For more about our philosophy, programming, and approach to learning, please refer to our Policies and Procedures Manual.
Image of the Child
We view children as capable, curious individuals with their own strengths, passions, personalities, and needs. Here are some ways this is evidenced throughout our program:
- Respect for the child as a person, including fostering warm, reciprocal relationships, encouraging body autonomy, and welcoming and supporting the safe expression of all emotions.
- Trust in the child’s abilities, development, and desire to learn
- Support for parents’ role as primary caregivers
- Nurturing healthy attachment patterns as a foundation for healthy social-emotional development
- Facilitating optimal growth and learning through play by providing carefully curated environments and materials, and adapting them in response to children’s desires, interests, needs, and requests
- Relying on knowledge of historical and emerging perspectives on human development, along with skilled observations of each child, to inform our observations of, responses to, and planning for children’s self-chosen exploration and learning activities
- Seeking and honouring children’s opinions and ideas
Pedagogy of Care
In the early years, when children are rapidly learning and growing, it is impossible to separate learning from care. Children learn through every interaction with their caregivers and with each other. Therefore, our skilled professional educators pay careful attention to the learning that happens during caregiving routines such as diaper changes, feeding, dressing, handwashing, and settling to sleep. Likewise, there is an element of care in every activity we do throughout the day, even things like singing songs, reading stories, and making mud pies! Here are some ways you can see this practise of relationships in children’s day-to-day experiences:
- Undivided one-on-one attention during caregiving routines whenever possible
- Inviting children to be participants in their own care routines
- Talking to children about what is happening and what is about to happen, helping them learn language and sequencing, as well as the care routine itself
- Responding to children’s statements, questions, and body language in any situation, and being ready to adjust plans accordingly
- Taking many opportunities throughout the day to practise serve-and-return interactions, building children’s social-emotional skills alongside their physical and cognitive growth
- Advocating for a child-led approach to toilet learning (to quote Magda Gerber, “Readiness is when they do it”)
- Following and honouring children’s interests and desires as much as possible
What About Boundaries?
One of the biggest questions families have about emergent, child-centered programs has to do with boundaries, structure, and expectations. Following children’s lead does not mean there are no rules, or that chaos rules the day. Here are our core expectations. More specific expectations are based in these core concepts:
- Everyone has the right to be safe.
- Everyone has the right to have their needs met
- Everyone has the right to feel love and belonging
- Everyone has the right to be heard
- Everyone has the right to learn and grow
- Everyone has the right to PLAY!
What About Academics?
Children’s time in the years before formal schooling starts is best spent learning organically through every day experiences. We introduce practical, everyday concepts across academic domains through routines and materials provided to the children, and by noticing and encouraging their natural interest in understanding and/or communicating these ideas.
Research recently published in the United States, along with a handful of older studies mentioned in this article by Peter Gray and in this older article by the same author, in Psychology Today, indicate that direct academic instruction in the early years can actually be actively harmful to children’s long-term learning and development. While children who receive direct academic instruction during their pre-school years show higher scores on Kindergarten and Grade 1 assessments, that advantage quickly disappears, and then becomes reversed. There is evidence to suggest that children who receive direct academic instruction in preschool are more likely to struggle with relationships and more in adulthood.
One hypothesis as to why this is the case is that children who are receiving direct academic instruction are being deprived of the chance to do what they needed to be doing at that time in order to develop healthily: Playing. In play, children learn with their entire being, and playing with peers means developing some of the social-emotional and self-regulation skills they will need in order to be ready to learn academics in a direct-instruction style once they are in school.
We offer a universal developmental screening program to all of our member families, so those who want to make sure their children’s development is on track can do so, and those whose children need additional support are more likely to be noticed early, and obtain any assessments or supports needed before having to navigate the school system.
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