The concept of early childhood education typically applies to the pre-elementary school years when parents are interested in putting their children in a kindergarten or preschool program. Many parents currently believe that the earlier a child’s education gets started, the more successful they are going to be later on in life. Today, parents are fortunate to have a number of options at their disposal besides public preschool including the Head Start, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf programs.
The public preschool form of early childhood education has gained in popularity in recent decades throughout the US and are typically state-funded. These programs were primarily designed for low-income families and will provide an education to any child residing in that particular school district. The availability will vary from one state to the next and then from district to district.
Federal money is the funding source for the many Head Start programs located throughout the US. These are geared to those families who have children under 5 years of age and who are at a lower level of income. There are also what are referred to as Early Head Start programs that focus on children who are between zero and three years of age as well as pregnant women. Additionally, children who have medical or psychological conditions and are receiving public assistance are usually eligible for a Head Start program.
These early childhood education programs focus on those children that are between three and six years of age. Some of them even feature toddler-oriented programs while others offer programs for infants. Children in these programs experience a hands-on learning experience as they are directed through a series of educational materials. The teachers of these facilities are typically referred to as “directresses” since they direct children through specific activities instead of just teaching them in standard fashion.
Reggio Emilia approach
As this name would seem to imply, this early childhood education program has Italian roots just like the Montessori schools. In the Reggio Emilia approach, the learning process is collaborated by the children, parents, and teachers in the school. If the child shows an interest in a particular activity, they will be provided with ample opportunities to learn a curriculum that feeds that particular interest. Parents are encouraged to participate in the child’s curriculum and are given educational materials to help them do so.
Waldorf Early Childhood Program
In these early childhood education programs, the teacher engages in artistic, domestic, and practical activities and encourages the children in their class to imitate them. The teacher also encourages them to use there imagination during dramatic play and storytelling. The toys that are used in Waldorf programs are manufactured using only natural materials.