By Erin Reimel
There are so many ways to learn. From your baby’s eyes opening wide as they discover their toes to eventually learning the ABC’s — there are many paths to gathering the information we all need to lead happy, healthy lives. And though your child is far from college, the decision of how to educate them and which programs to one day enroll them in can be overwhelming. There is no right answer, and whichever method you choose is sure to nurture your babe’s brain and help them grow up to be intelligent, well-rounded adults. But it helps to know what to expect from your options. Here’s what to know about the most popular educational approaches:
It’s the schooling system we’re all most familiar with, whether you attended a traditional school or you’ve seen it on television and movies. It’s the standard set up where the teacher stands at the front of the class and provides information to students. Of course, it can look different in preschool or kindergarten, but the concept is universal: the teacher dictates what is taught and how it is taught in a traditional classroom. They act as the gatekeepers of knowledge, revealing new information to students based on the day and the lesson. The main criticism of this standardized system is that it can leave less room for creativity and flexibility in learning. But it’s also the most universal method of education and the system that most teachers are trained in.
We all learn at our own pace. And while some children may grasp a concept quickly and are ready to move on to the next lesson, others need extra time to build their foundations. Developmental education ensures that each student moves at his or her own speed while still building on lessons in a logical order. This ensures that students have a strong comprehension of reading, writing, and math while also nurturing the emotional and social needs of each child. It’s similar to the traditional model, except not everyone will hit the same milestones at the same time.
You may have heard of Montessori or Waldorf schools. These are considered forms of progressive education. The approach is not as organized as traditional education and focuses on hands-on, collaborative learning rather than memorization or recitation. Children have more control over what they learn and how they learn it in order to gain critical thinking and problem solving skills. The teachers facilitate and guide students, helping to make their play and experimentation productive and educational. Experts believe that progressive education teaches children to love learning and focuses more on the student than on the subjects being taught.
This method is the most child-focused. In fact, it’s led by the child in order to help them take charge of their interests, time, and experiences. The main difference between progressive learning and self-directed learning is in how the teacher intervenes. While progressive teachers act as guides for the children and mold their play into teachable moments, self-directed educators are less hands-on. Their main objective is to create an environment where the children can feel free to learn and explore based on their own instincts. They may not have the training a traditional teacher has, but they ensure that the child feels safe and encouraged to educate themselves. This method of education can be done in a learning center or at home and is often called unschooling.