How do Early Childhood Educational Philosophies differ?
Strategies of teaching come primarily from two different basic beliefs about how children learn.
One holds that the teacher’s role, with either an individual or a group, is to impart information through verbal instruction, demonstration, and involvement of the child in repeated practice.
The second suggests that real learning can only happen through the child’s discovery of concepts as he acts upon or experiences the world, often called the “learning by doing” approach. We think that too strong an emphasis on either philosophy has a tendency to limit the child’s learning.
In the first, a more “teacher-centered” approach, the structure that is usually imposed, can result in less opportunity for creative thought and problem solving. There is usually limited opportunity for social interaction and cooperative learning. It is possible to drill children until they can correctly recite pieces of information such as the alphabet or the numbers from 1 to 20. However, children’s responses to rote tasks do not reflect real understanding of the information. For children to understand fully and remember what they have learned, whether it is related to reading, mathematics, or other subject matter areas, the information must be meaningful in the context of the child’s experience and development.
Learning information in meaningful context is not only essential for children’s understanding and development of concepts, but is also important for stimulating motivation. If learning is relevant, a child is more likely to persist with a task and to be motivated to learn more.
The second approach, referred to as “child-centered,” often relies on the random play of children as the primary vehicle for learning. The lack of structure and teacher involvement can result in missed opportunities to learn those things that children may not notice or cannot discover by themselves like social skills, or simply may not have noticed like the names for things.
What is the Philosophy of the Bala Cynwyd School for Young Children?
We are close in practice to a Traditional American Nursery School that focuses on socialization, creativity, and learning through play, but with the cognitive orientation that has come to be seen as important over the last four decades.
We believe in a balance between the two major philosophies. Learning is a complex process that results from the interaction of children’s own thinking and their experiences in the external world.
We believe strongly in concrete “hands-on” experiences that give children the opportunity to play, to do, and to discover mathematical and scientific concepts in addition to many other kinds of learning. Children need to construct their own cognitive meaning through active involvement with many kinds of materials and experiences. Simply being exposed is not enough. Each child must “make it their own” by doing it themselves.
We also feel that the teacher plays a crucial role in providing a rich environment of relevant experiences. We foster this by talking to children in ways that add information and insight, as well as in providing opportunities to have fun while practicing skills. By increasing the child’s perceptual awareness of their world, we provide the opportunity to make that world their own.
We focus on the child as a feeling and emotional being as well. It is important that the child be able to depend on the teacher for warmth, nurturance, and understanding of feelings. At the same time, learning to live with others and respect their needs in a social context are concepts that the teacher facilitates. Opportunities for social interaction, including problem solving and conflict resolution, add an important dimension to the overall learning.
We also recognize that maturation is an important contributor to learning because it provides a framework from which children’s learning proceeds. As children get older, they acquire new skills and experiences that facilitate the learning process. For example, as children grow physically, they are more able to manipulate and explore their own environment. Also, as children mature, they are more able to understand the point of view of other people. Real learning will not occur until the child has the maturational readiness for it.
Through a wide variety of interesting activities that are multi-sensory, multi-disciplinary, sometimes technological and sometimes basic, children’s unique learning styles and abilities are accommodated.
Our role is to provide the love, the environment, the information, the freedom, the structure and the intellectual challenge that can help each child strive toward their potential. By increasing the child’s perceptual awareness of their world, we provide the opportunity to make that world their own.
We believe that:
- Opportunities for social interaction are a vital part of the learning process, as well as the development of social competence and self-esteem. Through the structure of the program day, children are actively engaged with each other as well as with warm, nurturing teachers.
- Children construct knowledge through active experimentation with objects in the environment, and through discovery and problem solving. We introduce new and stimulating objects, people and experiences regularly. Our classrooms are fully equipped to nurture the child’s emerging capabilities, and teaching techniques facilitate active involvement in learning vs. rote memorization or simple teacher modeling.
- Children are intrinsically motivated to learn about their world and to make sense of their experience. We utilize a carefully thought out daily plan, based on weekly themes. We don’t hesitate to take advantage of the “teachable moment” when children’s interests dictate. Our methodology fosters autonomy, initiative, curiosity, attention, self-direction, and love of learning.
- Each child has unique capabilities and talents as well as needs and patterns. By understanding and providing for individual differences, teachers help children feel secure and able to appreciate each other. We celebrate our differences in ability, culture, and religion.
