Few things are more important than early childhood education. A study that is funded by the federal government shows that preschool improves a child’s language and memory. This ongoing and thorough study only adds to what teachers themselves have known for a long time. In addition to language and memory, a study of over 14,000 kindergarteners shows that attending preschool or child care centers with an academic curriculum also have higher pre reading and math scores. Pre kindergarten, similar to what people also call preschool also has benefits beyond academic concerns. In these early childhood education centers children also improve basic motor skills like balance and strength; they also learn and practice jumping in place, standing on one foot, running and kicking a ball, and controlling their body movements in a classroom full of children. Preschool is an all encompassing term that includes early-childhood educational opportunities for 3- and 4-year-olds. Some schools offer a part-time schedule, which can vary from morning only everyday a week to a few hours a day three to five times a week. Studies show that students will benefit from a preschool opportunity whether it is a full time option for working parents or a part time option for stay at home moms.
One educator who has long understood the benefits of educating the youngest of children is Dr. Maria Montessori. Trained as an Italian physician in the early 1900s in Italy, Montessori spent hundreds of hours observing children and centered her teaching principles around what she saw as the most effective methods. She noticed that children learning in a multiage environment with real work could capture the attention of even the youngest students. Dr. Montessori created and designed child size furniture and an environment that was both orderly and beautiful. Montessori divided the preprimary classroom, a space for preschoolers and kindergarteners into several basic areas:
–practical life where children can learn and practice real life skills like washing tables, preparing food and grace and courtesy lessons
–sensorial where students have visual and physical examples of large, small, short, tall, as well as works that inspire the five senses
–language which for the youngest children includes sand paper letters and the beginnings of a phonetic reading approach
–math where students again have a physical exploration of golden beads, bars, squares and cubes as an introduction to basic concepts
–cultural where children have an opportunity to learn about the world around them by learning the parts of plants and animals.
While Dr. Montessori created just one of early childhood education opportunities that are available to our country’s youngest learners, she was immediately convinced that no child was too young to learn to care for herself, her surroundings and classroom materials that taught the s wonders of the world. Today, many preschools use a system of key developmental indicators to in an effort to follow the social and emotional development of children. Like Montessori, through careful observation teachers are able to watch and learn what preschool students can learn if they are given a well prepared environment.