Choosing a curriculum that suits your child
The preschool years are extremely important as they build the foundation for your child’s learning years, and at the very least probably determine how much they enjoy school. Children have a magical capacity to learn and absorb information through the various activities they go through in their day. Therefore, picking the right preschool curriculum for your child can be quite overwhelming, especially since there are so many educational philosophies to consider.
Which preschool curriculum suits your child best?
There are three main elements that every preschool curriculum should deliver:
It should create an interest in learning
Avoid going for curricula that sound very academic or rigorous in nature. Instead, go for programmes that are inviting and create an enthusiasm to learn and excel. Look out for more hands-on activities, nature walks, sensorial materials, reading, culture activities, art projects and the like.
It should promote wholesome development
Irrespective of the philosophy, a preschool curriculum should stimulate learning while ensuring they meet the social, language, physical and cognitive development goals of the child. Children should have the freedom to move and socialise within a harmonious environment. Check if the activities are age appropriate and boost the all-round development of your child.
The curriculum should be adaptable
The curriculum should be designed in a way that it gives children the freedom to learn at their own pace. Learning takes its best course when children find meaning in what they are studying, not when we drill ideas and concepts into their mind through repetition. The goal is to help them discover their passion and develop a lifelong love of learning.
Does the preschool curriculum accommodate your child’s learning style?
Preschoolers cannot be burdened with worksheets and tests. We cannot expect children to complete writing work when they haven’t grasped how to hold a pencil. Children prefer moving around, playing and engaging in hands-on activities. Identify the learning style of your child and find a preschool that includes activities for all kinds of learners.
For example, if your child is a visual learner he might love to learn by watching activities, events, images or science experiments. Visuals learners are very observant and they like to soak in in the details. If your child is a tactile or physical learner, they would love to jump, dance, run and interact with the environment around them. On the other hand, an auditory learner enjoys learning through stories and conversations.
Does the curriculum give you learning opportunities?
A great curriculum is not only beneficial for the child but also the parents. Involvement of parents in the learning process of the child is essential to their success. Do they allow you to get involved in the child’s learning experience? How do they communicate their goals so that you can work with the teacher to help your child perform better? Parenting classes or tips are also a great way to help you work for the well-being of your child.
Time to switch preschools?
Your child hates to go the preschool and you have come to a point where you are considering other alternatives. Maybe your child is too shy and has problems interacting with people and therefore needs a preschool that is gentle and has methods of helping children get along with each other – even the shy ones. Maybe your child needs a little more attention from the teacher and would work better in a low-ratio classroom? No matter the circumstance, if your child hates going to preschool, then something should be done about it immediately as there are many years of learning ahead and you don’t want a child who hates school.
Play-based or academic curriculum?
In play-based curriculum, children mostly choose activities based on their interest. Though it might just look like they are playing, they are actually learning valuable skills including social skills through interaction and cooperation.
An academic-based curriculum is more teacher-directed. Teachers plan the activities for the children and guide them through the process. This kind of curriculum is specially designed to prepare children for school. It mainly consists of learning letters, sounds, shapes, colours and other skills.
So which preschool curriculum is best?
Most parents prefer academic-based learning as they want their child to have a smooth transition to school. However, this is true only to a certain extent. The preschool years are an important time to develop social and emotional skills, which help to set a stage for academic learning. If you feel that a play-based curriculum is not suitable for your child as it might get chaotic, you could go for a setting that is more structured.
The Montessori Method gives you the perfect combination of an academic and play-based curriculum that nurtures an active learning style in the children. The didactic materials have been developed by Dr Maria Montessori through years of extensive research culminating in a scientific pedagogy that has been highly appreciated by parents and children alike.
Your child can enjoy a wide range of intriguing materials like jugs, bowls, spoons, ladles, sensory materials, language materials, and number work coupled with the adventure of outdoor play, nature walks, cultural activities and projects. The 5 core areas of the Montessori approach include:
The practical life area encourages the child to perform activities such as spooning, transferring, and pouring which help in the development of coordination, improves concentration and fosters independence.
The sensorial materials help the children refine their senses of touch, smell, taste, sound and sight through new experiences. The materials aid in the development of the cognitive abilities of the child.
