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Picking the right pre school for your kid

Monday, 13 November 2017 14:47
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Making the decision of which pre-school or Montessori your child should go to, is perhaps the most important decision you will make in relation to his future education. The strides your child takes on the stepping stones of learning, must lead to the happiest and most contented period of his life.

There are some key points to look out for on your first visit to a pre-school or Montessori school.
 Are the buildings and environment inviting?

 Does the property have adequate outdoor space for the child to feel free and safe?

 Do the children have easy access to the outdoors, with grassy areas to play in?

 Is the building homely and appealing?
o Too many steps and narrow corridors make children feel uneasy;
o The rooms should be light and airy, giving the child a sense of freedom and closeness to nature;
o It should be a child proof environment, showing respect for the child.
o The classrooms should be organized and attractive. A sense of order makes the child feel safe and secure.
o Children are keen observers and when they enter a place which is attractive and pleasing, these is a sense of calm within them.

 Were you welcomed?

 Is there sufficient room for the children to work in?
o Some learning requires plenty of room to spread out the equipment. Adequate floor space is necessary for the child to spread out the mat on which they work. If there is more than one learner sharing the work, more space is needed. A classroom desk will not do.
o Multi-sensory hands on material must be available for the child to work with.

 Pay attention to the children in the school you visit.
o Are they nice to each other?
o Is there emphasis placed on courtesy and empathy?
o Are the children given time to explore and experiment with the classroom equipment?
o Are they given an opportunity to choose their own work?

 This is a simple practice that will give the child opportunities to choose and make his own decisions. These decisions will help him to live in a peaceful and caring manner in his own community. Pre-school is the child's first experience of communal living. If the child is encouraged to be caring and considerate, his learning becomes less stressful. The wonder of diversity in his environment can be truly appreciated if he learns to respect others.

 Observe if the children are encouraged to teach, collaborate and help each other.
o In the real world, successful people are the ones who are able to work collaboratively with others. Yet in some schools, co-operation is discouraged. It is erroneously referred to as cheating. Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce something. Cheating on the other hand, is acting dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage. Collaborative learning is the art of working with someone rather than in rivalry.

Learning is its own reward. It is not to be motivated by prizes and gifts. Prizes, grades etc. breed competitiveness and discourages co-operation. A child who is learning to satisfy his own desire for knowledge, finds joy that far exceeds any momentary pleasure that external rewards may bring.
Research has shown that both the oldest and the youngest, learn better in a multi aged classroom than in a single grade class. The multi age classroom encourages and builds a stronger ability in the child to concentrate. The child must develop the ability to pay attention and focus on the task on hand. That must come from within, not from a task master. The school must encourage internal self-discipline, rather than the teacher acting as the primary enforcer of discipline.

There is so much to learn in this ever changing world. Rote learning and memorization is of little use, as it reinforces what has been learnt before. There is no room for creativity or discovery and is coupled with little understanding. The child needs to learn, how to learn. Be guided by your perception on whether the school you visit creates this right environment.

Written for Mums in Colombo by Charmaine Colombage , Directoress of Stepping Stones Montessori

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