a preschool has become a preferred choice of parents. A preschool offers a more personalized and focused nurturing and learning- much needed during the early years of the child. Less students-teacher ratio, inviting and open approach to learning, high connect and involvement of parent, focus on hygiene and quality and minimum travel for young children – all ensure the childhood is not lost in traffic and formal, strict environment.
While selecting a preschool, choice is to be made about the curriculum model. There are various early childhood curriculum models practiced by preschools. The difference in the curriculum model reflects the variation in the philosophy of the preschool, and what they believe is important to learn and develop. These differences determine the role of teachers and children in learning, class and curriculum structure, class environment etc. Some of the most prominent approaches parents would come across are:
Montessori Preschools – This approach to learning was developed by Maria Montessori while observing and working with children with developmental delays. This is a popular approach the world over. It focuses on letting children develop and learn at their pace and interest, with teacher playing the role of only a gentle guide. It relies on didactic equipments as tools for learning. The classrooms are not age based but developmental level based. Montessori approach calls for a longer (around 3 years) continuity with the same class and teacher.
Despite its popularity, it has its limitations. Pure Montessori options are less. The child might find it harder to transition to the rigor and approach of traditional mainstream system in subsequent years. It also requires only a Montessori trained teacher and might make learning outcome difficult as it is more about being self taught and self driven. Art, music and project activities don’t get much space here. The cost of a Montessori is also generally higher.
Alternate or Open Preschools – There are preschools that are coming up with this approach to learning in the city. They also focus on letting children develop and learn at their pace and interest, with teacher playing only a support role. Here also children are grouped based on their developmental stage and not on age. They differ by not relying heavily on teaching equipments, but offering open and natural environment and aids for children to explore and learn. These also provide opportunities for creative arts like music and craft.
Such a model also comes with the limitations of a Montessori model. Younger children do learn from the elder peers, but the elder children in the group might miss the challenge in the environment. Also, the children might need a nurturing program to transition to a formal system going forward.
Integrated HighScope Preschools – These preschools integrate the ‘Waldorf’ and ‘’Reggio Emilia’ philosophy, into carefully designed active participatory curriculum model. Children learn actively by having hands-on experiences with their surroundings, and learning is supported through consistent daily routines and well-organized classrooms. It takes an academic slant with focus on basic subjects of language, numeracy and science, along with arts and music.
These preschools include the creative hands-on group learning from Waldorf model, exploratory and project based activities from Reggio Emilia schools, and basic equipments from Montessori model to maximise the learning during early childhood years.
When choosing a preschool, keep these three ‘P’ KEY factors in mind:
Make it personal. Every child is unique. Look for a program that is a good fit for your child, suits your child's personality and gives you confidence.
Know the passion. Don’t miss on checking the people at the core of the program. A model could look good but to implement it with young learners it needs passion, and willingness to constantly evolve with children.
Keep patience. After you have done your research and taken the decision - relax. Allow the child to evolve. Trust the people nurturing your child and partner in this wonderful learning journey. It is like a seed sprouting and growing into a lush tree. Acknowledge and appreciate the changes en route and enjoy your tiny bud opening and blooming up.