Covid has impacted and changed our schools in drastic ways. This has caused many parents to look for alternative solutions – especially for preschool age children. Although, many parents were starting to explore alternative preschool education options even before Covid.
Educators and parents often have different beliefs on what the main focus of preschool should be. Some parents want a focus on academics, others believe learning social skills and behavior should take priority.
If you’re a first time parent, you might be curious to know what different types of preschools are available and how their teaching approach and philosophies differ from each other.
Alternative Preschool Options
To save you the time and hassle of searching the internet, I’ve put a list together of “alternative preschool” options for you.
Nature Based Preschool and Kindergarten
Nature Based preschools are sometimes called Forest Kindergarten or Outdoor Preschool. Depending on the school your child enrolls in, some of the Nature schools take place entirely outside. Or they may have an indoor facility, but the kids spend the majority of the time outside.
Nature preschools focus on specific core values, which are:
- Promoting child development and helping children to become “environmentally literate”.
- Using nature as the central theme for the program and lessons.
- Using a child-led and play-based approach to teaching, that adapts to children’s interests and abilities.
- Recognizing the benefits of children learning to handle appropriate risk-taking and play in the outdoors.
“The Montessori Method of education was developed by Italian Physician Maria Montessori. This method emphasizes children’s independence. It views children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of learning in a supportive and well-prepared environment.”
Montessori specific core values are:
- Students learn through “free activity” within a prepared environment or lesson. This could also mean students are able to choose their activity within a range of options.
- Uninterrupted work time of about three hours.
- Students learn from a discovery approach. The school emphasizes “interaction” instead of instruction.
- Mixed age group class rooms.
Waldorf – Steiner
Waldorf (sometimes called Steiner Education) is based on the teaching philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. He said “Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able, of themselves, to impart purpose and direction into their lives.”
The Waldorf preschool focuses on learning through: free play, daily work/chores, story time, crafts, and seasonal activities.
“The overall goal of the is to give the child a “sense that the world is good” and that they are independent and capable of creating and learning for themselves.
Reggio Emilia is a town in Italy where this type of school was developed after WWII.
The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration, discovery, and play.
The core values and beliefs of Reggio Emilia Schools are:
- Children are able to construct their own learning. Teachers and parents are considered to be “partners” in the child’s own education. They may help guide children in learning on their own, but do not give formal instruction.
- Children learn by collaborating and interacting with others.
- Children are natural communicators and are encouraged to express themselves through: words, drawing, sculpting, dance and other forms of communicating.
- Documentation of your child’s learning journey is critical. At the end of the year, your child will have a portfolio of work, quotes, and photos of their progress and development.
I hope this list has helped give you clarity of the types and approaches of different preschool education options.