- Play is an important vehicle in a child’s development. Opportunities for play both inside and out give children the chance to deal with feelings, interact with others, resolve conflicts and gain a sense of competence. Through play and experimentation, imagination, creativity, and intellectual abilities are strengthened.
- Physical development, activity and health are key in a rewarding life. Planned activities and stimulating indoor and outdoor play equipment help our children explore and expand the use of their bodies. We encourage them to jump, run, swing, climb, crawl, hop, bend, stretch, reach and dance. As they grow in independence, we teach good health habits, safety routines, the importance of rest, and caring for self and the environment.
- Children learn best when their physical needs are met and they feel psychologically safe and secure. Our daily routine is based on respect for children’s biological needs. Lots of warm, individual attention, as well as firm consistent limits provide a sense of security and safety.
- Respect for self and others form a foundation for moral development. Our program encourages two rules for social living. It is not okay to hurt yourself. It is not okay to hurt others. By helping children understand why certain actions cannot be tolerated and by providing redirection, reasons and consistent consequences within a nurturing relationship, we endeavor to help children internalize discipline.
Child Guidance and Discipline
The child’s development of respect for himself and others will form a foundation for moral development.
Our Program encourages two rules for social living: It is not OK to hurt yourself, and it is not OK to hurt others. By helping children understand why certain actions cannot be tolerated and by providing pre-thought-out consequences, we help children internalize discipline.
The School Philosophy endorses methods that include a calm soft voice, with guidance delivered in a clear, firm manner.
We use positive methods of guidance and behavioral support strategies that include:
A happy and nurturing atmosphere where children feel loved and respected.
Redirection or moving the child to a new activity is particularly useful with young toddlers who have limited understanding of hurting themselves or others.
Some negative behavior can be avoided by attention to room arrangement, good scheduling, interesting activities, and intervening before negative behavior occurs.
Praise and other positive reinforcement or consequences, used when children are doing what they should or what you would like them to continue doing, are very strong motivators. In general, children like to please adults. They are likely to repeat behaviors that they have discovered will get positive attention. Positive consequences for their behavior help them to remember what is expected
Acceptance and reflection of children’s feelings
“It makes you angry when someone takes your toy – You feel like hitting but what else could you do?”
Clear limits that are consistently enforced
Children need to see adults as strong and in charge. They need to feel that the adult is in control. When children are given too much control over a situation, they may become insecure and are more prone to acting out.
– To be consistent, we must be clear in our own minds and through discussion with partners which behaviors are OK and which are not – the limits on behavior. When adults are wishy-washy in their expectations, or manner of delivering a message, problems will continue to occur. Adult agreement on expectations is very important.
– If a child is engaged in a behavior that is potentially harmful to himself, another child or the children in the group, they must be stopped each time. Lack of consistency causes children to continue to test limits.
The limit needs to be explained and a negative consequence applied.
A negative consequence is a consequence that a child doesn’t like that helps him/her to remember which behaviors are unacceptable. An adult example might be a speeding or parking ticket. Negative consequences are different than punishment. Punishment is something You Do To the Child.
Appropriate negative consequences with young children are something they know about in advance and hopefully choose to avoid. Appropriate negative consequences with young children include:
- Loss of privilege such as the ability to continue playing in a certain area or with a certain toy that played a role in the problem,
- Losing a special job of the day,
- Cleaning up a mess they have made,
- Helping the child who has been hurt.
A General Statement of Our Developmental Goals for Children
Self-Esteem & Independence – To encourage each child’s pride in individual characteristics, families, experiences, and accomplishments and each child’s responsibility for personal care, actions, and words.
Interaction & Cooperation – To promote children’s social skills for diverse adult and peer relations, including listening, turn-taking, following directions, rules and routines, group participation, care for shared materials, and conflict resolution.
Communication – To facilitate comprehension and expression skills beginning with oral and progressing to written language.
Discovery & Exploration – To foster a positive attitude toward learning through questioning, observing, and experimenting with varied materials related to diverse themes.
Physical Capabilities – To give children opportunities to use their growing bodies to develop small and large motor skills and coordination.
Artistic Expression and Appreciation – To cultivate each child’s ability to express ideas and emotions through art, music, movement, and drama.
Goals for Parent Partnership
- To work in Partnership with families to provide the highest quality of education and care in a way that creates a sense of security as they are involved in the other responsibilities of their lives. Communication, Cooperation, and Respect.
- To know and understand and effectively meet the needs of the diverse families.
- To provide vehicles for family involvement in the program as a way of building the strong bonds of connection between home and school that will facilitate the child’s growth and development as he/she continues their school experience.