Other than Montessori there are 3 main ECED (Early Childhood Education) methods which are also useful. We incorporate these into our teaching methods instead of being too rigid. We are confident of Dr. Montessori was alive she too would have embraced these ideas. But here is a brief overview of these methods.
Reggio Emilia Teaching System
This teaching system also originating from Italy. It is based on the simple idea that children's own curiosity is the most powerful guide to their learning. Children are encouraged to see themselves as serious students who can engineer their own learning. Compared to other teaching systems the Reggio Emilia is dynamic. There is no set curriculum. Instead a fluid curriculum emerges based on the child’s interest.
Teachers find way to guide the children’s learning by encouraging them explore their own interests and developing ways to expand that creative exploration of the child. This system challenges the teachers to listen to children to listen rather than just teaching. Teachers then follow that interest into projects where they children.
The system uses a system called " Provocations " (focused questioning) to develop the learning process. By questioning the child, the system provoking new ideas for further projects and other learning opportunities. Some of these projects can lead to bigger and longer projects. The teacher and children engage in what is called negotiated meaning. In this process the teacher respects the ability of the child in think at a high level. The teacher is a protagonist of the Child's learning process. The unique idea here is that children generate topics about which they want to learn about and the teachers guide provoking ideas. Provoking children into learning in a stress free non regimented environment.
The Montessori system for example believes that a more regimented environment is better. Based on performance of the vast majority of Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle and High schools in the United States Montessori schools prefer to believe a structured system delivers better results. However the Hybrid Montessori believes that the protagonist approach has certain merits and has introduced the system within the overall Montessori system. Time is allocated each week in the afternoon to use this approach. Although this curriculum seems to develop haphazardly, there is a semblance of order to the process. Teachers helps each other and document what is done via notes, pictures and videos. In Reggio schools every wall bursts with colorful artwork. However in the Montessori systems this is considered information overload. Art projects are treated with respect but they should have a particular place like a notice board on which they can be displayed.
All Reggio schools have a sort of Artist in Residence. The Atelierista, an artist who lends creative guidance. He os she is not an art teacher. They merely offer guidance to explore possibilities. Another person who lends support is the Pedagogista, an early childhood learning specialist, who works with the teachers and children. Parents are an integral part of the Reggio school too. They expected to actively participate in their children’s education. This interaction of teacher, child and parent is the core belief of the Reggio approach. This basic idea in a supportive environment where children are provoked into exploring what interests is the Reggio Emelia system.
High/Scope & Emergent Curriculum Teaching System
This is a “ Hands On ” teaching system. Teachers in this system guide the children to think for themselves. Children are encouraged to work on their own at their own pace. The teachers guide the children as opposed to directing children. Children learn by doing. Teachers are not expected to stand in the class and tell the children how things work. Children learn by experimenting.
While encouraging children to think for themselves is noble and creative, Montessori teachers believe that if children are taught how things work, the learning process is much faster. Imagine your child going to university to learn Medicine and the teachers says “ I want you to experiment on how to do a heart transplant! ” Learn by yourself. It would take your child decades become a Doctor.
However recognizing this kind of system does have a place, the Hybrid Montessori system allocates a certain amount of time for this. Once children learn basic concepts, time is then allocated to experiment and develop more creativity like in the high scope system. But children, especially 2 year old children must learn the basic Montessori lesson plan in the hybrid Montessori system and ways of completing a task, once they have chosen that activity of their own free will.
The high scope system in based on the “ Active learning ” concept. This based on psychologist, Jean Piaget’s theory of learning. He said children learn best when they create their own learning. He said that if you overly structure thing for children or if you try to teach them things too fast, then they loose the opportunity to experience themselves. The belief is that children not only learn through the sense, but they need to act and that’s how they absorb the learning process. The idea is that learning is an internal process. Individually constructed through a child’s interaction with the external world. This process of active play through materials and toys and interaction with teachers and other children, internally constructs new ideas and knowledge, upon which the child builds.
Children learning by doing and cultivating imagination. To foster this active learning process, the high scope class is organized into centers. Individual areas in the room dedicated to a particular skill or experience. For example separate reading areas, a block area, practical skill area and an art area. In art class, children don’t just color coloring books with particular shapes. They can draw a car with square wheels or paint a red cow. Under this system children usually work in small groups at each of centers as opposed to working individually under the Montessori system.
