HighScope for Parents
As parents, we all want to do everything we can to help our children be successful in school and in life. But it can be difficult to know exactly how to help them because we hear so much conflicting information about how children learn. Think about your own school experiences from childhood. You may remember your favorite teachers or subjects, which lessons were easy or difficult, and so forth. But, did you ever ask yourself why that teacher was your favorite, or why you liked that subject so much? Did you ever wonder whether you could have done better in school had you been taught a different way?
At HighScope we have been studying young children and how they learn for over 50 years. Our landmark study, the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, was the first of its kind. HighScope’s founder, Dr. David Weikart, had some new ideas about how children learn, and based on these ideas, he developed an innovative method of teaching preschoolers. In the study, he tested this method with two groups of at-risk children, comparing a group who had the program with one who did not. HighScope researchers followed the children in the study through age 40, so we could see if that very special preschool experience made a difference in their lives…and the results were remarkable. (For more details on the Perry Preschool Study, please go to the link above).
The knowledge we took from this and other research, and from our extensive experience working with children and teachers, has evolved over the years into what is now the HighScope Curriculum.
We know you have many questions in general about how children learn. You may also want to know why the HighScope Curriculum may be right for your young child. Below is a list of the most common questions that parents ask us. From there you can explore the HighScope site for more information. We hope this helps you to think about the questions you should ask before you choose a preschool for your child.
Do All Children Learn At The Same Pace?
No, each child learns in a different way, at a different pace. Although we all develop abilities in a predictable sequence throughout our lives, it’s important to realize that each of us has unique characteristics from birth, characteristics that develop further through a unique set of everyday experiences and interactions. Each child is a unique individual, and learning happens in the context of each person’s personality, abilities, and opportunities.
I Want to Find a High-Quality Preschool for My Child. What Should I Be Looking For?
Based on a number of research studies, there are seven elements of a high-quality preschool program.
It has a child development curriculum. Of all the ingredients in a high-quality program, a curriculum that recognizes the value of child-initiated active learning is the most important. The best early childhood activities build on children’s natural curiosity, are matched to children’s current and emerging abilities, and allow for exploration and variation rather than having to perform in a single “right way.”
Learning is a process of “developmental change” — that is, a process in which we learn by relating and adding new information to what we already know, and if necessary, changing the way we thought before. Learning does not happen when children are simply told something. To learn, they must see and do things for themselves, with parents and teachers present to encourage and challenge their thinking. Children must be secure and confident in what they already know before they are ready to move to the next level.
When HighScope says adults support and extend children’s learning, it means that the adults first validate, or support, what children already know, and then challenge them to extend their thinking to the next level.
Low enrollment limits. Studies have found that the fewer children per adult, the better the adult-child interaction. In addition to good staff-child ratios, the total group size should be limited based on standards recommended by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Staff trained in early childhood development. Adults who provide care and education for young children need specialized training in child development and early childhood education. Research also shows that the higher the level of teachers’ formal education, the more developmentally appropriate are their teaching practices.
Supervisory support and inservice training. In addition to hiring well-qualified staff, program administrators play a central role in arranging for their ongoing and appropriate training. Teachers should have regular training in order to further their skills and keep up with new information in early childhood.
Involvement of parents as partners. Parent involvement is essential to good education throughout their children’s school years. Although there are often many obstacles to such involvement (for example, working-parent schedules and multiple demands on the family), high-quality programs are creative in overcoming these barriers. They offer many options for inviting family participation.
Sensitivity to the noneducational needs of children and their families. Today’s families cope with many demands and stresses. In addition to having concerns about their children’s education, many parents also contend with financial, medical, social, or legal issues. Early childhood programs cannot be expected to meet all these needs directly. However, as part of a community network, staffs of high-quality programs are aware of the services available and help families obtain the assistance they need.
Developmentally appropriate evaluation procedures. The two main objectives of early childhood evaluation are to assess program quality and to assess children’s development. Administrators use program evaluation to make decisions about agency policies and staff development. Teachers use child evaluation to plan appropriate educational activities for individual children and the class as a whole.
For evaluation results to be accurate and useful, they should be based on objective and observable behavior. Moreover, they should examine the elements of curriculum implementation and child development that are consistent with the program’s philosophy and goals.
When looking for a preschool for your child, ask questions to be sure all of these elements are addressed.
When I Go To My Child's Preschool, It Looks Like They Are Just Playing. Are They Learning Anything From This?
Yes! Children learn through play. When children play, they are actively engaged in activities they have freely chosen; that is, they are self-directed and motivated from within. In its position statement on developmentally appropriate practice, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) states “Research shows that child guided, teacher-supported play benefits children in many ways. When children play, they engage in many important tasks, such as developing and practicing newly acquired skills, using language, taking turns, making friends, and regulating emotions and behavior according to the demands of the situation. This is why play needs to be a significant part of the young child’s day” (Copple & Bredekamp 2009, p. 328).
Many other experts agree that play provides a foundation for learning and later academic success. For example, research demonstrates the importance of child-initiated play (as opposed to play defined and directed by adults) in the development of language and literacy skills. When children determine the direction and content of their own play, they have many opportunities to hear and practice language.
For more information on the importance of play see our Extensions newsletter Play: An Important Tool for Cognitive Development.
Are There Other Websites I Can Visit To Learn More?
Yes! Here is a link to a list of organizations that specialize in early childhood and can provide you with more information.