With the heightened interest in early academics, many companies are now offering a preschool curriculum. Where preschoolers used to spend their time picking flowers, running in the grass, and scribbling on paper, now many are learning to read, write, and do basic math. So, how can a parent or school administrator choose the right curriculum?
Is a Curriculum Necessary?
Many people still do not feel a preschool curriculum is really needed. There are several schools of thought that still hold that young kids should be playing, exploring, and learning about the world around them. Of course, there are an equal number of experts who believe young children are vessels just waiting to be filled with knowledge. To decide if your child needs a preschool curriculum, answer the following questions:
- Is your child showing any interest in letters, numbers, or writing?
- Is your child able to hold a pencil correctly?
- Is it important to you that your child be able to compete academically?
- Is your child ready for a structured school day?
As you think about these questions, be sure to weigh your needs with those of your child. In the end, only you really know if you need a curriculum at this point in your child's life. If you decide to use one, there are several high-quality options available.
Waldorf Preschool Curriculum
Waldorf Schools do not believe in a rush to academics. They believe in waiting until a child is developmentally ready before starting formal schooling. Therefore, a Waldorf preschool program is nurturing and informal, emphasizing hands-on, creative fun over worksheets, drills, and memorization. The following companies offer Waldorf or Waldorf-inspired preschool programs:
- Christopherus. This is meant to be used with children aged 3 to 6.
- Oak Meadow. Morning circle time, nature walks, bedtime rituals, and water play are all integrated into this arts-based program.
The Montessori method was created by Dr. Maria Montessori. Like Waldorf, this method also aims to educate the "whole child," but in a more deliberate manner. In Montessori homes or classrooms, the teacher creates situations and settings that are intended to stimulate the child's mind, body, and heart. Montessori programs often create "structured freedom," where children have choices, but only among options that an adult has already determined to be appropriate. Montessori preschools are generally mixed classes, which children of ages 3 to 6. In a true Montessori school, older children often learn by teaching and assisting younger kids, much like a home environment. Montessori programs are self-paced, helping children find their place in the world at their own speed.
The North American Montessori Training Center (NAMTC) offers a preschool/kindergarten diploma program. Books and videos can be purchased individually or in packages.
Before Five in a Row
Before Five in a Row is a literature-based unit study for preschoolers. A parent or caregiver reads the selected book each day for five days. Each day, the students focus on a different aspect of the book, and do activities based on that aspect. For example, one day the lesson many focus on nature, with the children coloring pictures of trees. This is a gentle curriculum, designed to get young kids excited about books and learning. Parents are advised to take cues from their children in determining which activities are appropriate.
- Preschool curricula are also available at bookstores. Many publishers, such as Core Curriculum Press, distribute complete curricula for each grade. These books are primarily made of worksheets and coloring pages.
- You can make your own curriculum, using weekly or monthly themes.
- Instead of using a formal curriculum, you can just fill your days with songs, number games, letter games, and crafts. Be sure to join a local play group for added stimulation and socialization.