The system is not a haphazard experience. The High/Scope curriculum is designed to promote each Child's understanding of specific concepts called “ Key Experiences ”. These key experiences are divided into specific areas or concepts. These are Language, Spatial Relationships, Time, Numbering, Comparing and arranging, Classification, Social Interaction/Problem solving, Creative representation.
The role of the high scope teacher is to find creative ways to guide children’s active play through all these key experiences. The teacher does not plan for whole classroom, but for each child. Each child may have different abilities and skill levels. When all children at different levels reach the short term goals, then they move on to other objectives. There are short and long term goals. However like Montessori the classroom schedule is structured. For example right after circle time, children know they will work with the material (In Montessori) and they will have a snack after that, and then have a free choice project and then go outside to play.
Each segment like Montessori has a set amount of time. This way there are no surprises and children feel comfortable. A big part of the High scope process involves the Plan, Do and Review system. First children gather with the teacher to discuss what they will be doing and reason out what they will be doing. After children develop a plan together with the teacher they set about doing it. Finally they gather around the teacher to review and show each other what they have done and learned.
High scope was originally designed in the 1960’s to address the preschool needs of children from low income families in Michigan. It was thought particularly suited to address the needs of Special needs kids, because children are allowed to develop at their own pace. Like the Montessori system, this allows children to develop at their own pace, but Montessori believes (with the exception of some extreme cases) that children with special needs require extra stimulation and material to prevent acting out and extreme anti social behavior. A subtle difference perhaps.
A further refinement of the Hybrid Montessori system is the introduction of computers at a very young age to children with special needs. Whether or not this is scientifically valid, experience has shown children with special needs seems to develop better socials skills when they are introduced to problem solving computer games. Like Montessori the high scope children mix so called normal children with high scope children, so children with special needs can develop empathy and normal children in term come to the realization that children do not have all the advantages that they have. A valuable social skill that children can learn.
Head Start Teaching System
The head start program is a preschool program for children from low income families. Usually only one family member works and these children have many siblings. The children come to the school have a second family that can provide them a stable background. It’s along running Federal social program invented in the 1960’s to combat poverty.
The schools take an active role ensuring that children get the proper nutrition and health. That schools looks at whether children brush their teeth and wash their hands before a meal. This is an idea that has been copied to Hybrid Montessori, especially when in comes to nutrition. Because some parents over feed their children and some prepare unhealthy foods for their children (like drinks with High Fructose Corn syrup) the Hybrid Montessori system teachers parents the importance of proper nutrition and reinforces it with strict rules on what foods can be brought into the school. Unfortunately the Head Start program does not have enough funding with only 1 in 3 eligible children getting into the program.
Because of the limited hours and age groups catered to the Head Start program has limited appeal to parents who want to work but cannot because schooling is provided only for a limited number of hours per day. Waiting lists average about 800-1200 in each county. However most of the Head schools are well stocked. Most Head starts use the High Scope system. Children are free to choose whatever they like to do. Head Start is not about children. Parent involvement in required. They have what is called the family partnership agreement. Parents are encouraged to become volunteers. Parents also get an education on Parenting, Nutrition, Literacy and Health. Hybrid Montessori copies some of these ideas although perhaps not to the same extent. It recognizes that good parenting has an effect on how successful the school is. A parent with bad parenting skills or one that provided improper nutrition to their child disrupts the school and by association other children. Therefore under the Hybrid Montessori system, the school monitors parents to developing good habits in these key areas.
An off shoot of Head Start called Even Start promotes family literacy, because low income families are illiterate and cannot help their own children. It often perpetuates that cycle of poverty, but of the whole families literacy levels goes up the child has a better chance of lifting themselves out of poverty. For example under the program, parents get instruction on the proper way to read to their children.
Another off shoot of Head start called Early Head start provides care assistant to mothers of infants from birth to three years old. Even before birth the mother prepared their children and learn that the teachers are there for them. Head Start also provides a special place for children with special needs.
Nearly ten percent of head start schools are children with special needs. Teachers usually take a 10 hours course on children with special needs. When Head start began in 1965 there was not a structured program. Since then it has become more professional and most follow the High Scope system. Federal guidelines have mandated the assessment of children and provides extra help and funding to teachers to get a better education in Early childhood development.