Taking inspiration from both Montessori and Reggio Emilia practices, our unique philosophy incorporates the best parts of several prominent childcare applications and is centred around the ideas of respecting children and their capabilities, bringing out and engaging the children's interests through activity and documentation, and providing an environment that is for the children and which allows them to exist in a community of other children.
To respect the children opens one's eyes to the amazing beings that they are. They are not incompetent or destructive, they are not to be restricted or held back, they are in fact capable and responsible persons who, with the proper environment and guidance, can express themselves appropriately, take part in extended projects (over weeks or months), and engage in activities which require skill and restraint (like woodworking). Our philosophy encourages children to take themselves seriously, to take responsibility for their actions, and to understand how their actions and words influence the world around them. When a teacher interacts with a child in our program, it is at the child's level, and it is not from a place of authority, but a place of partnership and friendship. A teacher will step in and take an authoritative role only when they feel that a child is in physical danger, or is otherwise lacking the tools to deal with the challenge they are facing.
There is a common belief that children cannot seriously engage in thought or in action in one activity for an extended period of time. This has given birth to many child care programs which plan 'units' in advance. Maybe the children would study space this week and dinosaurs the next. Our program moves away from these traditional beliefs in favour of more up-to-date understandings of how children engage themselves. This cutting edge approach to curriculum planning is called 'emergent'. Our emergent curriculum uses the tool of documentation to learn about the children and where their interests lie, and then uses those interests as tools for engaging the children in the core curriculum areas like Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. For example, let us say that in observing and documenting the children's free play time, the teacher notices a common interest spontaneously develop in the area of castles. Over the next month, or more depending on whether the interest is maintained, the teacher will use this interest as a medium for education, developing many unique and engaging activities to share with the children. To explore Gross Motor development, the children may build castles from blocks. The teacher may guide the children in measuring the castles they built to explore Math. Having candle-lit dinners, using good table manners at lunch time, and dressing up or pretending as Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses, may occur as a way of exploring the Dramatic Play, or Social Studies areas of the curriculum. For Literature and Art, they may read books or make paintings pertaining to castles. As you can see, there are many avenues open to a child's mind when they are engaged and interested.
Though education and formal preparation for entry into Kindergarten is an important part of what we do, by far one of the most important things a Child Care Centre can provide is a medium for child to child interaction. The social environment experienced by a young child is vitally important in their development as an individual and as a future part of society in any form. In constructing a modern child care environment, we have taken the other pillars of our philosophy into account. We have respected and appreciated the children by providing them with real, natural materials. At meals, the children eat with metal cutlery, drink from real glass cups, and eat from real plates just like you or I generally would. Other providers balked at this as they have seen how children can disrespect even plastic utensils to the point of destruction. Despite this, we have observed as we had hoped, that the children have learned to respect their dishes and handle them with responsibility. We adhere to similar principals in all other areas of the environment we provide, from furnishing the centres to creating activities. Many people believe that children are happiest when surrounded by bright, strong primary colors and plastic toys. We believe that that is overwhelming, inappropriate, and, ultimately, something that contributes to the myth of children needing to be extremely stimulated before they can be engaged in a meaningful way. Instead, our environment is made of neutral, soothing tones, and natural materials including many wooden toys and raw materials for activities including leaves, recycled materials, and other 'true objects'.
Though we could, as we're sure many other providers could, speak at length about our philosophy, in conclusion we can only say that we go to great lengths in order to have the most cutting-edge curriculum present in our Child Care Environments, and that at the core of our beliefs is a respect and appreciation not only for the children, but for what they are capable of.