Choosing a preschool for your child is never an easy task. Parents tend to have an array of mixed feelings about their child starting preschool, and it's natural to worry about how quickly they'll settle and make friends. You'll also want to find a preschool for your child that aligns with your parenting style and allows your child to spend their time doing things that are valuable for their age and stage of development. Educational and parenting philosophies vary between families, with some preferring to focus on play, while others seek out a more structured approach. So, when it comes to selecting a preschool program with the aim of preparing your child for their next steps in life, which type is right for your family? Here's an overview of the differences between the popular Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia preschool programs:
Montessori preschool programs have an academic focus, but they are also child-led. Teachers can direct children toward a range of educational activities, but they allow the children to engage in those activities without interference. Activities tend to be self-corrective, which allows children to learn about cause and effect and to problem-solve. Montessori preschools do not separate children into lower and upper age groups, so younger preschool children can learn from the older kids, and those who are older can take on a mentoring role, which can foster a sense of purpose and build self-confidence.
Waldorf preschools aim to encourage each child's natural curiosity and provide lots of opportunities for outdoor play, creativity and imaginative play. There is some structure to daily life in a Waldorf preschool, but formal learning or following an academic curriculum is not part of their philosophy. These preschools are play-based environments and hold strong to the idea that young children learn best through play and natural exploration of their world.
Reggio Emilia preschools facilitate the building of important life skills, such as cooperation, problem-solving and conflict resolution by enabling children to work together on projects. The projects are chosen by the children based on topics they have shown a natural interest in, and the preschool teacher will facilitate the children's exploration of these areas of interest. Teachers try to avoid providing answers to the children and allow children to gain answers to their questions by exploring their environment and the larger world they are part of.
Each preschool is a little different to the next, so when selecting a preschool for your child, visit as many as you can to get a good idea of what's on offer and where would be a good fit for your child. To learn more, visit a local preschool.