It’s no secret that Asian parents like their kids to get an early start on education. Unlike North America,
kindergarten in many Asian countries has three levels, going from K-1 to K-3 before Grade 1 even begins. That’s two years of school before the average North American child even starts school.
For Asian parents who immigrate to the United States, it can be a little surprising to learn that children aren’t expected to start school until they are five years old instead of three. Parents who want to give their kids the boost of an early start to their education often go with privately run early education centers in the United States. Here are the top seven such centers for pre-kindergarten students.
1. American Montessori Society
If you’re not familiar with Montessori schools, they take a developmental approach to learning that was created by Maria Montessori. It’s not just enough for teachers in these schools to have a degree in Early Childhood Education, they must also have Montessori Certification. Focusing on nature, creativity and hands-on learning, Montessori schools often have programs for children as young as babies and toddlers. The stated goals of the Montessori method of teaching are to develop a child’s senses, character and practical life skills along with their academic ability. To find a Montessori school in your area, you can use the website of the American Montessori Society.
2. Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America
The Waldorf way of approaching education was developed by Austrian writer Rudolph Steiner and the education system’s stated goals are to nurture a child’s spirit, body and soul while also focusing on the child’s own interests. It utilizes hands-on “rhythmic repetition” to unleash children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. Every teacher in a Waldorf school must be Waldorf certified. You can find a Waldorf early childhood education school by visiting the organization’s website.
3. North American Reggio Emilia Alliance
Unlike Montessori and Waldorf schools, there is no certification for schools that use the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy. Rather than a curriculum, it’s an approach to educating preschool aged children that encourages children to express themselves through art, projects and open-ended activities that reflect their own ideas and interests. A special focus is put on community and the learning environment is child-led. The learning philosophy originated in Italy in the 1940s. You can find a school that uses the Reggio Emilia teaching method by visiting the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance website.
4. Goddard Schools
The Goddard School for Early Childhood Development franchise offers year-round education programs for children from six months to six years old. It also features before and after school care for children up to 10 years old. Each school is a licensed childcare facility with an onsite educational director to implement the curriculum. All faculty are trained in early childhood education or childhood development. Headquartered in King of Prussia, PA, the educational company has been in operation since 1986. To find a Goddard School, visit the franchise’s website.
5. Kids in Sports
Not all education is book based. There is plenty to learn from participating in sports and the Kids in Sports franchise uses physical activity to teach children from 12 months to 12 years old. Rather than academics, the focus of Kids in Sports is on health, fitness, life skills, cultivating a love of sports and socialization. It has been running since 1999. Although the franchise has limited reach, you can find if there is one near you by visiting the Kids in Sports website.
6. The Little Gym
Keeping with the physical activity theme, The Little Gym provides parents with a way to introduce their children, from babies through to 12 years old, to physical activity through structured classes. The goals of the physical activity based learning centers is to complement and enhance the traditional school experience with classes that revolve around physical activities like gymnastics, dance and karate. You can find a Little Gym location near you by visiting The Little Gym website.
7. Primrose Schools
Primrose Schools, another early childhood education franchise, has been writing its own exclusive curriculum for infants to kindergarten aged children since 1982. Espousing a balanced learning approach, Primrose says it nurtures curiosity, confidence, creativity and compassion. The school aims to spark what it refers to as “lightbulb moments” that lead to a lifelong love of learning. To find a Primrose School near you, visit the school’s website.
Placing your child into an early education program takes a lot of careful consideration. Here are some tips to choose the right place.
Make it personal for your child.
The program should fit your child’s personality and learning style. Not all children are going to thrive in the same environment. Do they seem to respond better to structured learning or are they better in more open
environments? Would they benefit more from academic learning or physical activity? You know your child best, so keep them in mind when researching your options and make your decision based on what serves them best.
Think about which teaching philosophy you prefer.
In the United States, the various teaching philosophies tend to fall into two broad categories, those being; learning through discovery and more academically based. In environments where children learn through discovery, like in the Waldorf Schools, the programs focus on childdirected activities and teachers are more akin to guides who plan activities based on children’s development levels. In an academic environment, like with Goddard Schools, the classes fall more into a drill and practice method of learning.
Think about full vs half-days.
Some early education centers will offer full day classes, some will offer half day and others might just be a single class during the day. When contemplating what would be best for your child, consider their age, their energy level and their maturity. You may be able to start with a single class and then move up to half-days and into full days as your child grows. To give your child the head start that Asian parents love so much, try choosing one of these different schools to nurture a love of learning in your children. It should be easy to find one near your home and get your child started on their learning journey.