When parents of preschool-age children tour our school, they invariably explain that they are looking for the best possible start for their child’s academic journey. They share with us what they have read, what they have explored and look to us for validation that we are ‘it’, the best possible start for their child. Their palpable tension over this choice speaks to its immensity: will the ‘wrong preschool’ doom their little person to a life of mediocrity?
In reality there are many good choices for any one child. Our preschool program is Montessori-based because it puts the child at the center of the learning process. We believe the Montessori method, where children are free to choose lessons, explore, and repeat with guidance from a teacher, provides the best foundation for lifelong learning. And this is the key to a successful choice: figuring out where your child fits in a given preschool’s philosophy of learning is where you should focus your attention as you evaluate your options.
There is much evidence that a trend toward more teacher-directed instruction is not in the best interest of our youngest learners. The Atlantic offers a thorough assessment of the impact of teacher-led as opposed to student-led learning: The New Preschool is Crushing Kids noting “The same educational policies that are pushing academic goals down to ever earlier levels seem to be contributing to—while at the same time obscuring—the fact that young children are gaining fewer skills, not more.”
So as you go about choosing the best preschool program for your child, observe how learning occurs. Do the children talk with one another, share ideas, use the teacher as a resource? Is there lots of movement as well as children focused on particular projects? If your answers are yes, then relax a bit. You are on the right track.