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Day Care Centers and Preschools

Preschools are usually educationally-based programs with developed lesson plans and teachers specializing in early childhood education. Preschools are more likely to be limited in their operating hours. Although some preschools remain open from early morning until evening, they are much more likely to be either half-day programs, or at the most, run approximately the same hours as a regular full school day.

Some states provide free preschool for certain qualified children from low-income families. Two states—Georgia and Oklahoma—offer free pre­school to all children residing in the state.

If you are looking for an academic program with full-time day care hours, however, your choices are more likely to be limited. This is true particularly if you are not in a large, urban area. In addition, be prepared to pay a premium for a program with an emphasis on education over play. Oftentimes, these types of schools will offer extras, such as music or foreign language classes, which may or may not be included in the basic tuition.

Whether an academic or a play-based preschool is preferable for children is something of a hot topic these days. As families feel more and more pres­sure to ensure that their children succeed in school, some parents want an academic childcare environment in order to give their children an advantage over their peers in later years. It is important, however, not to overlook the growing body of evidence that emotional intelligence is a more accurate indicator of life success than cognitive intellect or book smarts.

Emotional intelligence refers to social and personal abilities that a per­son has, which help him or her get along with others, make good decisions, and achieve satisfaction with his or her circumstances and environment. As a result of this relatively new way of looking at child development, some people believe that a play-based environment, with emphasis on social and emotional growth, is the best way to prepare young children for success in school.

At this point in time, the play and academic factions will probably have to simply agree to disagree as to which is better. It may be best to look for a balance between the two. A well-rounded full-time program will include plenty of time for play, as well as opportunities for learning.

Montessori Programs
One type of educational program that often operates full time similarly to day care centers is the Montessori school. Montessori refers to the philosophy of the program, which was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early part of the last century. A very general summary of the Montessori method is that children are placed in an environment in which they take the initiative for their own learning. Teachers are present as guides in the learning process, rather than as the main focus of the room. Teachers allow children to pursue the concepts that interest them, rather than standing at the front of the room and directing what the children are learning. Large group learning is not a significant part of the pro­gram; children work individually more often than not. A great emphasis is placed on the use of concrete objects in learning. Some critics believe that this is at the expense of more abstract concepts. All academic subjects are integrated in the learning process. Rather than a math lesson, followed by geography, then science, for instance, the Montessori method encourages the child to incorporate many disciplines into a single pursuit.

Some parents do not favor Montessori education. One reason is—in the program's pure form—pretend play is not encouraged. Also, some parents are not comfortable with the teachers taking such a hands-off stance with regard to the children's learning. They prefer to have a teacher be the educator rather than the guide, with the children instructed in a more traditional manner.

One thing to be noted is that the Montessori method is not patented and the Montessori name is not trademarked. This means that any pro­gram can call itself a Montessori school, whether or not it adheres to the original principles. As a result, you should take a good look at the actual operations of a Montessori school you are considering to see if you agree with the particular methods the program is using.

More on: Childcare

Copyright © 2005 by Linda H. Connell. Excerpted from The Childcare Answer Book with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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