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If we stay where we're living now we'll have to start looking for a preschool this summer for DD. I've started to do some research and have been considering my options. Since we're not 100% sure where we'll be living at that time we can't talk about specific schools but are looking more at the philosophy behind them. No matter what we'll most likely be living in or near a major city, which means we should have a variety of options.

We haven't yet found one that we're really in love with and I'm hoping maybe someone here could help dispense of some of my worries/assumptions or make a better suggestion.

Montessori- we're probably favoring the Montessori philosophy at this point. I LOVE that they let the kids work at their own pace. I think in many ways I'm an unschooler at heart so that part speaks to me. But I wonder how well this works in practice? Also, in our area (and in one where we might move) they have a Montessori school up to 8th grade so I'm wondering if it works well in the older grades? I like that they have multi-age classrooms too, that's another big plus in my book. My biggest issue is that Montessori doesn't encourage pretend play and that's something I see as being VERY important for young children. DD can already spend up to an hour playing with her doll house so I don't really buy the argument that young toddler don't do pretend play (yes, it could be more imitative vs. imaginative but it's still pretending).

Waldorf- I have to admit when I first heard/read about Waldorf schools I was really turned off. The highly structure age at which kids learn reading, etc bothers me a lot. That means that even though they have a Waldorf elementary school here we'd never consider signing DD up for it (especially since DH and I were both self-taught early readers). HOWEVER, I have heard wonderful things about the preschools and I love the focus on the imagination and nature. The toys are also really cool and we have a lot of wooden toys at home already.
But I wonder how much the rigid age structure would still come into play at the preschool level? If DD ends up being an early reader (which does seem somewhat likely since she's already learning some of her letters/numbers by constantly asking what they are or from her books) would they look at her like something is wrong with her?

Tools of the Mind- I just read about this one in Nutureshock and I'm intrigued by the amazing success rate. But I question how good it would be for kids that do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds?

Homeschooling- I wouldn't rule this out completely. If we see that it's clear that no school can meet he needs and it is affecting her adversely it could happen. But it would probably have to be in a pretty extreme case because I plan on working in at least some capacity. Also, DH is pretty against it (again, unless she was having problems in school that couldn't be fixed within the system).

Sorry for the long post. I'm just trying to work this out in my head to know what direction to go in. I think ideally I'd have something that took the learn at your own pace approach from Montessori school combined with the imaginative play and nature focus of Waldorf. Obviously, it's going to depend on the schools available, what the teachers are like etc. but I'd like to at least have some idea in mind before we start touring schools. Thanks in advance for your help!!!!
 

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Have you checked out Reggio Emilia schools...they're not as common, but I love their philosophy.

Also, we briefly considered our local Public Pre-K which recently (last few years) adopted the Tools of the Mind Curriculum and I had the same concerns you did about whether the structure and approach was necessary for kids who come from advantaged backgrounds and who do not need as much self-control and executive function training.
 

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I would jump at the chance for a Tools of the Mind preschool. I think that lag in the acquisition of executive functioning skills crosses socio-ec boundaries. Heck, ADHD is an example of weak ExFunc, as is poor time management and not organizing your desk. The typical childhood of today (fewer opportunities to roam the neighbourhood or play independently, structured classes, video games) has generally weakened the acquisition rates of ExFuncs in today's kids.

I don't think there's anything in Tools of the Mind that makes it an approach for disadvantaged kids - IIRC, it was that they found funding to test it live by working with feeder preschools connected to low-performing kindies.

As far as choosing a preschool, regardless of philosopy, I think that the teachers are the make or break element in a great preschool experience. I love montessori as an idea and read a lot, but with both kids I looked at various montessori schools and ended up in play-based schools with great teachers. Reggio Emilia is a very appealing philosophy.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by physmom View Post
I
Homeschooling- I wouldn't rule this out completely. If we see that it's clear that no school can meet he needs and it is affecting her adversely it could happen. But it would probably have to be in a pretty extreme case because I plan on working in at least some capacity. Also, DH is pretty against it (again, unless she was having problems in school that couldn't be fixed within the system).
It's extreme not to go to preschool?

