Choosing a Preschool– Different Philosophies
Welcome to the series Choosing a Preschool. If you’re just joining in, I encourage you start from the beginning to see what got me started in my preschool research. Then check out the introduction regarding what this series will cover. And finally, visit the things to think about post. Today I’m focusing on explaining different preschool approaches and philosophies. This was something that completely threw me. I had no idea there were so many different options out there. No, it really doesn’t have anything to do with food allergies, just demystifying all the differences.
First you’ll need to decide which approach you’re looking for: a developmental preschool, an academic preschool, or a combination of the 2. Typically a philosophy will encompass one of these approaches.
Academic—Are you hoping your child will learn letters, numbers, begin to write, and read? If so, this is the type of preschool you’ll want to focus on. An academic based preschool is very similar to a kindergarten class. Academic settings are much more structured.
Developmental—Are you hoping your child will get a chance to try a hand at art, creativity, dress up, play, outside time? Then this is the type of preschool for you.
Of course you can find a combination of the two.
There are many different preschool philosophies. Some of the most common:
Montessori—In a Montessori, the teachers serve more as guides. Typically, a lesson is introduced to the entire class, but then they break in to smaller groups to explore the lesson at the children’s own pace. This philosophy is that children are individual learners and learn at their own pace. The children are encouraged to learn through all 5 senses. And the classes typically have 3-6 year olds all together so the older children help the younger children learn.This approach is great for children with special needs since they receive such individualized attention. Montessoris are very hands on and also teach children how to take care of their own needs and belongings. For more info go here.
Reggio Emilia—Very similar to a Montessori in the fact that the children are the leaders and the teachers are the guides. Only, with this philosophy the teachers observe what the kids are interested in first and then guide them to take on projects that pursue their interests further. So instead of the “guides” coming up with the lesson plans, essentially the kids are. A lot of their philosophy also surrounds the environment. For more info go here.
Waldorf—A Waldorf school’s teaching philosophy is one that follows anthroposophy; the belief that in order to understand the world, the children must first understand humanity (body, soul and spirit). This philosophy also focuses on creative play (creating their own toys), routine (student often continue through grade school with the same teacher) and teamwork. The original founder believed children learn best through imitation. For more info go here.
High/Scope—This is more of an academic approach. The focus on this preschool is academic skill development. For more info go here
Play-Based—Play-based preschools are just that; they focus on age-appropriate activities and teach kids through play. Typically different stations are set up encouraging different types of play (dress up, make believe, art, etc).
Religious—Preschools with a religious emphasis typically combine one of the above philosophies with age-appropriate religious teachings. If a religious component is important to you, make sure you familiarize yourself with the other philosophies and determine which you’d like to look for.
A combination—there are some preschools that combine some or all of the above.
Up next in the series will be Important Questions to Ask.