There are plenty of labels out there for early childhood programs, and they can be confusing and intimidating for busy parents of young children! But labels like Montessori, Reggio Emilia, or Waldorf aren’t usually the best way to judge a program, because each school is a unique collection of individuals, ideas, experiences, and goals. Labels can be shorthand for certain goals and practices, but nothing compares with getting specific information about specific schools’ philosophies and then seeing how they are put into effect on the ground. Whether they have a label or not, it is important that each school has thought carefully about its approach and that its practices align with its priorities and goals.
Rather than reading about different early childhood educational philosophies in the abstract, your best course is finding out what schools are actually available to you and then investigating them. Explore their websites, chat with other parents, and ask to chat with an admissions officer. To understand a school’s philosophy, consider these questions: How does the school seem to view its students—as vessels to be filled or as active participants in their learning? What seems to be the role of the teachers—top-down givers of wisdom or guides on the side who foster discoveries? What do the priorities in the classroom seem to be—academic milestones, social development, self-discovery, creative expression?Rather than reading about different early childhood educational philosophies in the abstract, your best course is finding out what schools are actually available to you and then investigating them. Explore their websites, chat with other parents, and ask to chat with an admissions officer.
By exploring these questions, you will start figuring out which schools best match your vision for your child. Once you’ve identified a few options, sign up for a virtual or in-person tour to see for yourself how the school’s philosophy works. If a school looks like it may be a good fit for your child, see if you can find some parents of current students and ask them about their experiences. The more information you have about the school, the more confident you will feel in your decisions.
- Do you have a clearly defined educational philosophy that I can read about?
- How is your philosophy demonstrated in different classes or subject areas?
- How do you make sure that every teacher understands and supports this philosophy?