Perhaps in a state with universal preschool; my state does not have that. If your child is in preschool in my state, you are either at the "free lunch" income level, or able/willing to pay at least $270 a month.
 

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What about plain old play-based?

Or do you see preschool as a means to get a foot in the door to a private school?

We know lots of people who enrolled in lots of different preschools, and it had zilch effect on school performance. Though it did affect how easy it was to get into the "parent/real" school for K or 1st!

Since we knew we'd be homeschooling or utilizing the public schools, I didn't give a crap about a preschool's "educational philosophy" or academics (all three of my kids were reading and doing basic computations prior to preschool enrollment). I wanted them to meet other kids, be gently exposed to structure and other adult caregivers, and get to do cool stuff that I didn't feel like doing all the time (like huge messy art projects every session, ect.).

I invested more time in shopping for elementary school programs, based on the info/feedback I observed during my kids preschool days, and in talking to their preschool teachers (whose opinions about their learning styles I respected and gave me food for thought). To some degree I think becoming dead set in an educational philosophy at 3 years old is not that great for the kid. It's more picking out soemthing that pleases the parent, rather than what is the best fit for the child--and I've seen plenty of parents who keep on keeping on in a bad fit because THEY have a lot of emotional/financial investment in a particular philosophy.

So, I'd try stuff out, but would just caution that you need to keep a semi-open mind about other philosophies as you finally get to observe your child in classroom settings and have other eyes looking at them. You may find the style you like fits perfectly--but you may find it does *not*. As long as you keep your mind and flexibility open and see this as a learning exercise for YOU, though, I don't see how you can go wrong with anything you choose. After all, if it turns out to be a bad fit, that's not a "failure", it's valuable info, and great to learn early on!
 

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I only have a minute, but as a parent of a Montessori preschooler, I'll say this about the imaginative play bit. My son goes 5 days a week for half days (I believe most preschool programs are similar schedule). From lunchtime on he has all afternoon at home to do what he wants, so I'm not too concerned that he doesn't do much imaginative play for the 3-4 hours a day he's at school.

Good luck deciding!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
Or do you see preschool as a means to get a foot in the door to a private school?

We know lots of people who enrolled in lots of different preschools, and it had zilch effect on school performance. Though it did affect how easy it was to get into the "parent/real" school for K or 1st!
Yes, this is exactly it for us. Getting into a private K here is a VERY scary thing, so this plays a HUGE role in it. What preschool you choose very well can affect what K you get into. Trust me, it's not something I like but you have to work with the system you have, right?

Plus, like I said, I'll most likely be working in some capacity (not sure if it will be full time or not, though).

Play-based is not off the list by any means. Um, I guess I didn't include it because we don't know where we're going to live yet and I wasn't sure if they'd have one available. Also, I was hoping to get some feedback on some of the issues I had mentioned with those preschools that I talked about just because I was curious if those would be real issues or not.

I'd love to keep an open mind but transferring schools is not easy here.
Also, at least two of the other places we could be moving to would have the same problem (difficult to transfer schools and need to pick schools from a young age).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
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Originally Posted by Emmeline II View Post
It's extreme not to go to preschool?

Perhaps in a state with universal preschool; my state does not have that. If your child is in preschool in my state, you are either at the "free lunch" income level, or able/willing to pay at least $270 a month.
For us it's also about getting into a *possible* private school later on (the public schools are horrible here) and I'd most likely be working.

I know this is probably a regional thing, but are you saying $270/month is a lot? That would be considered extremely cheap here... Or do you mean a week?
 

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Originally Posted by staceychev View Post
No response, really. (Sorry... preggo brain) But, I thought you might enjoy reading this article the New York Times did on Tools of the Mind Schools.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/ma...%20mind&st=cse
Thanks, I've read that one too.


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Originally Posted by jen in co View Post
Have you checked out Reggio Emilia schools...they're not as common, but I love their philosophy.

