Part 2 of 5
Previously, we discussed the benefits of a quality preschool program. Each week, we’ll discuss factors associated with quality preschool programs. First, we’ll begin by discussing several common types of curriculums and approaches.
A strong, nationally accredited curriculum is best. Look for accreditations with groups like CITA/SACS-CASI (AdvancED) or NAEYC. Play-based programs are repeatedly proven superior (as discussed here, by CNN here, here, and for a more scientific breakdown, here) and many different philosophies within that approach exist.
Don’t be put off by the terminology, either. A play-based program does not mean “less educational.” Children learn best through play, as opposed to rote memorization, basic regurgitation of information, and mindless repetition:
“In the USA a group of researchers studied the effects of three different curricula: a High/Scope 'purposeful play' programme, a 'free play' programme and a formal pre-school curriculum. (Schweinhart, Weikart and Larner, 1986. Consequences of three pre-school curriculum models through age 15). Children in all three groups showed gains in intelligence at school entry. However, a follow-up study at the age of fifteen revealed that the children who had attended the formal programmes showed more anti-social behaviours and had a lower commitment to school than those who had attended the two programmes based on play. This research demonstrates a link between an active learning programme before school entry and lasting benefits in the form of increased confidence and maturity in adolescence.”
— Start Right: The Importance of Early Learning. Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts
Piaget, Reggio Emilia, and Gardner are all excellent philosophical bases. A healthy balance of child-directed and teacher-directed activities is important, and you’ll want robust enrichment programs. Offerings such as foreign languages, music, art, sports, physical fitness and nutrition are generally present in quality schools.
Keep an eye out for schools that stress an individualized approach with lots of one-on-one learning. Teachers need to be well-educated with plenty of continuing education opportunities (as discussed in Part 3 of this blog). Also, you'll want a curricular approach that is based on the developmental level of the child, not necessarily the age. If a child must be in a particular classroom strictly because of age, they may be left behind or have their talents squandered from lack of stimulation and challenge.
Be sure to check back next week as we discuss the importance of quality preschool staff!