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Preschool Education Programs Through the Years

Child Care Director Resources

23rd September 2020

Preschool is an essential stage in early childhood development. Many educators and philosophers have tried to find the perfect preschool education program. As a result, plenty of different early childhood education programs (as well as child care and nursery schools) have been developed over the years.

Today, we will focus on the six types of preschool education programs that have gained popularity over the years.


With over 4,000 Montessori schools in the US, “Montessori” is becoming a household name. Developed more than a century ago by Dr. Maria Montessori, this preschool approach has been successfully integrated into many private and public schools’ curriculum. Maria Montessori opened the first Montessori school’s doors on January 6, 1907, calling it the Casa Dei Bambini. In 1909, Dr. Montessori described her educational process in detail in The Montessori Education publication.

Montessori is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child. The method fosters rigorous, self-motivated growth for children. This means encouraging children to be creative thinkers who are not afraid to try out their ideas.

Much of the Montessori experience is hands-on. As a result, the individual child’s work pace is encouraged in the Montessori classroom. This allows children to think by themselves and helps them to develop inner discipline. Also, competition among children is lessened, and cooperation is emphasized. However, some Montessori schools today provide grades, especially at the secondary level.

Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia Philosophy is an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education. This preschool education program was created at the end of the Second World War by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi. The approach is based on the image of a child with strong potentialities for development and as the main initiator of the learning process.

Founder Loris Malaguzz began the Reggio Emilia style based on the belief that every child is unique. From the start, the Reggio early childhood approach encouraged free thinking. In that way, the curriculum emerges organically as opposed to top-down.

Often working in pairs, the classroom teacher assumes the researcher’s role and enables children to learn about many different facets of whatever it is they are studying. The teacher is seen as someone who collaborates with children, instead of just instructing them. A Reggio Emilia teacher meticulously monitors and tracks the growth of each child. This means teachers must pay close attention to children on an individual level to inspire interest. The teachers will also ask questions and listen to children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories.


Rudolf Steiner, the creator of Waldorf philosophy, founded the first Waldorf school in Germany in 1919. Steiner was an Austrian philosopher who taught about what he termed anthroposophy. His life’s work was to give practical guidance in creating the seeds for a new culture of true human freedom. Today, the Waldorf curriculum has spread worldwide, with about 1000 schools in over 60 countries.

In a typical Waldorf School, the children’s days are filled with structured and unstructured activities that bring age-appropriate content and methods to each child’s development stage. The value of teacher continuity in the Waldorf setting is enormous. Consequently, students remain with the same teacher from first grade through eighth.

Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and academically-rigorous approach to education. Activities in Waldorf early childhood education consider the imagination and creative thinking skills, rather than early exposure to academic content. Growing and cooking healthy food is also a large part of the Waldorf curriculum.

High Scope

The HighScope method was founded in 1970 as part of the Perry Preschool Project. The project was developed to provide early childhood education to the most impoverished areas of Ypsilanti. The central belief of HighScope is that children construct their learning through exploration and experimentation. It also emphasizes how essential it is for children to learn by doing and playing.

In a HighScope educational approach, teachers simulate the student’s desire to learn by promoting ongoing observation, planning, and scaffolding based on children’s developmental levels. Teachers further support development by helping children learn how to resolve interpersonal conflicts.

Ongoing child assessment is also an underlying component of the HighScope Curriculum. Most of the children attend the program for two years at ages 3 and 4. The children will learn about social relationships, the world around them, math, literacy, and reasoning.

Bank Street

American Lucy Mitchell founded the first Bank Street preschool in 1916. A leader in the child study movement, Mitchell saw herself as an experimentalist. Mitchell was trying to build experimental schools aimed towards developing preschool education. In 1916, Mitchell and her husband Wesley Mitchell created The Bureau of Educational Experiments (BEE) in New York City. Until 1970, the Bank Street Bureau was located in lower Manhattan.

Bank Street’s approach to learning is predicated on the theory that school can be stimulating. Education at the School is experience-based, interdisciplinary, and collaborative.

The Bank Street method employs a child-centered education program focusing on educating the whole child — emotionally, physically, socially, and intellectually. Under this model, children learn the social skills vital to success in the classroom.

Parent Co-ops

Parent co-ops have age-based classes and are administered and maintained by the teacher and parents. There are full-time teachers on staff, but parents are scheduled to help out by working as a teacher’s assistant and participating in the hands-on learning environment.

Children can be enrolled in an infant, toddler, or preschooler class. At the infant and toddler levels, some schools structure classes to resemble the traditional learning environment, though other models are increasingly common. Typically children sign up for 2 to 4 days a week, with 2 – 3.5 hours of class time. At the same time, parents of children ages three to five years enroll in a parent education class. This model builds community and trust among like-minded parents and cultivates a safe, stimulating environment to encourage a natural love of learning.

Final Thoughts on Preschool Education Programs

Choosing a preschool for your little one can be a daunting task. It’s ok to take your time doing research and touring programs. In the end you can trust your gut when it comes to choosing the right program for your family. If you are struggling to find the right preschool program for your child, please don’t hesitate to contact us.