Monday, February 28, 2011

Introduction to Education Philosophy for Preschool

Charlotte is nearing preschool age and my head has been spinning lately with ideas to implement a semi-structured program for her in the fall. Many of my friends are looking into three year old programs, but I think we are going to stay close to home for our preschool (3 and 4 year old) education. I have also considered homeschooling, and although that will depend on a few different factors, I want to be prepared when it comes to considering philosophy, theory and practice. Purely out of interest's sake, I have ordered books on Montessori and Reggio Emilia from the library and hope to continue some research with Waldorf and Charlotte Mason.

I have discovered that this is actually a love of mine, researching and planning for preschool education. When I did my internship for elementary education I was placed in a Kindergarten class. I loved my "Play" course at university where we worked in the 4-year-old classroom observing and preparing an imaginative play center. I love this age group, I am fascinated by the capacity for learning through play and how to assess learning. Although I know that Charlotte is a tremendously social girl (and lack of social interaction is often a criticism against homeschooling families) we will be involved in many social activities throughout our weeks. In my opinion, I am already involved in the education process daily with both of my daughters and furthering this education at home seems like a natural progression for us. And it goes without saying... I am learning and growing every day as my girls teach me how to mother, love unconditionally and be stretched physically, mentally and emotionally.

As I began to read, I thought about compiling a summary of sorts for this blog and writing my thoughts regarding different philosophies of education, in particular, for preschool. I will review and consider the following:

1. Reggio Emilia
This is a child-centered approach developed over the last fifty years in Reggio Emilia, Italy. A few of the principles are: collaboration (parents, teachers, students, the larger community); the image of the child (as competent and inventive); and preparing an environment that acts as the third teacher.

2. Montessori
This approach was founded it 1907 and is based on the experiences of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator. One of the underlying principles is that of a prepared environment where children choose individual activities to pursue and they teach themselves. Montessori also focuses on learning through all five senses and giving children responsibility through everyday life tasks.

3. Waldorf
This is a humanistic approach based on the research and philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was an Austrian philosopher and who founded anthroposophy (a spiritual philosophy focused on a spiritual world accessible through inner development). The Waldorf approach focuses on the creative, the natural world, inner growth and moral responsibility. The first school was founded in 1919 in Germany.

4. Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The method is centered around the idea that education has three aspects: an atmosphere, a discipline and a life. The method is known for promoting and using living books - stories that have one author, who has a passion for that subject, rather than textbooks.

I may add more as I discover new ideas and hopefully either decide on a philosophy to start with Charlotte, or combine ideas from various philosophies and come up with my own principles to guide our education experience for her third year.

What are your thoughts and ideas about homeschool, preschool or education theory and practice?


  1. I was a very social child but am very grateful I was homeschooled! While socializing outside the home is important, I think the primary people children should be learning social skills from are their parents and siblings, not large peer groups.
    I'm excited to homeschool when Eli gets a bit older! I like Charlotte Mason's philosophy, and I love Montessori products (if you can afford them!). I really like Charlotte Mason's "living book" approach, though I do think textbooks can be very important when you get older. We were homeschooled using a very literature based approach, starting with Sonlight Curriculum. That's what I'm looking at doing with Eli right now, though I'll probably branch out from there as I learn more and get more confident.

  2. Emily, thanks so much for the comment (and for following me)! It will be great to be in touch regarding homeschooling as you have so much experience! I have a couple of friends who use Sonlight, and it will be interesting to take a look at the books. How old is Eli? When will you start a structured program with him? Thanks for the input!

  3. Eli's not yet 18 months old. I don't think I'll start anything too structured for another year at least, we just read a lot of books together, and I try to read him some poetry (nursery rhymes!) and Bible verses every day too, sing Bible verse songs, listen to classical music, learn body parts, colour, all the things you normally do with a toddler anyway! has free curriculum starting at 3 months old, sometimes I'll check out their recommendations but I don't follow it rigorously. Feel free to get in touch any time, I'm not really an expert at homeschooling children but I do have lots of experience on the other end of things, and am very happy with the education that I got at home!

  4. I was disappointed to find that Fredericton doesn't have a Montessori school. One of my younger cousins went to one in Cape Breton and I worked with someone who had worked at an M School in Bedford and the philosophy of the school sounds lovely and exactly what I would like to both teach and have for my eventual children. In my perfect future I'd love to study M and open a school here.