As a parent of two children, a question bearing down on my mind is that of the best education. I remember participating in pre-school kindergarten at a very young age and enjoying myself, but the world is a different place now than it was then. Competition is tough, its everywhere, and starting earlier and earlier.
Even more concerning than competition to me is the educational (or lack of) path our society has taken. We have become lazy, self absorbed, idolatrous and lacking more and more in integrity. When I see where public education has gone over the years, I’m constantly bogged down with this fear for my children and what kind of life they will have as well as the kind of life I can give them.
Fortunately for me, I’m not alone. There really are others out there who have taken the steps necessary to allow our children a fighting chance and a real shot at growing, building character and recognizing their own value. Everyday there are new schools, toddler programs, and even infant programs emerging that will prepare them for what lies ahead. With these programs usually comes a very unique way of teaching and allowing children to grow to their potential different to that of the static public schooling system. This is important to me as a parent and as an active member of society.
But what are the current methods being used? Where do they come from and how do I as a parent trust in their philosophy?
Well, I’ve done some research for us all. Through my research, I have come up with:
3 concepts to consider what may aid in finding the right education for your child
- Not all schools/programs are created equally
- Find educational theories and methods that are tested and well represented
- Referrals and testimonials will tell a whole lot about what you are getting into
My hope is that with these three ideas, we as parents might be better able to understand the options that are out there and also become more determined to provide the right education for our children. It’s so easy to fall into the norm of what is lying around. But sometimes, the norm is more harmful than helpful.
Not all Schools and Programs are Created Equally
This should be common knowledge so I won’t be spending too much time on this idea. But out of all of this, I hope that you parents who are consequently and haphazardly following the “norm” of public schooling or no early schooling at all, without any further considerations might begin to question things.
Public schools are suffering, especially the schools found in the poorer urban and rural areas. This is where the system is nothing short of failing our children. The public systems found in areas with wealthier urban jurisdictions and districts are better, but they are still not what they could be. The bottom line is that money does matter when it comes to education in our country. And if any child is to have a chance in a public school, giving them the right building blocks early on is the only prayer.
So what exactly is “public” about these public education systems? Are we as parents able to choose the schools our children attend? Are we able to pick the curriculum or costs incurred or even the teachers? No. These schools are run by the government and unfortunately, good leadership here is lacking and the system is being monopolized.
So what are the other options? There are plenty!
Even home schooling
These are all giving the public systems a run for their money. The best part is the results are proven. Test scores and college admission applications are far more advanced from some of these other outlets than public schools everywhere.
But there is more than just education to consider. What about how our children interact with their peers and the many other social aspects that come from a proper education and learning environment? This is where you really have to get thinking.
Find well Represented and Tested Theories and Methods for Education
Leaders in education and philosophers all over the world have seen the problems with our systems. Many have researched and found holes in the way things are being taught and received. These people have spent a lifetime developing educational approaches that are catered development, expression, social capacities, and even independence as very important aspects of learning and growing. The interesting thing is that most of the more successful methods encourage this learning and development to begin at an earlier age than five far beyond what you find at a 3 hour a day twice a week pre-schooling program.
In my research I have found three excellent philosophies that have very competitive results with differing approaches to education. I want to talk briefly about all three of them and I hope you will want to learn more.
- The first philosophy (probably my favorite) comes directly from Reggio Emilia, a city in Italy that is recognized for its innovative approach towards education itself. This philosophy is based on the following set of principles:
- Children must have some sort of control over the direction of their learning
- Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing
- Children must have a relationship with other children and with the material items in the world that they are allowed to explore
- Children must have endless ways of and opportunities of expressing themselves
These principles are the basis of the approach. When exposed to this approach at an early age, children are better able to become their own active constructors of knowledge rather than being seen as the target of instruction.
Now compare this to public schooling. Most of the learning comes from a text book and a lecture. Sometimes there are movies or “extra curricular” readings assigned but again, it’s just text book. How is a child able to explore, create, become curious or form their own hypothesis about different topics if they are forced to read and study monotonously just to pass the next quiz or test with every other student around them?
- The second philosophy that struck my interest is another very well practiced method. It also comes from Italy and an educator by the name of Maria Montessori. This method is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom (within limits), and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.
With this method it is common to find:
- Mixed age classrooms that foster student choice in activity
- Each child being allowed uninterrupted blocks of work time
- A constructivist (or discovery) model where learning concepts of working with materials through experimentation rather than direction is the approach
- And freedom of movement within the classroom
This method is based around a principal that identifies each child, especially under the age of six, has an innate path of psychological development. The idea is that children free to act within an environment prepared accordingly would actually act spontaneously for optimal development.
- The last method I want to present comes from an Austrian educational Philosopher by the name of Waldorf Steiner and is commonly known as Waldorf Education. His philosophy actually distinguishes three stages of child development.
- Early years focus on providing practical hands-on activities and environments that encourage creative play
- The elementary years emphasize on developing artistic expression and social capacities
- Secondary education focuses on development critical understanding and fostering idealism
Throughout this approach, the role of the imagination in learning is stressed and strong values are placed on integrating intellectual, practical, and artistic themes.
When I compare this to public education, again, there is no competition in my mind. Anyone has the capacity to read and learn about a topic, but applying it, experimenting with it, and building it into one’s life is another story completely.
Referrals and testimonials will tell a whole lot about what you are getting into
The last idea I hope you all consider on your search for better education is that relying heavily on word of mouth and referrals can help put your mind and heart at ease when you start your little one in school.
Now settled in the Heights of Jersey City, New Jersey, you could imagine my worry in the matter of choosing the right school. What helped me find the best school for my son and future daughter, aside from my personal affinity towards the Reggio Emilia approach, was referrals and others’ stories of success.
Though a school may boast of using one of these (or other) esteemed methods of learning and education, it doesn’t mean they practice the way they should. Do your research. Do your due diligence and talk to people. Find a school early on, one that is nearby and start asking questions. Take a tour, talk to other parents, get online and read their ratings and testimonials. Build some ownership in the decision and GET ON THE LIST. Good schools usually have a waiting list of some sorts, make sure you are on it in due time. Once you have the information you are looking for, you can rest assured that your decision is a good one. For more information about about a daycare or preschool near you contact us today!