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A Glimpse into Different Preschool Philosophies


Montessori. Waldorf. Reggio Emilia. Cooperative. Play-based. I had no idea there were so many types/approaches for preschool learning. And these are just a handful. I’m still trying to digest what each of these means., and all have some great info on these different types of preschools. I’ve pulled information directly from these sites to provide a brief overview of some of the more common types of preschools.

Do you have any experience with any of these programs?

Montessori (as described by

The underlying idea of Montessori is that children are individual learners with teachers as guides. Children participate in a variety of hands-on-activities. Play materials are designed for specific purposes, which guide the child’s playtime. Montessori fosters personal responsibility by encouraging children to take care of their own personal needs and belongings, such as preparing their own snacks and cleaning up their toys. A wide range of ages may learn together in one classroom, and children are encouraged to help each other learn.

Who It’s For (as described by

Since students have the freedom to do tasks at their own speed, and to choose their own projects and playthings, Montessori schools typically are considered a great choice for special needs and gifted children. 

Waldorf (as described by

The underlying principle of the Waldorf program is dependable routine. The daily and weekly schedule follows a consistent rhythm, and teachers often remain with the same group of students for up to eight years, allowing them to form a trusting relationship. The atmosphere is home-like, with all-natural furnishings and playthings and a group-oriented curriculum. Waldorf emphasizes creative learning, such as play-acting, story readings, singing, and cooking. The goal of this system is to develop the child emotionally and physically as well as intellectually.

Who It’s For (as described by

Almost any child will flourish within a Waldorf preschool, but the programs are especially well-suited for children who thrive on repetition.

Reggio Emilia (as described by

The curriculum consists of projects that reflect the interests of the students. Teachers observe the spontaneous curiosity of their students, and then guide them to create projects that reflect their pursuits. Children are expected to learn through mistakes rather than correction, as they are considered equal learners. Their play and projects are documented in photographs and records of their own words, which allows teachers and parents to follow each student's progress and helps children see their actions as meaningful.

Who It’s For (as described by

Reggio Emilia schools are recommended for children who tend to have long-term interests and hobbies, and who are comfortable working both independently and with others.

Cooperative (as described by and

According to In cooperative preschools, parents are involved with teaching and supervision. These preschools can draw on any of the major educational philosophies, or a combination of them. 

According to It’s distinguishing characteristic is that parents take on significant roles at the school Participating parents take turns to fulfill various duties, such as school upkeep or preparing snacks. A professional teacher is usually hired, but may be assisted by parents in the classroom. This can be a less expensive alternative, as heavy parental involvement minimizes extra costs.

Who It’s For (as described by

This depends on the educational philosophy that’s being followed at the cooperative preschool – but do make sure that you’re prepared, as a parent, for the level of involvement this preschool may require.

Play Based (as described by

Play based preschools are considered to be the most popular. The philosophy behind these types of preschools is that young children learn best through play-based activities. Most play based programs offer structured activities as well as non-structured play times. Teachers help to facilitate learning through play and interaction with other children. Gaining social skills is also a focus of these programs. Play based advocates believe that the child’s development, in this environment helps, helps the child to be ready for primary school.

BabyCenter provides a great article describing top preschool programs and how they differ. Now that I’ve started my research I’m not any closer to figuring out which preschool will be best suited for my soon-to-be preschooler. Any tips/suggestions based on your own research and experience would be greatly appreciated. Alternatively, does it really matter? 

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Reader Comments (1)

We've settled on a Spanish-immersion preschool. I'd say it looks mostly play-based, although there are parent involvement activities and they have a somewhat set routine to the day. We actually are monolingual, but in a very diverse neighborhood, and I am hoping that learning Spanish will help the kid access his peers in the neighborhood. (Yes, I expect those kids will be learning English too, but real friendship is easier to form when you are meeting someone half-way.)

I've got to say, I found the pre-school selection process pretty overwhelming. Around here, you need to apply 6 months to a year in advance to get into the "better" preschools. And honestly, I am damned if I know whether it makes a difference.

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

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