17 September, 2010

How, Now?

Learning Together:
Part Three: An Introduction to Educational Approaches

There are many approaches to education. How to choose an educational approach that "fits" your child is a popular topic of discussion among parents these days. There are passionate proponents of each approach. Talk to two different parents and you get two different answers of which particular mode of education does (or does not) "work" for them.

It may very well be true that what "works" for one child may not necessarily "work" for another child. Whether you subscribe to the learning styles argument or not. Whether you are dealing with learning disabilities or not. Whether you are familiar with educational approaches or not. We can agree that each child is a unique individual. And each one has his or her own peculiarities. Quirks. Peccadillos. Giftedness(es).

Indeed that individuality must be considered when choosing the right educational approach for your child. The following is a brief introduction to the popular approaches to education in western countries today.

Steiner Approach (Waldorf Education):  Developed by Austrian philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century. Goal: To educate the "whole child"- the heart, the hands, the head for a lifetime. Material is presented to students at developmentally appropriate stages. Listening skills and the arts are emphasized and reading instruction is not begun until age 7.

Montessori Approach: Developed by Italian physician and anthropologist Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 20th century. Goal: To educate the "whole child"- physically, emotionally, socially, aesthetically, spiritually, and cognitively for a lifetime. Children have "absorbent minds" in which learning is natural. In a supportive environment, children are capable of teaching themselves. Manipulating materials and social interaction are emphasized. 

Reggio Emilia Approach: Developed in the schools of the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy, in the mid-20th century. Goal: To educate children as members of a community and thus, parents are actively involved in the child's education. The environment is often referred to as the "third teacher" among the teachers and parents. Surroundings are aesthetically pleasing, adorned with student projects and designed to provide a sense of community. Collaborative projects and investigation are emphasized.

Charlotte Mason Approach: Developed by British educator Charlotte Mason in the early 20th century. Goal: To educate children in a trident approach: "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life". Children are taught using "living books" (books written in narrative form) rather than staid textbooks. Narration and short lessons seek to develop listening skills and stoke student  interest. Spending time in nature and developing good habits are emphasized.

Classical Education Approach: Inspired by classical Greek education. The modern classical education movement is influenced by British writer and playwright Dorothy Sayer's essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" in the early 20th century and Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind in 1999. Goal: To educate children as they move through the stages of the "Trivium": "Grammar, Dialectic (Logic), and Rhetoric". Children are taught through introduction to the "great works" of literature and the arts. Children study Latin or Greek. Memorization, critical thinking, and effective communication are emphasized.

Textbook Approach:  Textbooks have been used in education since the invention of the printing press.  Goal: Mastery of a pre-determined set of Knowledge and information is compiled in a book which is read in successive lessons. The curriculum "set" of modern textbooks for children often include manipulatives, ideas for extension activities, and workbooks to serve as opportunities for students to practice new skills and further understanding of subject matter. Acquisition of facts and skills is emphasized.

International Baccalaureate Approach (I.B.): Developed by the International Schools Curriculum Project in Switzerland in the late 20th century. Goal: "Develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world". Beginning at the age of 3, children are educated through three distinct "programmes"- the Primary Years Program, the Middle Years Program, and the Diploma program. Life skills, foreign language, and cultural awareness are emphasized. Students who achieve the I.B. Diploma are afforded an opportunity to study at universities throughout the world.

Learning Together. 
Next Week. Part Four: Putting the Pieces Together: The Basal Method 

To read further about these approaches, click on the following links:

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