A Delicate Balance

Alternative? Montessori? Waldorf? Unschooling? Which one is best for your child? I’m often asked what our teaching philosophies are, and where the ideology comes from. The answer is never as simple as the question. We are all used to labels, as labels have a meaningful purpose, they help us understand and categorize things quickly. 

It can be challenging to navigate in a world of categories and specifications. At Peregrine Discovery, we believe in natural learning, play-based learning, inquiry-based learning, as well as project based learning. In all of these, there are pros and cons, depending on the child. 

A naturally curious, experimental child may succeed in a natural learning classroom. A hands on, high energy child may succeed in a play-based environment. A child that loves investigating may succeed in an inquiry-based classroom. And, a child who enjoys working with their peers may succeed in a project-based learning environment. 

But, who is to say all of those children won’t end up in one room? Who is to say that if a child presents themselves as a team player one day, wouldn’t enjoy learning independently another day? A natural balance is necessary. Even children who thrive in inquiry-based environments need to possess the skills to follow given instruction. Children who thrive in play-based environments need to posses the skills to sit down and complete a tasks when necessary. The most successful employees are well rounded, so why would we try to label children, as well as their learning strategies so early on? 

At Discovery, our kids are presented with a multitude of learning strategies. Our mornings begin with free play. Free play is followed by instructional time by the facilitator, this is where they learn how to read, write, add, subtract, etc. All of the essentials. Our instructional time is limited based on the child’s age. In the afternoon, outdoor play, and natural learning take over. This is when kids naturally implement what they have learned into their play, and we encourage them to do so.

This week, a child was practicing telling time in the morning. In the afternoon, during their free play, they chose to play with a train and train station. They naturally added in a train schedule including times into their play. Making the new knowledge meaningful once they can apply it to alternative situations, and use it over and over again. 

From my personal experience, I find that naturally children are more attentive in the morning, and more rambunctious in the afternoon. I plan accordingly. All of my daily lessons will be completed before lunch. This ensures that by the afternoon, children are allowed unstructured play, providing that necessary balance. Unstructured time does not mean the facilitator leaves the room and allows children to run wild. This is where hands on activities come in play: outdoor exploration, makerspace creations, and artists in the Art room. The natural engineers get to work creating with purpose, the artists work on their masterpieces, and the writers create books. After all, if a child already possess a passion, shouldn’t they be encouraged to feed that passion?