Itis officially springtime and now is the time parents start enrolling their little ones for preschool for the next academic school year.
This can be a daunting task as it is really hard to tell which preschool will fit with your child. I know this first hand as my daughter went through three preschools her first year. So alas, I come to you with a brief education on different types of preschools followed by a quick round up of some preschools in the northern suburbs of Chicago in this 2 part series.
Often times when parents go to check out preschools, we don’t really know what to look for or what to ask. For starters, I am going to clarify the some of the main preschool learning models because not all preschools approach teaching and learning the same way. I will also include a list of questions to ask when touring preschools.
The Montessori philosophy is based on the idea that children are independent learners and thinkers, and the teachers role is as facilitator of this independent learning. In addition to reading, language, and mathematics, children are taught practical skills (dressing themselves, preparing their own snacks and drinks, and cleaning up after themselves). A lot f parents consider this method more academically rigorous compared to most of the other models.
The philosophy of Waldorf preschool teaching is that people are made up of three components—soul, spirit, and body. The goal is to surround these little learners in an environment that is nurturing in an effort to stimulate and develop these three aspects. Children are discouraged from watching TV or playing video games; instead, the school creates a homelike environment in which they are encouraged to engage in creative free play. Daily activities at a Waldorf school may include drawing, painting, singing, reciting poems, modeling with clay, baking bread, constructing play houses out of boxes, or simply playing make-believe.
3)Through this teaching philosophy, teachers determine the interests of the children through observation, listening and inquiry. Children with similar interests are then placed in small groups where they are given the opportunity to plan their own projects and learn. Compared to Montessori, the Reggio Emilia approach is much less pragmatic, with an emphasis on creativity and exploration. The curriculum is focused on artistic development, sensory exploration, and aesthetics.
4) Play Based Learning
In a play-based program, children choose activities based on their current interests. The play-based classroom is broken up into sections, such as an art area, water table, reading nook, block room, or other areas. Teachers encourage the kids to play, facilitating social skills along the way. To the outsider, it seems like just playing but through this play, children are learning valuable social and pre academic skills. According to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) Play -based learning is “a context for learning through which children organize and make sense of their social worlds, as they actively engage with people, objects and representations (EYLF, 2009, p46).
Questions to consider when doing a preschool tour:
1) What is the school’s educational philosophy?
2) What are the teacher’s qualifications? What is the turnover rate?
3) How do they handle discipline?
4) What type of community involvement does the preschool have? Is there a strong parent community?
5) If the school serves food, who caters their food? Is it organic?
6) How is security handled at the preschool? What is their procedure for an emergency?
7) Ask for references!
Bring a folder and a pad of paper, write notes and collect their written material. You might be visiting a few schools so have your information nice and organized. Finally, if you find a preschool that you love, you might want to put a deposit down to hold a space as the good ones tend to fill up fast!
Part 2 will give you a starter list of several preschools in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
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