24 June 2015

A progressive learning approach for my toddler's first school year

They said learning starts at home. But what if your home does not provide enough engaging stimulation for your child to learn?

Send them to a learning center.

I did not want to be the parent who pushes their offspring to do a task when the child is clearly not ready. In Riley's case, he had a previous exposure to school playgroups. Last year, he regularly went to 'school' every Saturday and was exposed to the teacher-student setting. When the summer class ended, his mind was still set on going back to the school. Maybe it stuck since the school was inside the mall.

Since we have decided to send him to school despite him being less than three years old, we are faced with another crucial decision. Which school do we send him to? Choosing the right preschool for him was a challenge. We wanted the school to be near our house, affordable tuition fees, have a low teacher-student ratio, and with a good learning environment.

There were a lot of good Montessori schools near our village but the tuition was astronomical for Nursery level and travel time was around 30 minutes. I was disheartened because I wanted Riley to experience learning that way. I have read about Maria Montessori and her philosophy of giving the child independence to learn what he/she wants (within limits). "The Montessori method of teaching aims for the fullest possible development of the whole child, ultimately preparing him for life's many rich experiences." (source)

I have heard of stories where the toddler was forced (strapped down by the arms of a grown-up) to sit down on their chair for an hour everyday until they obeyed on their own. This is not acceptable for me. These type of experience will traumatize the child. Hearing about it traumatized me!

Luckily, we found a progressive school inside our village (5 minutes away from our house). I have not heard about progressive learning prior to discovering this school. Upon reading about their approach to learning, I am full on-board the progressive train. I found this local website that gives you detailed information on progressive learning. In a nutshell, they encourage "learning by doing" and claims that children learn best when they pursue their own interest. They let the children play while injecting knowledge in an experiential way. For example, they are doing arts & crafts where the kids are making a face using different shapes. Here they introduce the basic shapes (circles, triangles, squares) while having fun making a goofy looking face.

“The actual interests of the child must be discovered if the significance and worth of his life is to be taken into account and full development achieved. Each subject must fulfill present needs of growing children . . . The business of education is not, for the presumable usefulness of his future, to rob the child of the intrinsic joy of childhood involved in living each single day,” ~ John Dewey

After being briefed by the teacher, I have learned that they do not give assignments, they give student assessments (or progress reports) instead of the typical grading system, and the thing I like the most is that they adjust what they teach your child depending on his/her skill set. Riley has a well-developed language and motor skills but his social skills need more work. Although he can converse with you, recite the ABCs and count 1 to 20, he needs coaxing to share and mingle with new people.

It has been a week since school started so it is still too early to say if it was a good decision to send him to school this early. He is only in school two hours a day, Monday to Friday.

And yes, we are currently dealing with separation anxiety. More on that in the coming weeks.

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