The start of your child’s education can feel like a monumental decision. For many families, preschool is the first educational experience the child will have away from the home. This is the start of the child’s educational career. So, should you choose a public school, a Montessori school, a Reggio Emilia preschool, or another type of institution?
You may worry about your child’s adjustment to whatever school you choose. You may worry about how the teachers will care for him and guide him through the school day. These are just a couple of reasons parents will question the type of school they send their little one – and research the best possible one.
Ultimately, it all comes down to what you feel is the best fit for your child. You must consider your child’s needs, learning style, interests, and social adaptability. We can help guide your decision by highlighting some popular early educational approaches today, as well as what to consider when thinking about the best preschools for your family.
Reggio Emilia Approach
Named after its birthplace in Italy, Reggio Emilia is a teaching philosophy that focuses on young children between the ages of three and six years old. Loris Malaguzzi founded this learning method after World War II, with the belief that children are competent, confident, and curious creatures who can thrive in a self-guided learning environment. In a Reggio Emilia preschool classroom, mutual respect between the children and the teacher is paramount.
The Reggio Emilia method believes that the child is the center of his or her own learning universe. Children are encouraged to pursue their interests and passion areas. They are encouraged to explore their curiosities through play. They use colorful and creative materials to do so – art utensils, natural materials like clay and sand, musical instruments, costumes, and books are constantly in-reach in a Reggio classroom. Parents, teachers, and the community are all important collaborators throughout the child’s journey through learning.
Much like the Reggio Emilia style of education, Montessori was also founded in Italy. Physician and Educator Dr. Maria Montessori opened a school in Rome back in 1907. The main principle of the school was that children can naturally absorb knowledge from their surroundings and self-direct their education through exploration.
Montessori classrooms are structured around the child. Bookshelves and tables are all at the child’s level, so it is easy for her to access whatever she needs to learn. Like Reggio Emilia, the design of the classroom promotes an organic and supportive environment within which the child feels most comfortable to explore. The teachers set up specific spaces to inspire hands-on exploration and development with plenty of light and natural elements.
Age integration is another big part of the Montessori approach. Children ages 3, 4, and 5 are all in one classroom together, and students often have the same teacher for three years. As a point of comparison, Reggio Emilia classrooms are structured more like traditional schools, and teachers have students for one academic year.
Waldorf education, also known as Steiner education, is based on the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy. This method of teaching centers on the student’s artistic, intellectual, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner. The cultivation of the imagination and creativity is the main focus of this educational approach. The first Waldorf school opened up in Germany in 1919.
Top Qualities of the Best Preschools
While it often comes down to preference, advocates for a hands-on, encouraging preschool environment will agree that Reggio Emilia is the best type of preschool for the following benefits. Reggio Emilia preschools tend to:
- Build children’s social skills
- Allow children to engage with their communities
- Help children enjoy learning
- Encourage children to express with confidence
- Instill problem solving skills
- Welcome new experiences
Of course, it is important to consider what style of education would work best for your little learner. PBS has previously highlighted these different approaches for learning, and finds that the biggest advantage of the Reggio Emilia approach is that it focuses on good citizenship in children, as well as cooperation and conflict resolution. If you value these skills, as well as the benefits listed above, a Reggio Emilia preschool may be the perfect fit for your family.
At the end of the day, the choice is yours to make. You know your child best. If you believe your child would benefit from a creative, encouraging, and environmentally-focused learning experience, you might want to consider a Reggio Emilia inspired magnet school such as Riverside Magnet School in East Hartford, Connecticut.
As you consider the best preschools for your child, you may want to learn more about the Reggio Emilia approach. Please visit Riverside Magnet School or the magnet schools at Goodwin University to learn more. The RSCO School Choice Application period has been extended until Sunday, February 9, 2020.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.