Birchwood’s Early Childhood program follows the school’s mission and grounds itself in a philosophy which attends to the unique growth of each child. Our philosophy leads us to a particular vision for Birchwood graduates – well-educated, hard working, productive, and compassionate. From this vision, we construct our academic programming and do everything in our power so each student might reach these lofty expectations. Our Early Childhood program provides children with a foundation toward realizing this vision by offering a unique academic starting gate for each child through the implementation of an unbounded curriculum in a play-based learning environment.
Unique Academic Starting Gate
We believe children are endowed with particular interests and abilities, growing and developing at their own pace. While it is efficient to use grade levels and organize curriculum and instruction by developmental stage, we believe that the school program and teacher’s planning and work need to be guided by our understanding of each child rather than a predetermined end goal. Thus, our teachers’ primary focus is each child’s daily and ongoing development. Practically, the unique academic starting gate means children who are ready to read, write or engage mathematically may do so as soon as they are ready, whether they are 3 or 6 years old.
Recognizing the “Spark” of Readiness
Our teachers’ first priority is to honor and know each child while looking for the “spark” that indicates readiness for deeper engagement, and recognize that not every child is “ready” at the same time. Thus, our teachers’ skills include knowing and understanding when to challenge a child to engage at another level in a particular area, such as conceptual numerical understanding, and when to allow a child to develop breadth or depth in the same area at their current level.
Finding the Instructional Level
The instructional level indicates the point at which a challenge is just far enough beyond the child that a bit of hard work and focused attending will enable accomplishment and yet not so far that the child experiences repeated and debilitating failure. Attention to the instructional level allows our teachers to nurture each child’s sense of competency.
Competency is the “I can do it!” attitude which emerges from a child’s previous experiences.
Competency nurtures self-determination and a sense of self-worth, both character traits which allow human beings to take ownership of their circumstances and the possibilities of their lives. When a teacher engages a child at their instructional level, she is asking the child to engage body, mind and character. It is in this holistic engagement that children experience the greatest benefit to the development of their human potential.