Also, we briefly considered our local Public Pre-K which recently (last few years) adopted the Tools of the Mind Curriculum and I had the same concerns you did about whether the structure and approach was necessary for kids who come from advantaged backgrounds and who do not need as much self-control and executive function training.
I've had Reggio Emilia suggested to me too from a friend, I really should look into them, I don't know much about them.

Did you ever hear of any kids not from a disadvantage background go to Tools? I really wonder about that. We're definitely NOT rich but DD definitely gets lots of love and attention at home.


Quote:

Originally Posted by joensally View Post
As far as choosing a preschool, regardless of philosopy, I think that the teachers are the make or break element in a great preschool experience.
Point well taken, and we're definitely going to go by that. I'm just musing about my options now and trying to figure out which ones warrant more research (yep, I'm a researcher at heart.
).

Quote:

Originally Posted by noobmom View Post
I only have a minute, but as a parent of a Montessori preschooler, I'll say this about the imaginative play bit. My son goes 5 days a week for half days (I believe most preschool programs are similar schedule). From lunchtime on he has all afternoon at home to do what he wants, so I'm not too concerned that he doesn't do much imaginative play for the 3-4 hours a day he's at school.

Good luck deciding!
Thanks, that's a good point. I guess, my concern would be that they would discourage DD in pretend play at school at she would take that to heart and think it's "wrong" outside of school. I could be that I'm worrying for nothing but it's my (and DH's) biggest hang up with Montessori.
 

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Originally Posted by physmom View Post
For us it's also about getting into a *possible* private school later on (the public schools are horrible here) and I'd most likely be working.
I know that getting into K or 1st in some places is a big deal, but in most places, esp in later grades, private schools NEED kids. With the economy the way it is, many families that would have opted for private a few years ago can't, so enrollments are down.

We've moved around a lot, an in all the places we've lived it's not a big deal if your child is a) reasonably bright and b) fairly well behaved.

We homeschooled when the kids were young, they attend an excellant traditional public school now, and we may opt for private when we move.

I really think that different schools with the same philosophy can be very different. It really depends more on the attitude of the staff. Montessori, esp., seems to be all over the board. I've read lovely things about Montessori, but I've seen some that were really pushy with early academics and not age appropriate (IMHO). Just because someone is using a label, it doesn't mean that they are doing things the way you think someone using that label should be doing them.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by physmom View Post

Did you ever hear of any kids not from a disadvantage background go to Tools? I really wonder about that. We're definitely NOT rich but DD definitely gets lots of love and attention at home.


That's a point, although I'll reiterate that it's because it's being driven from academia and being researched, and research into disadvantaged groups has funding. It's not that there is anything inherently about low socio-ec kids that is a better fit with Tools than med-high socio-ec kids. Tools is based on the work of Vygotsky, and my son's current, incredible teacher informs her practice in class and in her PhD with Vygotsky's work. And we're in an upper middle class school.

Low executive functioning is not from lack of love and attention. An example - being allowed to run through the neighbourhood, deciding for oneself if jumping over a gap is safe, determining when it's time to go home - all of these things build executive functioning skills. In fact, many are largely built through the things kids need to do for themselves.



I'm a bit of a researcher myself, and opinionated to boot
.

ETA: given the further details you've provided, I'd go with montessori if you can find a good one. It probably feeds into good schools and would definitely teach skills to enhance success in an academic school.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
I know that getting into K or 1st in some places is a big deal, but in most places, esp in later grades, private schools NEED kids. With the economy the way it is, many families that would have opted for private a few years ago can't, so enrollments are down.

We've moved around a lot, an in all the places we've lived it's not a big deal if your child is a) reasonably bright and b) fairly well behaved.

We homeschooled when the kids were young, they attend an excellant traditional public school now, and we may opt for private when we move.

I really think that different schools with the same philosophy can be very different. It really depends more on the attitude of the staff. Montessori, esp., seems to be all over the board. I've read lovely things about Montessori, but I've seen some that were really pushy with early academics and not age appropriate (IMHO). Just because someone is using a label, it doesn't mean that they are doing things the way you think someone using that label should be doing them.
These are good points.

