It's a Big Deal
At some point in a parent's life, they will make one of the most important choices in their child's interest, what do they choose for child care. There are so many things to consider. They have to balance the time of care with their work schedules, the model of child care, the cost of child care and the location of child care. They will be looking at the reputation of the child care center and they will be asking their friends for advice.
Different approaches to child care will appeal to different parents.
Some appreciate a Montessori approach where children are self-directed and tasks use of self-correcting materials that are constructed from natural materials. A Montessori student will choose their activities and work at them until they master them.
Some parents appreciate the Reggio Emilia approach where learning originates from the interests of the child and continues and grows as the child retains interest. It presents multiple intelligences to appeal to the different ways children learn and is collaborative.
Another approach is Waldorf which focuses on imagination and creativity. Unlike Montessori, creativity and pretend play is encouraged. Waldorf provides a center with natural wood and fabrics, pleasing to the eye and calming. They also teach life skills as part of the education so children will raise animals and learn to cook and sew.
Some daycares use themes and some use an emergent curriculum.
Some centers will be large and some will be small, family daycares.
Let me tell you where I am coming from. I see good things in all these pedagogies. And I see negatives. My approach has to been to take what I think works and combine them to create something amazing. Nothing is static. The group of children I worked with last year is not the group I have this year and that means that I have to always be changing as well. There has to be some direction. If I don't provide a variety of learning opportunities, my children won't know to ask for them. But, they decide if they need more time with a subject. It is symbiotic.
The one thing I don't compromise on is the size of my group. I have been challenged to develop my program into a larger center because there is always a need for more spaces. I can't do this. The main reason is that a small setting best represents the home. It has the nurturing figure/s and it has the sibling type relationships. It has the consistency and routine that is so essential for healthy development. It has the partnering of older children with younger children to help in learning skills and leadership. It has continuity. A child stays in the same environment and with the same children from 1 year to school. A small center can encourage visits from children who have left to go to school. There is continued contact with parents and family. A small center encourages independence and community responsibility. It is so much easier to for a small center to move around in the community and to be a presence in the community. When I think of the gains and losses, it is clear to me what I believe is in the best interest of the child. This is a personal decision and it comes from my own philosophy of Early Childhood Education.
Many people will approach the Early Years with a different philosophy and could itemize their reasons as well. All this is to say, it is a huge choice and a very personal one. We are so fortunate to have so many valid choices.
One thing everyone can agree on is the need for parents to be able to continue to make these informed choices themselves. They need to be able to ask the questions, select what is right for their children, and to be able to choose with that criterion in mind. What we offer children is our future as well.