Child Care: Child Care Philosophies

Montessori

Summary

This approach to early childhood education is named for Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) who was the first female to earn medical degree at an Italian university. She worked with “defective children” and helped them move beyond their assumed capacity for learning. She opened a childcare canter called “The Children’s House” and wrote extensively on her educational philosophies.

Today, schools and preschools patterned after Dr. Montessori’s approaches number over 5,000 in North America and are in many other countries. They are a diverse group of programs, each taking a unique approach to Dr. Montessori’s philosophies. These schools can use the name “Montessori” independently or become members of an association (e.g. American Montessori Society, Association Montessori Internationale).

Primary Characteristics / Main Themes

  1. Learning is child-directed, not teacher directed. Montessori programs strive to nurture a child’s own independence and initiative by showing respect for each child as a unique individual, and as distinctly different than an adult.
  2. Children learn best by having freedom within limits. Montessori programs strive to allow children to be free to move about the classroom, free to choose learning activities, and free to work alone or in groups. This freedom is in the context of limits on behavior and classroom organization.
  3. Montessori teachers are responsible to give the child a prepared environment of learning materials and stimulating experiences. There is much emphasis on natural materials that enhance sensory stimulation (wood blocks, yarn, peg boards, etc) and focusing on daily living activities (cooking, folding, cleaning, etc). The classroom is usually organized so that these materials and workstations are orderly and easily accessible to children.
  4. Children learn best when they feel secure and have a sense of belonging. By utilizing mixed age groupings and larger class sizes, Montessori programs strive to create a sense of “family” and to facilitate community learning.

For more information

Reggio Emilia

Summary

This approach to early childhood education is named for a town in northern Italy that was devastated by World War II. To rebuild their lives, the town’s citizens began by building and facilitating preschools for their children. Their approaches have gained worldwide attention partly due to one of the teachers, Loris Malaguzzi, who helped them in their efforts and guided the development of what is now know as “The Reggio Approach.”

Primary Characteristics/Main Themes

  1. The child is the primary guide of his of her own learning process.
  2. There are three agents in the learning process: the child, the parent(s) and the teacher. Cooperation is the primary model for interaction between these agents.
    • Teachers work cooperatively and not within a hierarchy.
    • Parent involvement with teachers and children is essential.
    • Teachers take the posture of learning from children and cooperating with their natural interests when planning projects. Teacher and child are interactive learners.
    • Children work cooperatively in small groups.
  3. Children have many “symbolic languages” and diverse ways to express their learning (i.e. sculpture, writing, dance, painting, reading, movement). Children’s learning is deeper and more comprehensive when they use different media and “languages” to express the same idea.
  4. The environment for learning is considered the “third teacher” and must be beautiful, inviting and serene. The classroom environment includes a “piazza” (main community square), a “bistro” (eating area), and an “atelier” (work studio).
  5. Teachers use videos, tape recorders and cameras to thoroughly document the children’s learning process. This documentation informs both teachers and parents and serves as a record of progress.
  6. Teachers use long-term projects based on the interests of the children to enhance the learning process.

For more information

Young Children, November 1993

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., and Forman, G. (Eds.) The Hundred Languages of Children: the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1993.

http://ericeece.org\reggio\news93.html (“Reggio Emilia: Some Lessons for U.S. Educators” by Rebecca S. New)

Waldorf Education

Summary

This approach to education is based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher who started the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919. Today there are over 650 Waldorf schools (preschool, elementary, secondary and high schools) and 1200 kindergartens in 43 countries of the world. While Rudolf Steiner also developed complex theories on “the spiritual nature of thinking” and created Anthroposophy (a science of the spirit), these philosophies are never taught in a Waldorf classroom. Steiner’s ideas about human development and the learning process are the foundation on which Waldorf education is based.

Primary Characteristics / Main Themes

  1. Waldorf schools are characterized by an integration of academics, the arts and hands-on learning. They aim to reach the child on all levels-“head, heart and hands.” Each subject studied is approached in many different ways-painting, dance, writing, poetry, drama, etc.-in order to teach “children as whole individuals.”
  2. Programs strive to meet each child at their appropriate developmental stages. Children will keep the continuity of the same teacher, or class guardian, during these key periods. Curriculum and pedagogical approaches are also tailored to each sage.
  3. Waldorf teachers, like Waldorf schools, are autonomous, and they have the freedom to set their own lesson plans, curriculum and activities.
  4. Waldorf education strives to teach children to “know and love the world,” emphasizing human and ecological values. The goal is not just to transfer information and skills, but also to develop a secure, meaningful individual.
  5. A typical Waldorf school day aims to coincide with a child’s natural rhythms. Teachers usually structure the main lesson at the start of the day when minds are fresh, focusing on social and physical activities in the afternoons when students tend to feel more sluggish.

For more information

Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
3911 Bannister Road
Fair Oaks, CA 95628
(916) 961-0927

Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship
http://www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk/education.htm

A Biography of Rudolf Steiner
http://www.rsarchive.org/RSBio.php

Playgroups

Summary

Playgroups offer regular opportunities for children and parents to socialize and learn developmental skills. Typically, playgroups consist of three or more parent-child pairs that meet weekly for a couple of hours for informal play and learning together. Children are usually at the same age and developmental level.

Primary Characteristics / Main Themes

  1. Playgroups can be informally arranged by a group of acquaintances or planned by an organization such as a hospital, church or community. If informally arranged, playgroups can turn into shared babysitting arrangements where only a few of the participating parents stay with all of the children for a couple of hours.
  2. Because they are usually scheduled during weekdays, playgroups are ideal for parents who have flexibility during the day.
  3. Some playgroups are coordinated by professional nurses, educators or therapists and thereby give parents unique opportunities to ask questions and learn new techniques.
  4. Since parents are usually supervising their own children, no state child care license s necessary.

For more information

Contact local hospitals, churches and community groups.

www.millbrookplaygroup.com (A website by an Alabama playgroup with some good descriptions and instructions on starting your own playgroup.)

Cooperative Preschools

Summary

Cooperative preschools are an increasingly popular type of early childhood education program for children starting at age 2.5 or 3 years to age 5 years. As non-profit organizations, “co-ops” offer reduced fees in exchange for increased parent involvement. Church groups organize many co-ops and some offer a religious emphasis. In Michigan, co-ops must be licensed by the state and are subject to the same licensing rules as a full-time childcare center.

Primary Characteristics / Main Themes

  1. Strong parent involvement is the key to co-op programs.
    • A parent board organizes and staffs the program and usually hires a trained early childhood teacher. As their children get older and graduate from the program, this parent board’s membership changes from year to year.
    • Many co-ops require all participating parents to take on a responsibility for the co-op, provide snacks occasionally and/or assist in the classroom occasionally. For parents that cannot participate during the day, some co-ops even have a non-participation option for a higher fee.
  2. Because co-ops often utilize parent volunteers and donated space, costs for participating parents are often lower than at traditional child care centers.
  3. Because co-ops are usually only in session for 2-3 half days per week, they are ideal for parents who have flexible schedules during the day. Some co-ops even offer nurseries for younger siblings of the preschoolers during the sessions that the parents must assist in the classroom.

For more information

Michigan Council of Cooperative Nursery Schools, Inc.
P.O. Box 1734
East Lansing, MI 48823

Parent Cooperative preschool International
National Cooperative Business Center
1401 New York Ave., N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20005-2160
(800) 636-6222

www.cooperative.org/children/cfm