The educational philosophy adopted by the CrossCity Christian Early Education Center is based on the God-centered worldview that God’s law, principles, ethics and standards are absolute truth, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (II Timothy 3:16-17), and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Creator and Sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:15-19). These beliefs guide the focus of the CrossCity Christian Early Education Center.
The following philosophy statement will describe preschool-aged children and their characteristics and the manner in which they develop. It will compare two existing early education philosophies: essentialism and the socio-cultural theory developed from Vgotsky. It will finally examine teaching strategies, characteristics of excellent early educators and the classroom environment.
The children served by the CrossCity Christian Early Education Center are between the ages of two years, nine months and six years. Each child is viewed as a separate and unique creation of God. Therefore, every child is accepted and loved based on this premise. Young children have very distinctive characteristics. They are not small adults; they learn differently than adults. They discover God’s truth from what they experience in interacting with others and the environment. Therefore, the school environment must be active. Active learning infers that children are not quiet and still in class, but are actively manipulating materials and participating in activities with other children and adults in their environment (Morrison, 2004). The young child’s skills are limited and must be nurtured in such a way that adds to their feeling of competence. Bredekamp and Rosegrant (1992, page 70) assert that “teachers need to be acutely aware of where children are on their own continuum of development and learning and to make sure that children have enough successful experiences so that their self-esteem is not undermined.”
At the CrossCity Christian Early Education Center, it is believed that all children develop at their own rates in the following areas: physical, cognitive, social/emotional, and spiritual. This view is based on the Scripture, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) It is evident that God knew that even Jesus had to grow and develop into adulthood. Schools should focus on all areas of development to bring growth to the whole child and to prepare them to be contributing members of society (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992).
Today early educators can study numerous philosophies of early childhood education. Each philosophy sees the world and the pursuit of truth differently. The CrossCity Christian Early Education Center ties a Christian worldview together with some of the tenets of sociocultural theory as proposed by Vgotsky and essentialism.
From Vgotsky it is learned that development is produced when a child’s activity with the environment is encouraged and enhanced by human social interaction. This interaction in a school setting would be between children or between teachers and children. Social interaction is essential for teaching and learning (Driscoll, 2005). The teacher’s role is to assess where children are in their development and to plan the environment and school activities to scaffold their learning to the next level.
The philosophy known as essentialism states that education should focus on major academic disciplines such as reading and writing. Adults should be the primary decision-makers when considering what should be included in school curriculum. Children are not capable of knowing what they will need to know later in life. A child’s life experiences are so limited that they cannot even know of what will be of interest to them. Thus, young children learn best when loving and attentive adults observe children’s interests and plan appropriate experiences to enhance their growth and development.
When one ties these tenets together, one can see the philosophy base that the CrossCity Christian Early Education Center adheres to. Truth is contained in the Bible and is constant. Truth is not created by individuals, but it can be discovered by them. Education focuses on academic, spiritual and social truth that all people need to know to succeed in life. Young children learn best when the teacher sets up the environment to encourage discovery of the truth encouraged with human interaction. Knowledge should always be tied to a value about how to use that knowledge. For instance, when one learns about his/her own family, one should also learn how to better relate to members of one’s own family.
Teaching strategies must be matched to best fit the individual child, because every child is unique. Teachers systematically shape the classroom environment to create interest in the subject area the children are pursuing. They plan and implement activities where children can practice their newly-found skills and knowledge. Activities done in the classroom must have a balance between being teacher-directed and child-centered or structured and unstructured. It is always remembered that children learn best when they are playing. Teachers always favor letting the child discover knowledge through their play activities rather than formally instructing them. It is also acknowledged that many skills that help make children successful at formal education must be formally taught (ex: letter names). As Scripture tells us in Proverbs 9:9b, “teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” This Scripture hints that teaching is not only a responsibility of a teacher, but also it is the responsibility of the learner to add to his learning.
Luke 6:40 states, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” From this Scripture one can see that a teacher influences more than just the cognitive skills of his/her students. Shonkoff and Phillips 2000, page 314) state, “Quality of care ultimately boils down to the quality of the relationship between the child care provider or teacher and the child.” Teachers can make a profound difference in the lives of their students. A teacher’s worldview is likely to be replicated in the child. A teacher affects their students’ confidence, their positive self-esteem, and their feelings of competence (Boucher, 1999). More than anything, teachers represent God’s love and acceptance.
The classroom environment invites exploration and learning. It reflects the children and their diverse families (gender, ethnicity, age and languages). The classroom is filled with items that are varied, challenging, safe and have more than one use. Materials are changed at least monthly to accommodate the curricular themes. The classroom is divided into areas that encourage individual, small group and large group activities. Areas in the classroom are labeled well and child friendly. Activity areas that are carefully designed have proven to be effective in giving children choices using a wide variation of materials and activities (Kostelnik, Soderman & Whiren, 2004). The activity areas found in the classrooms at the CrossCity Christian Early Education Center include a circletime area (for large group activities), music area, dramatic play area, library center, computer center, writing area, sensory play area, block center, manipulative area, science area and art center.
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