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6 Common Preschool Models

If you’ve begun the process of researching preschools, then you’ve likely noticed a wide variety of options that exist. The sheer number of preschool models can seem overwhelming. Ultimately, the differences between each preschool curriculum model come down to values and philosophies. Once you understand the values and philosophies behind these common preschool models, you’ll have an easier time deciding which one is right for your child. Remember, preschool is all about helping your child develop a love of learning — in the best way for them.


A type of preschool you’ve probably heard about recently due to school closures and uncertainty around their reopening is microschools. While they may seem like a new approach to learning, they’ve been around in one form or another for decades. Also known as Parent Co-Ops, Microschools are formed by a group of parents who essentially become a board of directors for a small school, with sizes typically ranging from 4 to 15 children.

This unique structure allows parents more control over their child’s education by being involved in the decision-making around teacher selection, schedule, and curriculum. Because each microschool is different, there is no one overarching learning model to expect. Each set of parents must come together to choose which early childhood education philosophy to follow — or even decide to cobble together many approaches and techniques to come up with their own. To some, the idea of taking more control of their child’s learning may seem like an ideal situation. However, it’s not for everyone. It’s worth noting that this preschool model often requires more responsibility and time commitment from parents.


In a model that promotes independence and inspires a passion for learning, the Montessori educational approach is a student-driven one. This tends to mean that each little one in the classroom chooses an activity that interests them and takes learning at their own pace. Rather than directing the curriculum, teachers act as gentle guides. Along with promoting practical life skills and academic ability, this preschool model also incorporates conflict resolution and social justice into its learning objectives. Through the observation-focused model that Montessori schools present, parents can learn a lot about their child’s early learning preferences. However, if your child is someone who responds best to a very structured schedule, then this may not be the best fit.


If you want to encourage your child’s individualistic streak, then you may want to consider Waldorf preschools. These schools emphasize teaching a child how to think, not what to think. This, along with a cozy classroom setting, creates a “home-like” environment for students that aims to foster an enthusiasm for learning. Lessons are experimental and designed to build trust with the educator and encourage a deep understanding of every topic a child explores. Similar to other preschool models’ approaches to learning, Waldorf schools promote artistic exploration, however, Waldorf schools also incorporate mindfulness activities into the curriculum.

Reggio Emilia

Often described as taking a wholesome approach to early childhood education, the Reggio Emilia preschool model places as much focus on developing a child’s emotional intelligence as it does their intellectual intelligence. Creative space is important in this preschool model and expression of emotion and imagination are encouraged through activities that are often hands-on and include movement. While Reggio Emilia schools do focus on self-expression, they also focus on community, with children learning how to work with other children through collaboration and active listening. This preschool model’s open-ended philosophy has proven very popular, as many preschool programs in America (even those that don’t bear the name) have incorporated the same philosophy into their approach.


Another of the academic-style preschool models is the HighScope curriculum, which is designed to engage children through participatory learning. Through hands-on activities, the aim of this model is to develop an academic foundation as well as life skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. The research-based approach focuses on development indicators, so teachers are monitoring each child’s progress toward development and learning goals. In this way, teachers interpret needs and choose age-appropriate activities to guide learning basics in math, reading, and science. The classrooms in these preschools are well-organized, often with reading and writing centers, and have a consistent routine. Unique to HighScope is its “play-do-review” structure, in which children choose an activity, plan for a goal to reach, and work with teachers to understand the results.

Forest Schools

A concept that became popular in the 1950s, forest schools (also called “outdoor schools”) take a child-directed learning approach that allows each young learner to follow their inclinations and explore and connect with the natural world. As the name suggests, these schools have an outdoor learning environment with hands-on, experiential activities. This could mean learning takes place in woodlands, meadows, grassy parks, or beaches — the wilder, the better. The goal of these programs is to promote each child’s sense of imagination and creativity as well as build strong health and a well-rounded understanding of the natural world.

Preschool Models Vary Widely: Choose One That Works for You

One thing you’ll notice in each of these preschool models is that children will learn mainly through play, which research shows is the best way for them to learn. If you’re looking for additional support in choosing the right preschool model for your child, don’t hesitate to contact us at Wonderschool today.