Finding the right preschool curriculum for your child

Finding the right preschool curriculum for your child

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.

A colourful abacus in curriculum.

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.

Preschool children enjoying mealtime as a part of curriculum.

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:

Practical life

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.

Sensorial

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.

Language

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.

Number work

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.

The key elements of the Montessori Method of teaching

The key elements of the Montessori Method of teaching

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.

Sensitive period

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.

Few children sitting on a bench in a preschool at Montessori.

Prepared environment

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.

Autoeducation

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.