Navigating Early Childhood Education
Updated: Jun 7
Early education for our little ones changes with every new generation or every other day it seems. There is always a new program or learning tool that sells a ‘revolutionary way of education’ for starting to teach your children. But are the learning tools and activity packages a marketing scheme OR are there tools that really will work for your child? The overabundance of information makes navigating early education overwhelming, as no new parent wants to make a ‘mistake’ when it comes to teaching their kids. Unfortunately, there is no manual we have to offer that will be the guaranteed perfect fit for your child BUT we can layout the best, and most current early education options can be considered while choosing your child’s learning program.
The Montessori early education program has been in action for over a century all over the world. An Italian philosopher, Dr. Maria Montessori, birthed this teaching method to create self-motivated children who are able to foster their own cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development, according to the American Montessori Society (AWS).
A Montessori learning environment is most recognizable for a classroom that is multi-aged, self-paced, and student-led. A classroom is built around differing ages to create a community for children to explore the meanings of “independence, citizenship, and accountability.” The program prioritizes allowing children to follow their own curiosity with the freedom to follow these questions and passions at a pace they are comfortable with.
The caveat with this program is that they come at a price and limited accessibility, Montessori can start around $3,000+ for infants and toddlers and continues up to $10,00+ for 12 to 18 year-olds. Programs do offer financial support and help, however, outside of price considering the location of a school needs to be taken into consideration.
It is important to understand ALL your options as a parent; private schools can be beneficial for a child but they are not the only options by any means. If you are interested in early education for your child there are government-funded preschools that can help jump-start your child’s learning.
Head Start is the official government-funded early education program for families that cannot afford the steep costs of private preschools. Head start is a great option to look into because these programs are often more accessible with a location in consideration and still offer families to begin the education process for their children. While these programs may not offer the same curriculum that other schools do, it may fit your child's needs better. Not every child is ready or wired for the curriculum at say a Montessori program, some children require more structure and defined teaching plans.
The Waldorf Early Education Program was born in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner in Germany. The program's core value is based “upon an understanding of each child as a unique individual who seeks to learn and grow by experiencing the path of earthly life.” According to the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America website, this program is meant to foster individual children learning styles accompanied by a safe, predictable environment that will allow children to continue ‘experiencing the path of earthly life’.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The STEM program was created in 2001 by the National Science Foundation in the United States. STEM programs are public and more specialized private schools, the program's core focus is on the growth of these four teaching practices for the future generation. The foundation of the program was created with the mindset that the primary labor future of the United States will require specialization in these four fields.
STEM programs have been on the rise in the education field, the benefits of this education are the promotion of teaching independent innovation, fostering critical thinking skills, and allowing students to explore subjects at a greater depth according to The Public School Review. A STEM curriculum in early education can increase ‘academic achievements, persistence, and critical thinking’ according to researchers for the Hechinger Report. The STEM learning programs motivate students, even the very young ones to explain their thinking processes and search for the answers independently and as a group.
Learning Tools at Home
Not every child and toddler may be classroom-ready, and that is something that any parent will have to decide when the time is right. This is an important note, learning doesn’t start in the classroom. It starts at home. So whether your toddler is ready for an early education program or not, you can certainly begin introducing learning tools at-home from the very beginning with books and more. Below are our favorite learning tools that you can use with your kids right at home!
Boon-dah Learning System: A STEM early education company that sells books, activity kits, and more for children.
Scholastic Learn at Home: A free online library for all age ranges with books and activities.
Learning Box Preschool: A wide range of projects, crafts, activities packages for teaching at home early on.
Are You Ready? Are THEY Ready?
Are you ready to let your little one go off to an early education program? But more importantly, is your child ready? Every child is different, not every program is necessarily going to be the right one for your child. Understanding the options available is the first step in this process, then assessing your child’s learning styles and classroom readiness is next! Be excited about the process and don’t get too overwhelmed. You are already doing the best you can.