If you do look at montessori, make sure they're registered with the appropriate montessori body.

We HS'd DS in gr1 and it was GREAT.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by noobmom View Post
I only have a minute, but as a parent of a Montessori preschooler, I'll say this about the imaginative play bit. My son goes 5 days a week for half days (I believe most preschool programs are similar schedule). From lunchtime on he has all afternoon at home to do what he wants, so I'm not too concerned that he doesn't do much imaginative play for the 3-4 hours a day he's at school.

Good luck deciding!
I guess the thing that doesn't make sense to me (disclosure, I work in and am a huge advocate for a Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) style preschool -- what most people consider play based), about discouraging imaginative play, is that children's imaginative play is so much richer and more rewarding when it happens in a group, which makes school the ideal place to do it.

While I agree that children need both -- open ended imaginative group play, and closed ended solo play (that is, working with manipulatives that have one "right answer" such as puzzles), it makes no sense to me to limit school to activities that could easily be done at home, and then restrict those activities that get infinitely better in the presence of other children to home, where there aren't generally as many children to play with.

I don't see the link between unschooling and Montessori. Being encouraged to explore your world and make your own choices about what, how and when to do things, and being allowed to choose from a very narrow range of tasks that you must do exactly as you were taught, seem very opposite to me.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by physmom View Post
Did you ever hear of any kids not from a disadvantage background go to Tools? I really wonder about that. We're definitely NOT rich but DD definitely gets lots of love and attention at home.

Honestly, our district started using it in one of the wealthiest elementary schools for K and the parents and teachers really didn't like it. There were a bunch of reasons people didn't like it, but this school also houses the gifted magnet for our district area and I think a lot of families who choice into this program thinking their child will be in GT in 1st grade were frustrated by some of the writing exercises and some of the classroom structure.

I think it's something you need to observe to decide if you might like it. I felt like it was a little too rigid and in my case, the teachers at the local public PreK program just weren't that impressive. I did a ton of reading on Tools of the Mind and really wanted to like it, but there were some basic problems for me with the daily structure of the program and I also have one of those little guys who can sit still and concentrate on something (a puzzle, a toy, a computer game) for an hour with not much problem. He likes to sit in circle time and he has good listening skills. It seemed like a lot of the basic approach was focused on making sure all kids had those types of skills and I wasn't impressed with what they would do for kids who didn't need as much help on those issues.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Momily View Post
I guess the thing that doesn't make sense to me (disclosure, I work in and am a huge advocate for a Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) style preschool -- what most people consider play based), about discouraging imaginative play, is that children's imaginative play is so much richer and more rewarding when it happens in a group, which makes school the ideal place to do it.

While I agree that children need both -- open ended imaginative group play, and closed ended solo play (that is, working with manipulatives that have one "right answer" such as puzzles), it makes no sense to me to limit school to activities that could easily be done at home, and then restrict those activities that get infinitely better in the presence of other children to home, where there aren't generally as many children to play with.

I don't see the link between unschooling and Montessori. Being encouraged to explore your world and make your own choices about what, how and when to do things, and being allowed to choose from a very narrow range of tasks that you must do exactly as you were taught, seem very opposite to me.
Just wanted to quote this and comment on it in reference to Tools of the Mind for the original poster. I also am not a huge fan of Montessori b/c (depending on the specific program), the level of rigidity is high. The materials can be amazing and I love the self-directed nature, but several of the places I visited reminded me of tools in that 3 & 4 year olds were expected to plan their free time and stick with that plan no matter what; materials could only be used in a specific way (and I understand materials need to be treated with respect, but the idea that a child can't quietly build a tower for fun with a set of blocks b/c their intended purpose was math doesn't sit well with me), and overall there was just a lot more structure than I was looking for. Having said that, there are a lot of great Montessori schools that are less rigid...I just thought it was interesting that several of the ones I visited reminded me so much of Tools of the Mind in a way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks everyone for your responses so far! You given me so much to think about and I'll definitely have some stuff to keep in my mind when we do eventually visit schools. I'm glad I posted this because it's nice to hear everyone's perspective.


