Deciding on an Early Education center is a big decision. At Little Newtons, we have spent the last 10 years revolutionizing a curriculum that is designed to provide your child a foundation for learning that will help he or she excel throughout their lives. We say “Brilliance Guaranteed” as that is our determination.
Little Newtons is more regimented than other early-childhood education programs, especially when you look at it from the educator’s perspective. Many teachers, including those who work with young kids, prefer to have more oversight and control when it comes to presenting curriculum and classroom-management techniques. But for our program to be effective, teachers need to follow guidelines and scheduling as closely as possible, with minimal improvisation. This strategy gets the kids more engaged, which in turn creates a less chaotic environment.
Currently, despite some variation, the dominant paradigm for early-childhood education and day-care programs is the child-directed model. This accounts for the emphasis on play, choice, and social interaction at so many childcare centers serving the zero-to-five age group. Typically, the younger the child, the more self-directed the activities. These programs aim for goals such as nurturing creativity and emotional development, and they rarely set specific, concrete targets in terms of information that the students will learn and use.
Teachers in child-centered programs have more latitude than those in teacher-centered education. It’s their job to constantly adapt to the mood of the class. For example, if they don’t think it would be a good time to read aloud, they can save the book for later, or even for another day. When the weather’s fine, they can take the kids to the park instead of doing a crafts project indoors. The parents aren’t particularly looking for their kids to gain math, reading, or language skills. They’re expecting them to be safe, happy, and occupied for a chunk of the day. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. It’s just not how we roll at Little Newtons.
We break our day into discrete blocks of ten or fifteen minutes, although some periods, such as counting in another language, may be as short as five minutes. And we do our best to make the changeovers on the dot. This means there’s not a lot of time for improvisation, sidebars, or recovery from an interruption. That can be challenging for a new teacher to absorb.
Running a structured, teacher-directed program doesn’t mean there’s no room for fun and exploration, just as student-centered learning isn’t without educational value. They’re both viable methodologies. With Little Newtons, the structured approach is tried and true, even though we’re constantly improving our program.
Small bits of data are presented in tiny chunks of time in each lesson. The teacher explains maybe one or two important characteristics of how humans lived in the Stone Age. Then she’ll ask the kids what it means to them and give them a chance to ask questions or share their knowledge, thoughts, and feelings. As brief as it is, the discussion helps focus their attention. And it creates an active thinking process as they become immersed in the theme and look for connections to their own lives.
Shift gears to the next period—say, art—where the children learn that early man made artwork without paper or colored markers. They see pictures of cave paintings and hear about how they were made. They imagine themselves living in the Stone Age as they work on some kind of related art project.
Later, in story time, they’re introduced to the concept of oral histories, and the importance of storytelling in a culture with no written language. They think about the difference between reading a storybook and hearing someone tell a story, and how that might affect a group of people. In between the academic-type lessons, the kids are doing yoga or dancing or another physical activity that is tied into the theme.
The short lessons in the various subject areas continue on the Stone Age theme throughout the week. There’s plenty of stimulation and always a chance to engage with the subject matter from a fresh, new angle. There’s no judgment, no demands that they prove what they’ve absorbed, and if one project doesn’t tickle their fancy, it’s just a matter of moments until they’re on to the next. It’s all perfectly paced to match the attention span, curiosity, and physical capabilities of their age. They are learning by playing with the curricula, and that makes it a barrel of fun. The real measure of success is creating a love for learning that will stay with them throughout life.
Our curricula is never quite finished. It’s an ever-evolving program that is always open for quality improvement to ensure our “little newtons” become “brilliant little newtons.”