The children are introduced to a balanced program of interaction with friends in both teacher-directed and child-directed experiences.
The daily schedule includes free choice of time spent in the learning centers with language arts, math, science, computers, practical life, etc. and group times for creative movement, music, storytelling and dramatization.
Our professional staff encourages exploration and growth in a well-equipped environment that is stimulating, safe, consistent and nurturing. Castle Academy provides opportunities for each child to master tasks that are appropriate to his or her individual level of development.
Our program is based on what we believe are the best qualities of a number of different models of child care and education. From the German Kindergarten model, we have taken the ideas that learning by doing is fundamental to understanding, and we provide ample opportunities for children to explore their abilities at their own pace. An understanding and appreciation of the gifts of nature is also a key component to the German Kindergarten model. At Castle Academy, we slow the pace of everyday down and allow time for children to observe and investigate their natural surroundings. At the same time, children are forming habits when they learn to respect and care for the environment. The third, and perhaps most important idea that we have taken from this model is, that children’s educational experiences should prepare them in developing the tools for a lifelong love of learning. In this age of information technologies, there is more information out there than anyone could ever learn. We view it as our job to teach children how to acquire that information, and to never stop wanting to know more.
The Montessori Model
From the Montessori model, we have taken the idea that children, during the first six years of life, possess a sensitive, absorbent mind that makes learning unconscious, natural and fun. A child’s environment can promote and enhance this natural growth process, and therefore, needs to be stimulating and challenging. The Montessori model provides hands-on learning experiences through sensory exploration that require specific tasks and materials. We have chosen what we view as the best of these materials and have provided them for children to explore at their own pace, choosing what is fulfilling for them. Some of the materials that we have chosen fall under the Montessori subject of practical activities, which develop basic personal and social skills used in daily living such as: dressing oneself, cleaning things, and being polite. Another subject area is represented by sensorial activities, which enhance the child’s sense perceptions of the world. Two other subject areas are language activities, which start the child reading and writing, and mathematics activities, which introduce counting and arithmetic. Finally, culture activities expose the child to such fields as science, history, and geography. Another important concept that we have taken from the Montessori model is the idea of having children in mixed-age classrooms. This allows the younger children to have role models and allows the older children to assist others. It also facilitates cooperation and cross bonding.
The Howard Gardner Multiple-Intelligence Theory
Howard Gardner’s Multiple-Intelligence Theory states that different individuals have their own learning style. He believes that there are multiple basic intelligences and that every person possesses all the different styles of learning to varying degrees but leans toward one particular “way of knowing.” Some people are number smart (logical/mathematical); some are picture smart (visual/spatial); others are body smart (body/kinesthetic); many others are music smart (musical/rhythmic). While some people are word smart (verbal/linguistic); many are nature smart (naturalist); others are people smart (interpersonal); while still others are self smart (intrapersonal). The Academy provides a prepared environment, which promotes and encourages all learning styles, where children can take a multifaceted approach to thinking and learning. Teachers are the link between the child and the work he/she has chosen.
The English Infant/Primary School Models
The English Infant/Primary School models focus on creative activities. At Castle Academy, these activities include art work, dramatic play, vocational and instrumental music, and original writing. From this model, we have also taken the idea of the absence of tracking and testing.
The Reggio Emilia Model for Early Learning
The last model that lends us ideas for our program is the Reggio Emilia model for Early Learning. From this model we have taken the idea that an educational system needs to instill in its young an abiding sense of their own potential. Art is a very important dimension to this model and children are allowed to create what they want at their own pace. The environment encourages children’s explorations through actual experience, inquiry and dialogue. It is the teacher’s responsibility to observe the children and facilitate an acquisition of knowledge about topics in which the children are interested.
We at Castle Academy believe that we have chosen the best ideas to facilitate learning in our classrooms. All decisions we make are based on the desire to do what we believe is best for children. It is our job to create a noncompetitive environment where children are never compared to others or criticized for their efforts. We believe that when children know what is expected of them, they are free to explore their environments and their abilities. We provide an organized environment that does not inhibit creativity but provides a sense of harmony. We believe that learning occurs experientially in early childhood and we provide abundant opportunities for children to try and try again. We believe that the fundamental areas of child development are play, learning, the arts, and nurturing. We, at Castle Academy, do our very best every day to facilitate this development. A child’s day must be seen as too precious to waste or mishandle.
The seeds of educational success are sown early, in the prenatal period and the first months and years of life. During this time, children develop basic language and reasoning skills. They also acquire social skills, confidence, and a sense of self-worth, and they come to see themselves as important and competent members of their family and of other small communities in their lives. Children who arrive at school incapable of managing the kindergarten routine can quickly lose confidence in their ability to learn. Traditionally, society’s responsibility for educating children began when they entered school. Growing knowledge of child development, however, compels us as individuals and as a society to place far greater emphasis on children’s early development to ensure that every child is prepared for school.1
1The National Commission on Children, May 1, 1991.