Parents when asked to recall their school days often remember the stern walls and the sterner teachers. Their best memories of school are the ones where they played on their school ground, conversations with friends or experiments in the school lab. Today, as many of them seek new schools for their children they are on the lookout for meaningful alternative ways of schooling. They seek an environment where the child will learn to think independently rather than simply learning by rote. There are a dizzying array of alternative schooling methods. A few methodologies have been gaining momentum from some years now and are worth exploring. They include the Montessori method, the Waldorf method, the Reggio method and the Sudbury method, to name a few.
It is very important to find out in detail about these alternate methods and how they function before parents decide which method is the best fit for their child. Parents often enroll their children into alternative schools with enthusiasm but pull them out when they do not perform like traditional schools. Several factors like fear, uncertainty, pressure from the family and peers and a lack of understanding young children and their learning needs contribute to this.
People often ask me how to pick the right pre school?
My exposure to teaching as a Waldorf early childhood educator has made me understand what is conducive to a child’s learning. The Waldorf method emphasizes on educating the Head(Mind), Heart(Soul) and Hands(Body) of a human being, this method is fast gaining acceptance in India and abroad.
The following were my key take-aways as an educator.
ENVIRONMENT of the schools should be home- like, simple yet aesthetically set up. This does not include fancy coloured walls, huge infrastructure, battery operated toys, television and so on which can over stimulate a sensitive child.
FREE MOVEMENT: Young Children have a very short attention span and hence any activity should not force or expect the child to be seated in one place for more than 15-30 mins. Children should be allowed to move around freely from indoors to outdoors or the reverse with adult supervision.
NON- STANDARDISED TESTING: A slow and loving journey which supports the child’s abilities goes a long way in comparison to an over stimulating one filled with racing, competing and likewise.
INFORMAL LEARNING: Reading and Writing should be introduced when the child is ready! Many preschools today introduce reading and writing by using unique/ fancy techniques, which is not considered age appropriate. A child should be allowed to grow at its own pace (Organically). Adults do not intervene and make them grow /learn fast by using so called fancy techniques (Inorganic ways).
CHILD CENTRIC CURRICULUM: Look for child centric curriculum based on the needs of modern children rather than fixed and rigid ones.
SENSORY OR NATURE PLAY: A healthy preschool program should expose children to play in Nature (exposure to five elements). Children who are tied up within four walls without being allowed to feel the wind on their face or the dirt on their little hands may develop low immunity.
I am not suggesting any schools here in specific, please visit the schools in person and look for the above qualities in them. I hope many parents who want to choose an alternative preschool find this useful. All the best!