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Preschool Educational Philosophies

Although there are three main approaches to preschool education—Montessori, Developmental, and Traditional—there are many preschools that follow different educational philosophies. Eclectic preschools choose not ascribe to any one of the three aforementioned approaches but combine at least two of the three. Moreover, there are play-basedReggio EmiliaWaldorf and cooperative preschools. There are also more than one hundred day care centers around the city that are less structured than nursery schools but offer longer hours in an intellectually and socially stimulating environment.

Although there are three main approaches to preschool education—Montessori, Developmental, and Traditional—there are many preschools that follow different educational philosophies. Eclectic preschools choose not ascribe to any one of the three aforementioned approaches but combine at least two of the three. Moreover, there are play-basedReggio EmiliaWaldorf and cooperative preschools. There are also more than one hundred day care centers around the city that are less structured than nursery schools but offer longer hours in an intellectually and socially stimulating environment.

Montessori Preschools

Maria Montessori created a strict approach to training young children in the early 1900s, stressing a structured environment that relies on teaching task oriented skills (i.e., cleaning your space, putting materials away) rather than focusing on the children’s imagination or socialization skills. In a typical classroom, children are more likely to work individually on learning practical life tasks as well as language and math skills. While Maria Montessori encouraged an expeditious separation of children from their parents, few Montessori Schools in the City adhere to this approach and are supportive during the separation process.

Best Fit

Montessori prechools are best suited for children who are:

  • Advanced cognitively
  • Hands-on or visual learners
  • Self-motivated learners
  • Hesitant to make new friends or interact with adults

Developmental Preschools

In contrast to Montessori schools, developmental or progressive schools adhere to the developmental-interaction approach, believing that children learn through exploration and collaboration. The aim of this method is to allow the children to learn at their own pace through active play and to facilitate constant interaction between emotional and cognitive development. Teachers rarely use workbooks and tests but rely on manipulatives (i.e., blocks, water, sand, paint and puzzles) to teach math and reading skills. Students learn these skills at their own pace. Children are also given plentiful free time where socialization is encouraged.

Best Fit

Developmental preschools are best suited for children who are:

  • Advanced cognitively
  • Hands-one learners
  • Self-motivated learners

Traditional Preschools

In the middle of the preschool teaching spectrum lie traditional schools, many of which are affiliated with a religious institution. They have curriculum goals and use workbooks to teach mastery of specific math and reading skills. Traditional schools stress performance and systematically develop skills such as speaking, listening, time management and problem solving.

Best Fit

Traditional prechools are best suited for children who are:

  • Challenged cognitively and are not exposed to literacy or math at home
  • Auditory or visual learners

Play-Based Preschools

Play-based schools believe that free play with materials (i.e., art, blocks) that can be used individually or collaboratively is the best approach to develop young children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills. Teachers rarely hand out worksheets, and there is limited emphasis on letters and numbers.

Best Fit

Play-based prechools are best suited for children who are:

  • Advanced congnitively and are exposed to math and language skills at home
  • Kinesthetic or hands-on learners
  • Self-motivated learners

Reggio Emilia Schools

Teachers acts as researchers who work collaboratively with children on projects that involve exploration, discussion and revision. The curriculum emphasizes constructive thinking, planning and implementation skills. The children, with the instructor’s guidance, select the activities that they will pursue.

Best Fit:

Reggio Emilia prechools are best suited for children who are:

  • Advanced cognitively and are exposed to math and language skills at home
  • Auditory or hands-on learners
  • Self-motivated learners

Waldorf Schools

The Waldorf approach emphasizes experiental learning, focusing on developing intellectual, emotional, and spiritual capabilities along with core academic skills. Instead of textbooks, the schools use art and physical activity to teach each subject intensively for a few weeks at a time. Students typically stay with the same teacher for several years.

Best Fit:

Waldorf prechools are best suited for children who are:

  • Hands-on learners
  • Self-motivated learners
  • Hesitant to interact with other children or adults

Day Care Centers

Day care centers are less structured than nursery schools and are often considered eclectic, adapting a variety of the aforementioned methods to develop their curriculum. The schools tend also to be open from the early morning (about 8:30 AM) to evening (about 6 PM) to accommodate the schedules of working parents. Since the school day is longer, students learn math and reading skills at their own pace, have a great deal of free-time and take naps. Furthermore, day care centers are typically open year round, while nursery schools generally operate from September through May or June.

Cooperative Preschools

Cooperative preschools require parents to commit a substantial amount of time to the preschool and be heavily involved in the parent community. The educational philosophy is that parents, who know their own children’s academic strengths and weaknesses, will successfully integrate learning at home and at school.