Have you signed your children up for preschool?
[Some time later.]
Are your children going to some kind of preschool?
Have your children started preschool?
Wait. Haven’t we had this conversation already? Recently I realized that my preschool plans for my three year old twins amounts to home schooling. This summer they turned 3 – an age when there seems to be a mass exodus from the government funded Strong Start programme into not-free preschool programmes.
I should mention that I hold a post-undergraduate Montessori AMI diploma for the pre-school/kindergarten age group. I have also studied traditional early childhood education methods and have focussed my research on specific programmes such as the Waldorf and Reggio Emilia methods. Since I taught in an international school overseas for a number of years, I’ve also had the opportunity to observe programmes in various types of early childhood education programmes outside of Canada. While completing an educational administration and leadership programme at UBC and working on three different research projects, I had the opportunity to take part in further investigations that included a focus on the early years. The end of this story is that I should be a prime candidate for choosing to place my children in pre-school as soon as they turned 2 1/2.
We have a Strong Start programe up the road and also have one that is a little over a 30 minute walk in the other direction. As an alternative, the second school is a five minute drive from our home. These programmes are free, government funded programmes that run early childhood education programmes for the infant and preschool set. A child can start to attend the programme as soon as you are born. The catch is that it is a parent participation programme. This means that a parent, grandparent, caregiver or guardian needs to be with a child when he/she is on the premises. Once a child is confident taking part in the programme, the adult can step back and stay on the sideline, operating like a preschool assistant when a child needs assistance or guidance. The programme does not offer the same experience as a private preschool where the parent leaves for a few hours or the whole day (if it is a full-day Montessori programme for children age four and older).
Like the Strong Start programme, in Sweden there is less of an emphasis on reading and writing in the multi-age preschool programmes
At the two Strong Start programmes near our home the teachers are early childhood educators who have decades of experience working with young children. Their programmes have the look of a traditional preschool programme. This means that there is a strong literacy component built into the curriculum. Other developmental and educational goals are built into the programme. It could be argued that there is less of an emphasis on activities such as learning to write your letters and numbers and reading. The Strong Start programme is run in the morning or afternoon, depending on the location. Recently one school in Coquitlam started to run a programme that will have a Reggio Emilia focus to it, matching the focus of the school in which it is located. This programme runs in the afternoon.
For our family, with one income and two Strong Starts within walking distance, it makes sense to take advantage of a free programme. For my ex-Montessori colleagues, it would seem to be a deficiency to not have enrolled my children in a Montessori programme; however, I should clarify that I have set up a room in my home that has shelves and material set out. This material is the equivalent of the non-Montessori material and puzzles that you would set out in the early days of a new Montessori school year. Recently, through the generous effort of a local Montessori teacher (director), I was able to acquire early Montessori material to add to our collection. I will continue to create and find Montessori material to use with my children. So far their response to this additional material has been enthusiastic.
I have also managed to catch a few online workshops from the Waldorf Connection website. While the content of this website is geared towards home schooling parents using the Waldorf programme, there are some great tips for any parent who is homeschooling.
Recently I mentioned to a parent that I would be using the Strong Start programme coupled with attendance at a My Gym class and homeschooling experience. She exclaimed that I was fortunate to have my Montessori training to use with my children. Of course this is undeniable; however, recently I realized that any parent who is at home with his/her children has the same option to combine attendance at a Strong Start programme of their choice (each one will have a different flavour) and home schooling that will fill in the gaps for school readiness. This choice provides the opportunity for children to socialize in large groups with other children and get to know the rhtymn of a class and the requirements of being with a teacher. Most children will also have an opportunity to take part in organized activities where a parent is not present such as swim class, a sport or gymnastics course or a faith-based or language class.
A well run Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia or early childhood education programme is a beautiful sight to behold. I revel in the opportunity to either teach (be a directress/guide) or be in such an environment. For many parents this option makes sense and a combination of Strong Start and homeschooling efforts isn’t a preferred choice. In households where both parents work outside of the home full-time, daycare programmes with a preschool curriculum are a necessity. It is worth pointing out that the Strong Start programmes are equally as dynamic and stimulating as other traditional, Early Childhood programmes. In any school district there can be classes that attract different age groups and provide different experiences. Many families either don’t have the financial resources or simply choose to combine Strong Start classes with other opportunities for their children. Some parents have told me that their decision to not enroll their child in a formal preschool programme has been questioned. Others have said they are happy with the decision and feel that their child is prepared.
This is the decision that I have taken for my three year old children. I might change my mind a few months or a year from now; however, I wanted to share this information to inspire parents who might be thinking about bucking the trends and taking a different route.
For more information about homeschooling, here is a good resource to get you started.
More about creating a visual schedule for children. This might be of interest to some home schooling parents.
Mindset for Moms (an E-Book that helps mums to find perspective in their role as a mum)
The Wonder of Learning Reggio Emilia exhibition will be in New Westminster until December, 2012. Do try to visit if you can.
For more information about Strong Start, check out the Strong Start resource links on page 22.
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Daily Dish Archives: Pamela Chan/Publisher, BCfamily.ca