The language materials encourage the children to develop both reading and writing skills. Teachers also introduce the phonetic approach which enables the child to move gradually from simple words to full sentences.
The number work materials consist of fun and intriguing materials which introduce various mathematical concepts to the child. They provide a hands-on and minds on approach to learning number work.
Cultural activities and projects
The cultural activities and projects help the child to understand the world and connect with it in a better way. The projects are supported by the concrete materials which are further classified under subjects such as geography, history and botany. Music, art and craft are deeply interwoven in the daily approach.
The lessons in the Montessori method are delivered individually as well as in groups. This helps the teachers to understand and discover more about each child and their development. By participating in the group activities, children learn to interact, build relationships and help each other. Even decades after its creation, the elements of the Montessori Method continue to stay relevant, making it one of the more popular preschool curricula among parents across the world.
Giving your infant a great start
Giving children the best possible start in life has always been The children’s house philosophy. What better way than to start from as early as 2 months through the school’s dedicated infant centres. The carefully crafted Infant Programme includes Baby Art, Baby Gym, Baby Read, Baby Touch, Baby Chef, Baby Music, Baby Sensory Play and Sunshine Baby.
The programme is holistic and leverages on the optimum period of learning in infant development during the first three years of life. The holistic angle places emphasis on the development of infants’ emerging physical, sensory, motor, perceptual, cognitive, language and social-emotional skills.
A holistic curriculum for infant development
Babies need stimulation to encourage them to explore the world through all their senses — sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Through the infant programme that creates specialised learning spaces, the babies are placed in an environment that gives them opportunities to experience different stimuli in a safe and encouraging space.
The children’s house has created beautiful spaces with the babies in mind. The play area is colourful, surrounded by books and toys, cushioned crawl spaces and tall windows to let in natural light. The furniture and facilities in the environment are scaled down to their size to provide a safe and secure environment for the little ones. The experienced and well-qualified caregivers (aunties) interact with the babies and make them feel comfortable in the space.
Parents can be assured that the centre is run on a framework of care, attachment and play.
Core features of the Infant programme
Caregiving – It provides the context within which much of infant learning takes place. It emphasises respectful, responsive and reciprocal interactions between the caregivers and the infants during routine caregiving. Careful attention is given to promoting infant well-being and comfort.
Attachment – Infants develop and thrive best when given a nurturing, loving and responsive environment. Sense of trust, security and attachment is nurtured and it encourages exploration and the development of self-identity and self-esteem in infants.
Play – Play creates opportunity and the context for infants to observe and learn about the world and enhances their cognitive abilities, language skills, improve their physical abilities, how to deal with various emotions, learning about themselves and what they are capable of.
The children’s house is motivated to mould a generation of children who are socially and emotionally balanced, resilient and environmentally responsible through the integrated Montessori curriculum. The teachers and caregivers of The children’s house are trained and experienced in delivering memorable and positive learning experiences, as well as building close partnerships with parents in supporting the child’s needs.
Q&A with The children’s house
In terms of a preschool education, what do Malaysian parents want most?
Typically parents perceptions are more towards academics and they hope their children would learn to read and count after a few months of pre-school. Most parents are strongly in favour of high academic reputation and their expectations are high. They look at the quality of the service, facilities, trained staff and a strong academic curriculum in preparation for primary school as their reason for sending their child to preschool.
Some parents desire for their children to mix with other children of their own age and some parents have said they felt social pressure to enrol their child in pre-school so they would not be behind their peers. There are a small percentage of parents who prefer their child to learn through play, which is so fun because children love outdoor activities, music and movement and drama.
Why is it important for early childhood education to centre around the child?
Children are sponges and every new thing that they experience throughout their early years are important. This happens from ages 0 to 6 years, during the first stage of development. The child has incredible powers of absorption. The child needs a great degree of care from parents, careers and educators, as they are vulnerable. From ages 0-3 years, with a high quality of environment that provides movement, is positive, stimulating and has order and structure, greatly helps the child to learn unconsciously.
Learning becomes conscious and the mind is still absorbent from ages 3-6 years. They have the inner drive for independence and can separate from their caregiver. They begin to express, have social awareness and friendships emerge. It’s best to start early than to wait, as the child will miss his incredible powers of absorption. Early childhood education is centred around the child so as to have well-rounded individuals.
