We’re fortunate in Dallas to have a great many preschools. Choosing a preschool for your young child can be a bit overwhelming especially if you’re new to the area or if you’re doing it for the first time. Give yourself plenty of time to research schools, make school visits, and talk to other parents who have already gone through the process. Additionally, you might want to consider scheduling a consultation with me for assistance in narrowing down your choices.
Here are some of the philosophies that Dallas preschools are based on.
Montessori schools were founded in 1907 by pediatrician/psychiatrist Maria Montessori. The underlying philosophy of Montessori is that children are individual, self-motivated learners who are assisted in learning by their teachers or ‘guides’ as they are called. Montessori emphasized the importance of connecting with all living things and the need for each person to find her own meaning and place in the world.
The Montessori curriculum focuses on practical life (children learn skills of daily living like tying their shoes and making their snacks), sensory awareness education (learning involves all 5 senses), language arts (children are encouraged to express themselves verbally), mathematics & geometry (children learn about numbers through the use of hands-on materials), and cultural subjects (children learn about other countries, animals, art, music, history, etc). Children move at their pace in Montessori programs. Typically classes are mixed-age, which allows older children to help younger ones learn new skills.
Developmental (play or socially based) preschools are the most common type of preschool. Developmental programs are based on the philosophy that children learn about the world through play. Thus, unstructured play and activities are emphasized, rather than academics. The curriculum is child-centered with teachers acting as facilitators.
For parents concerned that a developmental preschool won’t offer enough academic preparation, research indicates children who attended play-based preschools perform significantly better academically in the future when compared with children who attended academic preschools.
Cooperative schools allow parents to be in the classroom directly involved with their child’s learning. Cooperative schools can follow any curriculum or philosophy. What distinguishes them from other types of schools is that parents take on significant roles in the classroom. They may assist the teacher, prepare snacks, help with school upkeep, etc. A benefit of cooperative preschool is that tuition is lower, as parent contributions help to minimize costs.
Churches and temples in the Dallas area are hosts to a number of preschools. There is a great deal of variety in how religion is incorporated into the curriculum with some schools emphasizing religion to a greater degree while others barely touch on any religious messages.
In a language immersion preschool, all or most of the classes are conducted entirely in the new language. With this method, teachers may demonstrate or ‘act out’ something, but rarely or never translate. Language immersion preschools have the same curriculum and activities of a regular preschool including art projects, reading stories aloud, practice with motor skills, and focus on socialization, just in another language.
A language immersion preschool is best for kids with normal language development in English. Those with speech/language delays will likely struggle in this type of environment.
Academic preschools focus on teaching children basic academic skills like math and reading. While there is play, it is not the focus of the curriculum. Instead, children are taught lessons, use flashcards, and complete worksheets. There are pros and cons of an academic focus in preschool. Proponents stress that the world is becoming more and more competitive and that an academic preschool helps prepare children for the challenges ahead. Critics counter by saying academic preschools put too much pressure on young children.
International schools emphasize an international education either by following a national curriculum of the country of origin or by adopting an international curriculum like International Baccalaureate. Typically, international schools are created to educate children of expatriates and expand when local children are enrolled so that can have exposure to that language and culture. Frequently, multiple languages are offered in addition to the primary language taught.
Many preschools are a combination of several of the above. If you’re not sure of a school’s philosophy after touring a school or visiting its website, just ask the director. He or she will be happy to clarify it for you.
Good luck in your search!
© Eleanor Munson, Ph.D. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Eleanor Munson, Ph.D. is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Munson, Ph.D. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.