Preschool 101: Teaching Philosophies and Styles

If you think all preschools are the same, think again. While early childhood education has been around since the mid-1800s, the last one hundred years have seen a wide variety of early child educational philosophies and teaching styles emerge. These continue to evolve today and help make each preschool unique. Learning about the differences in approach can help you choose the preschool that is just the right fit for your child.

The many different philosophies of preschool education fall into two very broad categories: “Play-based”/“child-directed” or “academic”/“teacher-directed”/“traditional” programs. The first, in the words of early childhood education pio

neer Maria Montessori, is that “play is the work of the child.” Play-based educational philosophies include:

  • Montessori, where teachers serve as guides to developmentally appropriate activities that are engaging and imaginative. Children choose activities themselves. Hands-on learning is also part of the Montessori process.
  • Bank Street, which emphasizes the whole child — emotional, social, physical and intellectual education — in an experience-based, interdisciplinary and collaborative setting.
  • Reggio Emilia, which focus on self-expression and the importance of community.
  • Waldorf, also known as Steiner education, which highlights imagination in the intellectual, practical, and artistic development of students.

In “academic” or “teacher-directed” preschools, teachers are the leaders, planning structured classroom activities — such as seasonally themed lessons — and guiding children. Teacher-directed classrooms are more structured and predictable; students follow a set schedule of activities planned by the teacher. Such structure aims to prepare children for kindergarten; learning letters and sounds, distinguishing shapes and colors, counting and doing worksheets is the focus. Play often takes place only during recess time.

Both play-based and academic preschool philosophies have advantages and disadvantages, and high-quality preschools of both types offer great preparation for kindergarten. What does your child need to thrive in a learning environment? What are their strengths and areas of improvement? What do you hope for them to get out of preschool? Ultimately, it is important to understand your own child’s learning style and personality to make the right choice.

February 2021 Books

February 2021 Books

February 2021 Books February is Black History Month! Celebrate with these books… The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer Told in rhyming text, this book follows the alphabet as we learn all about black history of the U.S. and around the...

February 2021 Amazing Activities 

February 2021 Amazing Activities 

February 2021 Amazing Activities February is Black History Month! Read a picture book by a black writer or illustrator together. Groundhog Day! Teach your child to make shadow puppets and look out for six more weeks of winter! February is also National Bird Feeding...

January 2021 Amazing Activities

January 2021 Amazing Activities

January 2021 Amazing Activities What is a goal for this year that you and your child can commit to achieving? January is National Hobby Month! What is a hobby your child can start this month? Do 15 sit-ups with your child! Trivia Day! What’s a random or fun fact you...

January 2021 Books

January 2021 Books

January 2021 Books January 18th is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Learn about how this leader changed the course of the civil rights movement with these books… I am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher...

COVID-19 Vaccine Update: Questions and Answers

COVID-19 Vaccine Update: Questions and Answers

COVID-19 Vaccine Update: Questions and Answers With recent, record highs of infections and deaths in California and the U.S. from COVID-19, the pandemic is far from over. But the recent approval and beginning of distribution of COVID-19 vaccines now offer hope that...

Translate