I'm not familiar with high reach curriculum. I have heard some members talk about Montessori expecting parents to drop kids at the door and not enter or work with the transition at all; not sure if this is true so you might want to post this question in the subforum. You might want to look for just a really good developmentally appropriate and play based preschool, regardless of its particular affiliation.
Are there specific worries that you have with regard to your sensitive daughter?
IMHO many 3 year old have those same traits, and many of them have them at home, but not at school. Really good teachers should be in tune with 3 year olds and should also be conscious of different temperaments and how to help them in preschool. Your daughter may also do really well at preschool, and if it is challenging her, she may come home and give you the meltdown rather than her teachers! Because she knows you love her! The point being that children usually know how to behave in situations outside their home (if the teachers go over the classrooms routines and rules) and they most often rise to the occasion even though we fear they won't.
A good developmental preschool pays as much attention to social/emotional development as it does to other areas of development--even more so if it is a great preschool. Because the tasks of the preschooler are to learn self-regulation, emotional expression, social skills, and all that other great stuff in order to succeed in a group on academics.
I wonder if it would help you to poke around on the website of the National Assoc for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). They are the accrediting body for preschools and high quality child care programs. This might give you a sense of the standards held by this body, and then perhaps you could find a preschool that has achieved these standards.
In the school we chose for our son, parents are encouraged to volunteer in the classroom, FYI, and thus can help with the transition. Also, for preschool they filter in the kids so they don't all start on the same "first day of school." This is also to help the transition. Children do a "circle time" at the beginning of the day, then work on independent projects. They work alone or with 1-2 other children.
Montessori is NOT "unstructured". That's a myth. It's a different structure than the one used by traditional schools. Montessori schools actually have a bit of a reputation for being rigid because they are so well-organized and structured. Each child works at his or her own pace with some undivided attention from teachers. When they need a break, they can go outside to the garden/patio and do less structured activities there. Of course they also get recess/playtime in a separate yard with play structures and grass.
Find an accredited Montessori and take a tour. Key word: accredited.
Many Montessori schools are specially designed to reduce sensory overload: use of natural light, dimmed lamps, quiet voices, soft flooring (mats to work on), etc. It's aimed to increase deep concentration. I happen to feel its particularly well-suited for sensitive children. Remember, the Montessori method was designed for children with special needs. Then they realized it was useful for all children. Montessori kids tend to be at or above their nonMontessori peers in social skills and academics.
Key components of Montessori:
Independence and self-motivation
Working with others/ collaborating
I'd go spend time in a variety of classrooms and talk to the staff. Programs can vary wildly even with a moniker like "Montessori." Some will be fantastic and others terrible! I used to teach preschool and have sat in on all sorts of programs. It's really all about the staff.. not only in how they interact with the students but how they interact with each other. Look at a wide variety of schools.... if you don't need daycare, don't go to a school that offers it... or at least find a school that has a separate room or facility for daycare.
There are good programs that won't be good for your children. I like Montessori principals. I used many in my own class. However, my eldest found Montessori schools "creepy" and not inline with her learning style. My youngest found his own school which I knew was the right place for him when he didn't want to leave.
FWIW, both my kids were more "complex" cases as preschoolers and we found great fit schools in the most unlikely of places. Happy Hunting!
My 3 year old daughter is the exact same way so I understand! Is there any reason you HAVE to send her to preschool? I am not sure whether you work or not. If not, I would really recommend letting her stay home another year. I am very inspired by the gentle Waldorf education, and I don't see any reason that a 3 year old needs to be in preschool. Kids are going to school earlier and earlier and are really losing their childhood. Most 3 year olds don't do well in those situations. Yes, some get used to it and appear to tolerate it well, but at what cost? If you must send her to school now, I would suggest an alternative, holistic education such as Waldorf or Montessori. Something that educates and nourishes the whole child, rather than forcing worksheets and early reading and stuff. But this is all just my opinion. Good luck with whatever you decide!
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