What do children of that age benefit from a preschool?
A child has to go through the separation from their care-giver, socialise, be part of a routine of going to school and an environment where a teacher could give him the amount of freedom or he needs to re-orientate his personality while helping him maintain self-control.
The child should be guided so that he can find his natural path and all this can only happen in a prepared environment where the child finds working with materials that entice and focus his mind. Working repeatedly with a task chosen freely by the child and with no interruptions becomes a good habit and forms neural pathways.
Is it all about play?
Preschool is so much more than just playing. While the basic educational benefits of preschool (such as literacy and numeracy) are tangible, the advances children achieve towards becoming well-rounded individuals are truly invaluable.
Tell us about the Montessori Method
Self-education, where children learn in a prepared environment, that provides them with activities and present opportunities for exploration, investigation and problem solving is an important part of The children’s house and the Montessori Method. Children also learn having the freedom to choose the activity with no interruptions and they have the responsibility of returning the materials to their places. These experiences give the child a sense of security, stimulate intelligence and promote physical and psychological development.
Individual didactic materials are provided to allow children to learn and teach themselves at their own pace. Materials are used by a child one at a time whereby a child learns to wait for his turn and this teaches them patience and respect.
An environment prepared, safe and secure, which are filled with items that can be touched and manipulated by the child. It is placed neatly, orderly manner and made accessible to the child, whereby this encourages exploration. The child blooms with a pursuit for knowledge, creativeness and curiosity. Through this curiosity they also learn the world around them. Through all these activities, comes communication where their thoughts, feelings and information is shared. Communication is a key skill of life.
Concrete experiences give children the ability to reason beyond limits and to be able to interpret better. Children start with concrete experiences and move on to abstract at a later stage. Concrete thinking is important for mental development as it provides a base for abstract thinking. With the help of the materials in a Montessori environment and interaction with teachers, the young mind first explores and then develops towards abstract thinking. Abstract thinking is an important for it allows logical and thoughtful behaviour.
Preschool settings that encourage all these elements are important to set the foundation for learning at the primary level with thinking and life skills that will last a lifetime.
Teachers play a great role in our lives, especially in the early days and have a greater impact on our successes than we typically realise.
Children, especially at a young age are so excited about the world around them. They are filled with curiosity and an imagination that is sincere and generous. Every day is an opportunity to discover something new about themselves and the world around them. Thus, it is important that they find teachers who are filled with the same passion, allowing them to explore their talents and inculcate the love of learning. Every child is unique and a passionate teacher can identify their uniqueness and support them on their individual paths. A passionate teachers cares enough to provide all the support and resources necessary for a child’s development. It is these early years of a child’s growth that form the foundation to later years as a successful adult.
Lasting impact of a teacher on young minds
In his blog The GatesNotes, Bill Gates writes about how Mrs Caffiere, a librarian and teacher, helped him break out of his shell by sharing her love of books with him. While Gates was a timid 9-year-old boy shying away from everyone and trying to hide his love for books, Mrs Caffiere helped him recognise his strength and encouraged him to do what he loved.
“Looking back on it now, there’s no question that my time with Mrs Caffiere helped spark my interest in libraries (Melinda’s and my first large-scale effort in philanthropy) and my focus on helping every child in America get the benefit of great teachers,” says Gates in his blog post A Teacher Who Changed My Life.
Teachers are the ones who recognise the natural talents of the students and build an environment that is conducive to their learning. It is remarkable to see how a teacher can have such a powerful influence in shaping the personality of a young child.
What does research say about teachers?
The influence of a teacher is not just limited to a student’s academic life but goes a long way resonating through various other stages. Economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman and Jonah E. Rockoff conducted a study on more than a million students and released it in their paper entitled, The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teachers Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood.
They found that high ‘value-added’ teachers not only have an impact on the test scores of students but also improve their chances of attending good colleges, earning more, living in better neighbourhoods and saving more for retirement.
However, it is also important to understand that a teacher who lacks interest can be detrimental to a student’s development. Such a teacher might just follow the instructions of the regulators, being ignorant to the needs of the student.
Just like the passion of a good teacher is contagious and motivates students to achieve higher goals, an indifferent teacher can lead to lower self-esteem in a child. When children feel accepted by their teacher, they believe in themselves too. On the contrary, an uninterested teacher might tear down the self-esteem of the child. Such children often grow up to be adults who are insecure and focus on their failures more than their successes.
