Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Seach of a perfect Preschool

Last couple of weeks our family has been busy viewing preschools for our bright little one. Of course our internet survey and literature survey about preschools started much before that.

TV is just 20 months, but we feel she is ready for a pre school. She is able to communicate, almost potty trained, can self feed finger food, seems to have grown out of all the 'mums and tots' activities and most importantly is getting very demanding.

So we've been to practically to all the relevant playschools around, ranging from a good neighborhood play school to national and international preschool chains.

My new found knowledge about preschool education has indeed got me interested in the area of business opportunity. And no wonder that the area, which did'nt seem to be significant earlier, is seeing rapid mushrooming of preschools everywhere.

So I've seen a couple of montessori schools. Here mixed age group kids direct the course of their own learning, along various areas of intelligence - sensorial, mathematical,language,cultural, language and practical life skills. This essentially happens through the montessori materials, toys and activities.

Then of course there are some versions of the montessori schools. And some are its distant relatives, like the one I saw - a school for multiple intelligences.

And then there are many preschools whose sole mission is to prepare the tots for entry into primary schools - they teach alphabet, numbers, colors etc through flashcards or rote. Some of these have a national/international curriculum developed by experts in preschool education.

Some are just day cares - no major educational/developmental objectives here.

I was particularly impressed with an education system from a village in Italy - Reggio Emilia. The system is based on the principle of 'play based education'. In this an environment conducive to playing (generally intending at driving some learnings) is said to be child's 'third teacher'. And the teachers are supposed to be learners, documenting every bit of the child's actions and developments and in the process learning about the child's interests, aptitudes, behavior and development. Very few schools know and offer this program. And no doubt a promising concept that it is, as their is no standard training/ endorsement or accredition of the schools following this system, much is left to the people executing it.

I've taken to studying the system of Reggio Emilia seriously. But meanwhile, we've enroled TV in a play school that offers the flexibility of going 2 days a week, 2 hours a day. I feel that's a reasonable start for a 22-month-old. Besides this school offers free play, story time, music time and arts. But for us what it really offers TV is a professionally-supervised 2-hour opportunity to interact with other kids, adults and the environment, when mom and dad are not around. What it really offers her is an opportunity to open up and come into her own, regardless of our presence/absence. An opportunity to becoming independent and facing the (tiny) world. To know different people from her own experience and in the process to discover herself. And if this comes in a playful and fun environment, that is surely how a first-school-experience should be like:)

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