With so many options and opinions, we understand that the process of selecting a pre-school is overwhelming and intimidating for most parents. However, choosing your child’s first school can actually be an exciting and meaningful journey if you invest some time to consider the following steps that will help you make the right decision.
Familiarize yourself with educational philosophies
For parents, the hardest part about choosing preschools is trying to make sense of numerous philosophies such as, “Montessori Approach,” “Waldorf Approach“, and “Play-way” etc. To make things simple and clear, we’ve given a very brief summary of some of the most common philosophies below.
The Montessori Method
This approach, developed by Maria Montessori in Rome in the early 1900s, is child-centred, with teachers guiding and assisting and not instructing.
It focuses on letting children learn at their own pace by maintaining the individuality of each child. The mixed age classrooms have children aged between two and a half to five, all being in the same room. This allows the older children to serve as role models for the younger ones, encourages them to help each other building their character, self-esteem and confidence in the process. Children generally have the same teacher for those formative years, allowing close teacher-student relationships to develop.
Why Parents go for it:
Many parents choose Montessori because its helps their children acquire independence and social skills. Concepts of learning are first understood and then learnt through material they can see and touch. The student-teacher ratio is lower than that of other preschools allowing for more individualized learning.
The Reggio Emilia Approach
The city Reggio Emilia in Italy is recognized worldwide for its innovative approach to education, known as the Reggio Emilia Approach.
Reggio Emilia schools are known for providing opportunities for problem solving, creative thinking and exploration. In this project-based approach, which many preschool programs have adopted, lessons are taught and based on the interest of the students.
Why Parents go for it:
The project based program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery. Children are also viewed as social beings and parents who want their child to learn all about cooperation in relation to other children, family and others around them.
The Waldorf Approach
This play-based approach is characterized by a structure, providing children with a fixed routine where certain days of the week are set for activities like baking or gardening.
This approach places an emphasis on imagination in learning, providing students with opportunities to explore their world through the senses, participation and analytical thought with children spending a lot of time outdoors.
Why Parents go for it:
It is against traditional grading systems and does not include media (computers, videos or electronics of any kind) and also does not involve academics, which means no homework, tests, handouts or even desks. There is plenty of room for creativity and imagination at the pre-school level within the structured routine. The exclusion of electronic media allows children to be exposed to the natural world as they are encouraged to spend a great deal of time outdoors.
The Bank Street Approach
Bank Street was developed by the Bank Street College in New York City. This approach places an emphasis on learning through multiple perspectives, both in the classroom setting and in the natural world. It believes that children are “active learners, explorers, experimenters and artists” and benefit from a diverse curriculum and aims to help children make sense of the world around them by studying multiple aspects of social studies.
The High/Scope Approach
This approach focuses on letting children be in charge of their own learning. Children are taught to make a plan for what they would like to do each day and participate in a review session to discuss the success of their plan and brainstorm ideas for the next day.
It’s important to not get carried away by the philosophies alone. Do remember to ask how the pre-school implements and modifies the philosophy in their curriculum to suit the Indian context. Some dilution and combination is good, but only as long as the school and existing parents are clear, confident and satisfied with its long term results.
Research and Recommendations
Once you’ve acquired a rudimentary understanding of educational philosophies, ask people you trust like your friends, neighbours, paediatrician, your older child’s teacher, etc. to suggest a few pre-schools.
Remember, most people will recommend a place and offer their advice based on how pleasant their experience was. The best question to ask parents is, “What advice do you wish you had received before choosing your child’s pre-school?”
Once you’ve gathered a few names and opinions use the internet to check out the schools’ websites and more importantly interact and gather feedback from parents through forums like Parentee and mycity4kids.
Zero in on a few choices based on cost, distance from your home, work and other basic factors like timings which will make the rest of the process hassle-free.
Stay tuned for part two coming next week, which will help you get prepared for your visit to pre-schools.