The mind of a young student is fragile and needs to be moulded and nurtured in order to pave the way for success. If the talent of a child is not recognised and nurtured, it leads to low self-confidence and often a state of delusion about what they want to do in life.
Research states that it is what teachers know, do, and care, which accounts for 30% of the student’s achievement. While one student might need the motivation to play the next match after an injury, the other might be going through personal troubles and needs someone to talk to. Students in all stages of their life need a teacher who can inspire them and re-instil faith in their capabilities.
Do you remember that one teacher who inspired you to be who you are today?
The wonders of the Montessori Method
The Montessori Method of education was developed by Dr Maria Montessori, based on her keen observations of how children learn in a carefully prepared environment when they are given the opportunity to educate themselves.
Even after a century after its creation, the Montessori method of education remains popular among teachers and children. Irrespective of the changes in national education systems around the world, the elements of the Montessori Method have remained relevant and have stood the test of time.
Respect the child
Respect for the child is the first principle, which has been the cornerstone of Montessori Method since its inception. This is the element where a child is given the freedom to select the material he wants to work with. When we respect the choice of the child without interrupting him, a positive environment for learning is created. “As a rule, however, we do not respect children. We try to force them to follow us without regard to their special needs. We are overbearing with them, and above all, rude; and then we expect them to be submissive and well-behaved, knowing all the time how strong their instinct of imitation is and how touching their faith in and admiration of us”, said Dr Maria. She believed that children have a strong instinct to imitate us. Hence, they must be taught with kindness if that is what we want them to reciprocate.
Absorbent mind of children
Dr Maria observed that young children are like sponges who have an incredible power of learning and absorbing from the world around them. She believed in the capability of children to educate themselves. “It may be said we acquire knowledge by using our minds; but the child absorbs knowledge directly into his psychic life. Simply by continuing to live, the child learns to speak his native tongue”. Children are born with an innate ability to learn that depends on their environment, experiences and interactions.
It refers to that period of time when a child is immensely focused and his brain urges him to learn a particular skill or immerse in an experience. It can be recognised in situations like a child’s interest in repetitively doing the same task till he masters it. The Montessori programme provides a child with an extended period of activity without any interruption. As a result, children follow their interest and progress naturally. The role of a Montessori teacher is to carefully observe these periods and based on this, the child can be guided towards the material that is best suited to his interest and the stage of development.
From her extensive research on the learning process of children and their development, Dr. Maria concluded that children learn best through independent learning in a prepared environment. The Montessori Method provides children with engaging activities and opportunities to learn and explore materials of their choice. The prepared environment in a Montessori preschool is focused at child-centred learning where educational experience and materials are available in a systematic way.
Dr Maria believed that children have the ability to educate themselves when provided with a carefully prepared environment. When children are actively involved in a prepared environment with no interruptions, and a freedom of choice, they absorb and learn from their experiences. The role of the teacher is to facilitate the learning and guide the children without making her presence felt too much.
The children’s house is an excellent Montessori centre that has adhered to the Montessori method of teaching for more than 30 years and still believes in it. Founded in 1986 by Nan Civel, the organisation has held on to Dr Maria’s educational materials in five curriculum areas: Practical Life, Sensory Activities, Number Work, Language and Culture. The curriculum engages students in a wide range of activities and values required for the holistic development of the child.
The children’s house ensures that all the furniture and material is scaled down to the size of the child and the environment is completely child friendly. By engaging children in purposeful activities like Tots Arts, Tots Music, Tots Gym and Sensory Play, the school aims at physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of the child. The well-planned classrooms and lower teacher child ratio encourage optimal learning and ensure complete care and attention to your little one.
It also collaborates with the parents to help them understand and share the joy of their child’s progress. Apart from conducting parent-teacher meetings on a regular basis, The children’s house encourages the participation of parents in the learning journey of their children. Parents are invited to events like cultural day celebrations, annual events (such as festival celebrations) and parent involvement projects (planting of vegetables). The children’s house believes that parental engagement is an essential factor for the all round development of the child. It fosters love, care and an enriching environment of mutual respect for the growth and development of the child.