About transfering. I'm just repeating what I've heard/read here. From my understand kids stay put once they get into the private schools and most of the parents here have enough $$ for that not to be an issue (not our case, but still...). We're hoping to move but we'll see how that plays out.

About Montessori and unschooling. I just meant that comment in the sense that the child got to pick their activities at their own pace. It does bother me, though, that they can't use the materials for something else. I think I'd prefer a less rigid Montessori school so I'll keep that in mind when we look around.

About Tools of the Mind. Hmm... some stuff to think about both ways. Thanks!

It seems like nobody's saying anything about Waldorf... maybe I should just cross that one off my list?
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by physmom View Post
About Montessori and unschooling. I just meant that comment in the sense that the child got to pick their activities at their own pace.
In some montessori schools, the kids are very pushed to read very young. Many unschooled kids don't read until 8 or 10. Very, very different.

Quote:
It seems like nobody's saying anything about Waldorf... maybe I should just cross that one off my list?
There is a subfolder on just Waldorf, so you might post there.

I'm considering a Waldorf High School for one of my DDs, but we've never used Waldorf schools before so I don't know much about how they really work. I like a lot of Waldorf resources, and when my kids were little we were kinda waldorfy in our homeschooling.
 

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What an interesting thread!

Momily, you've hit the nail on the head! While I was intrigued by a lot of what I read and saw of Montessori (I did visit one school when deciding where to enroll DS, now 3.5 and in a play-based program) there was always something that bugged me about the philosophy (apart from the obvious points, I mean, about discouraging imaginative play, little emphasis on outdoor time, arts and crafts and so on and apart from how rigidly it was implemented), though I had a hard time putting it into words.

I was also quite intrigued by what I read about Tools in NurtureShock and while I disagree with the premise that children from higher socio-economic backgrounds might not need to be taught executive function skills (I grew up as upper-middle-class as it gets and mine are so poor I am by now wondering whether I might not have a very well compensated form of ADS so I think a lot depends on the child, not on the background) the rigidity inherent in the program puts me off, particularly the writing exercises.

Waldorf, however, appears even more totalitarian to me in many respects, and the tenets of anthroposophy are simply off-putting to me, no matter how beautiful the aesthetics might be.

Altogether, I have begun to be distrustful of any program that insists on ONE RIGHT WAY of doings things for EVERY CHILD.

What about a mixed age classroom that facilitates sustained imaginative play for a period, encourages some quiet Montessori time (with early academics for children who express an interest), then moves on to Reggio-inspired artwork, all with beautiful wooden toys and felt decorations and a big outdoor area with water to mess with? MOving in when you feel a kid needs more structure and leaving thise alone who do well on their own? Without the feel that everything needs to be justified by a philosophy?

Ah, I can dream, right?
 

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Your dd is pretty young. I would say that while philosohy/methodology is important, you are really going to want to be sure that the teacher is the right one for your child. Some of the nicest preschool/playschool programs I have seen have been in very modest environments, with modest "equipment", etc. The best feature was always the caring, loving staff who created a safe, special, homelike environment for the children. You can have the most high minded philosphy in the world, but if the teacher isn't wonderful, than it's not worth much. Think about it-you are handing off your child to someone else for several hours. That person should be a person you want your child to be spending time with, whether or not they have wooden or plastic toys. The children should be playfully and happily engaged. Not saying that the other pieces aren't important-they are. But people come first.

Also, really well trained and experienced teachers can look kind of "eclectic" in their approach. That is, they are able to draw primarily from good child development principals, and incorporate some other principals, depending upon what personally feels comfortable to them, and what works for an individual or class of children.

You might look to NAEYC for some ideas as well.

Unless you are planning to do waldorf all the way through your child will be behind entering school with kids who have had a high quality kindy program.
 
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