From traditional academic preschools to child-led programs, there are many types of early education curriculum approaches out there. With so many school types to choose from, you might be asking yourself: What are these schools all about? And how can I find the one that best fits my child’s learning style? Here’s what makes each of these schools unique and the benefits they offer their students.
Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, this child-led method of education has multi-age classrooms where students work with, and learn from, each other. In the Montessori classroom, you will see various stations set up around the room where students can work both individually and together. The teacher does not stand in front of the class giving instruction; instead, the teacher goes from station to station observing, encouraging, leading and offering constructive feedback. Montessori education values each child as an individual and allows them to work at their own pace. A traditional grading system is not used. Instead, teachers provide regular feedback to both students and parents. This education style can foster a lifelong love of learning, enhances social interaction and also affirms each child’s individual skills and talents as they learn, grow and work at their own pace.
Based on the ideas and teachings of Rudolf Steiner, who opened his first school in Germany in 1919, Waldorf education focuses on the whole child. Steiner believed that the three developmental stages — early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence — were crucial when it came to learning, and that certain subjects should be taught during each of these stages. When students are instructed on a lesson, the instruction will be taught in a block that lasts for several weeks with a variety of unique avenues to learn the material. In a Waldorf school, one teacher will usually stay with the same class for several years, which means they really get to know their students. Open space, natural light, supplies made from natural materials and a learning environment that extends outdoors are all things that make the Waldorf classroom unique. Children learn in a hands-on environment, often engaging with nature. At times, they might participate in group lessons and then move on to work with peers to dive more deeply into the topic that was instructed.
There are a variety of private schools available and many reasons parents choose to go this route. Private schools are known for smaller class sizes, which have the potential to offer more one-on-one time and individualized attention from the teacher to the student. This also can enhance the communication between the parents and teachers, and allow more opportunities for interaction with the classroom — creating more of a community feel. Private schools are also able to customize their lessons and have more leeway than state-run traditional schools. In addition, private schools are able to focus on things state-run schools are not able to, such as offering a religious education. Private schools often hold their students to high academic standards and might expect more of their students in terms of workload and special requirements, such as community service or arts participation, which can all be beneficial for those who are hoping to further their education past high school.
Public Charter Schools
These schools are publicly funded, free to attend and run by independent contracts, which means they are different from the private schools in terms of funding, accessibility and structure. One of the benefits of a charter school is that it is not tied to a school district, which means they have more room for flexibility in their education and are open to all students regardless of where they live. Public charter schools are also able to offer smaller class sizes for their students than some of the traditional public schools, and online schooling for students who thrive in the online, self-paced environment. The charter school model often creates a sense of community between teachers, parents and students. Teachers have the ability to create a classroom that fits the needs of their students and the school is held accountable to the standards the charter and their communities agree to.
With so many incredible opportunities to choose from, it can be hard to know what is best for your child. Know that each child is unique and what works best for one, might not always work for another. If you are interested in learning more about any of these unique styles of education, contact a local school for tours and more information — and be sure to reach out to other parents who have experience. They always have a wealth of information to provide!