By LINA TOYODA
Finding a school for a child’s early years education is something many parents try to do with great thought and care.
Even with the best intentions, finding quality childcare and the right education program for a young child can be a challenge.
Sheila Davidson, executive director of Early Childhood Educators of BC (ECEBC), says there is a need in the province for an overarching organization that parents can go to in order to find the information they need.
“The situation today is a nightmare for families to find the right kind and appropriate early childhood education for their child. Because of a lack of political responsiveness, vision, planning and resources, we have such a patchwork of services,” she said.
Davidson says a quality program looks at their group of children and then develops the curriculum and planning based on what level of development the children are at.
Prasannata Runkel, principal at Vancouver Montessori School says the best thing for parents to do is to look at the school themselves, meet the teachers and see the environment.
“Parents know their children best so they’ll know what’s right for their child,” Runkel says.
Montessori schools can be found around the globe and is rooted in the work of its namesake Maria Montessori, a physician and educator from Italy who developed her teaching method in the early 1900s.
The Montessori classroom is a child-based “prepared environment” with specific materials for hands-on learning.
With a strong emphasis on the five senses, learning often takes the form of perceiving concepts through multiple sensory channels like sight, sound and touch.
The materials are often designed to build upon previous learning so new concepts can unfold in later years, using the same objects.
Joanna Olsen, a mother of two Montessori-schooled children, aged nine and seven, in Hamilton, Ont., says the program focuses on the child’s development, not curriculum.
“It’s an open concept with child-directed learning,” Olsen said. “Sounds like it would be chaos to most people. However, it is amazing to see the children working together. There are no desks. Instead, there are tables and roll-up mats for the floor, depending on age. And there is no homework or tests.”
Montessori also has multi-aged classrooms. Preschool consists of three-, four-, and five-year olds, and the elementary school classrooms are divided into two age groups: six to nine, and nine to 12.