The job of educating children at the level of Early Childhood Education is taking on the responsibility of building the foundation to a platform of years of learning for each child. Each child comes to us with their own experiences, backgrounds, challenges, and lifestyle, and we must strive to know that child on an individual level and work with that child starting there. Emotionally, that child needs to feel comfortable in our environment and their surroundings in the classroom with teachers and students before being able to absorb anything else. The emotional stability of the child is our first step to building this foundation. Social development comes second; it is our job to teach children in this age group how to communicate with their peers and teachers, as this is often their first school experience. We want kids to feel confident that their words are important, and that if they have needs, they will be heard. The basic social communication skills must be taught through example and experience; repetition of modeling this is done day after day until children adopt it as their own. Our next focus is their physical development. After observing physical capabilities in a child, we give children tasks and hands-on learning to build large and fine motor movements. And, finally, we present children with many styles of learning their basic, foundational concepts to give them the confidence they need to add to that foundation for years to come. When a child is getting frustrated we know to start looking for >>>>Emotional Confidence>>>Social Skills>>>Physical Limitations. Once this assessment is made, then teachers provide tools for a guided experience to obtain new knowledge until the child begins the process of making that information and experience his or her own.
Every child has a biological age, starting at the time of birth. At that time, that child will start a path of development. The child’s parents, lifestyle, opportunities, circumstances in life, and much more play into the development they will begin with and throughout their life.
As educators, we generally have children in our classes by biological age. However, not one child in the room is identical in his or her developmental age. In pursuing the developmental age, we need to assess children and identify the levels of their developmental capability. Developmentally Appropriate Practice means that the child is only expected to do what he or she is capable of developmentally.
Smart Start ELC is a structured, constructivist center that has child-centered curriculum and follows the beliefs of philosopher of Lev Semenovich Vygotsky and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory.
In line with our Early Childhood Education Developmentally Appropriate Philosophy, we start with building children’s confidence in their surroundings and relationships. Our desire is that children feel safe and know what is going to happen in the structure of their day. We desire kids to have active participation in their curriculum. Observation is key in listening to what the children are interested in and knowing their personal development so that we can then set goals and design a classroom environment and curriculum that meets every child’s interests and needs.
Our classrooms are well-rounded, using all of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Every day, we learn through music, art, math, interactions with peers, self-reflection, movement and hands-on learning. Smart Start models the learning process off the Vygotsky scaffolding approach. We assess each child, look at his or her development, and set goals that are developmentally appropriate. Vygotsky’s scaffolding philosophy is that children will conquer one stage of development before moving onto the next. Our teachers provide the scaffolding tools that will assist children as they move in and out of developmental groups based on what children have conquered and when they are ready for the next step of learning.
With regard to behavior, Smart Start ELC practices guidance techniques rather than discipline. Children often find themselves in situations that they need to be guided through when it comes to behavior. Guiding children in their social development creates higher potential for children to learn how to act in a social environment in their future years of schooling and dealing with people in general. We lay out our consequences beforehand and always teach empathy and socially accepted confrontations with peers. Children are taught how to confront a child who is treating them with discomfort, and, likewise, children who are using actions or words inappropriately to cope with frustrations will be guided through the process of how to handle their frustrations differently. In a combination class, it is important we remember that every child is at a different level socially and that all children will be working on these skills at their own developmental levels. When needed, we will meet with parents to discuss a guidance plan.
Each child has his/her own unique perspective and skill. We want children to feel comfortable being who they are and expressing themselves through their own work without there being a right or wrong outcome. They learn through this expression and gain confidence in self when they can learn and build their imagination in their own way. Smart Start ELC does very few “parent pleaser” projects (a project that has a direct outcome). Work done at Smart Start is child-directed. Our teachers are discouraged from doing the same work alongside the child as children will become frustrated in their own abilities as they don’t have that teacher’s years of experience in every area from art projects to question asking. Children are encouraged to be their own person, praised for their ability in what they accomplish, and encouraged to use their own thinking and skill for all of their school projects and activities.