Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio-Emilia Programs
This is a private, unique program made possible by a professional curation of Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, Nature-Based Learning, California’s DOE preschool standards, and NAEYC standards into a program that preserves the precepts of each educational philosophy for a group of peers with a low student to teacher ratio. Most importantly, I emphasize the loving connections of our family environment to provide nurturing and well-being for each child.
My teaching philosophy is, “One is not ideal for all, but all is ideal for one.”
For Montessori, I adhere to the mixed peer group, low teacher-to-student ratio, self-correcting lessons and materials, extended periods of uninterrupted self-directed work, and promoting experiences for the sensitive periods of discovery and learning. Montessori materials and learning areas, along with facilitation, are also provided for in an outdoor “classroom” for nature-based learning. I have lesson materials approved by the American Montessori Association and have completed study and observation of Montessori teaching principles through an accredited college. For most children in our program’s age group, their “sensitive period” of learning focuses on: the refinement of movement, language, order, small objects / details, refinement of the senses, grace and courtesy, drawing and handling geometric shapes, writing, and beginning reading.
For Waldorf, curricula and monthly themes explore the emotional and scientific connections between people and nature, with an emphasis on personal and social well-being during Circle Time, learning activities, and free play. We teach respect for the diversity of spiritual and non-spiritual practices, but please note that this is a non-religious program (Steiner’s specific spiritual beliefs are not taught here). I include natural environments and objects to stimulate imagination and natural connection, so I do not have individual desks or a typical classroom setup or decor. Instead, I promote a home environment meant for social interaction and exploration. Natural lighting, plants, simple decor, and a selection of “plain” toys such as colorless/graphic free blocks and simple wooden toys is mixed in with mainstream toys (thus the hybrid distinction) to promote imaginative development. Also, a major emphasis is put on the creative process for all subjects and adhering to daily rhythms.
For Reggio-Emilia, the core concept is that children are already the “bearers” of all learning and should be allowed to discover it within themselves. This means that instead of “filling” them with knowledge, a facilitator provides curriculum and experiences that draw upon the children’s inherent intelligence (also referred to as “unpacking”). Lessons are inspired by the children’s interests that have been skillfully observed and recorded by me. Also, a high-value is placed upon cooperative and social learning, which can be done both in discussion and group projects. Expanding on peer collaboration is the vital role the parent and community plays in the education. Family and community (along with field trips and/or class visits) are encouraged to contribute to lessons and are shown how their partnership helps form the success of the student. The physical environment, like Waldorf, promotes natural light and nature inside through materials and plants. While adapting monthly theme curriculum with this pedagogy, I also reserve extended, project-based learning opportunities. Documentation is an essential component of noting the interests and development of the children. Each child has their own digital portfolio where samples of work and progress are stored. A private, parent group on Facebook also posts daily samples of activities.
For Nature-Based Learning, a specially designed outdoor “classroom” has been design for exploration and appreciation of nature. Gardening is done year-round, as is providing children with seasonal materials to explore and weekly themed materials, tools, and lessons. Monthly themes also focus on environmental topics that explore subjects, methods of learning and understanding, and practicing stewardship. Free time outside is prioritized as a way to appreciate and enjoy being around nature.
For California’s state standards for preschool to ready children for TK (transitional Kindergarten) and Kindergarten, I model my learning objectives on the DRDP-PSC (Desired Results Developmental Profile – Preschool) assessment and objective categories. You can find a link to the PDF and online forms here: https://www.desiredresults.us/drdp-forms. This provides an outstanding framework for documentation and work samples to show your child’s progress and developmental range. The Authentic Assessment Portfolio is created for each child using the DRDP-PSC categories.
For my own pedagogical techniques, I strongly believe in learning themes to connect and reenforce multiple subject lessons. I have an overall theme each month that the curriculum is based. The gentle repetition and variety of lessons by core themes helps provide an interdisciplinary and holistic foundation for understanding by the child. This also helps develop their education as it relates to their everyday life, which offers immediate applications and understanding of lessons. Circle Time, Math and Science (STEM), Arts and Crafts, and Music and Performance, Language and Literacy, all have corresponding lessons that reenforce each other and use the model of Bloom’s Taxonomy for developmental objectives (knowledge acquisition and then analytical creation at age/maturation appropriate levels). Lesson activities are also designed with my own F.I.V.E.S lesson system: Fun, Interactive, Varied, Engaging, and Simplified.
The importance of free play, which encompasses half of my program and has a strong overlap in nearly every other pedagogy I’ve already mentioned, allows a child to learn naturally and positively through fun in an environment that provides intellectual stimulation and peer engagement. For toys, a selection of building materials like LEGOs, wooden blocks, magnetic tiles, Play-Doh, and other such toys provide fun play that stimulates creativity and develops fine-motor skills. A play kitchen, with tons of play food and cooking equipment, and cash register for grocery “sales”, along with a variety of costumes such as a chef, police officer, firefighter, vet, contribute to role-playing (social skills) and cooperative play (negotiation) with peers. Stuffed animals, dolls with outfits and accessories, figurines with multiple play structures all help develop imaginative interactions and social-emotional skills. A wide variety of musical instruments contribute to music appreciation and personal enrichment. Puzzles and learning technology gamify logic learning and can be done in small groups or individually. The underlying goal here is to provide a vast and varied selection of stimulating toys —enough for each child to play individually and in groups. I intersperse these play periods with the structured lesson times for a mental reset and to provide a variety of learning engagements. Toys and learning materials are also regularly rotated.