School Readiness at Young Minds

Now that we’ve been open for a few months and Kinder has started, we thought we’d share a recent conversation that we had with the Principal of a local school and his prep coordinator about transitions of children from Kindergarten to prep. We wanted to understand what it was that schools found to be appropriate foundational understanding in new children from kinder.

What they told us provided a significant insight into how to ensure a smooth transition from kindergarten to primary school. The key requirements were:

  1. Fundamental skills including understanding the concept of lessons and group time
  2. Fine motor skills (using scissors, holding pens with an appropriate grip)
  3. Socialisation and empathy
  4. Sharing and willingness to work together
  5. Understanding of numerical concepts
  6. Understanding of literacy concepts
  7. Understanding the expectation of routines

When children arrive in primary school with little understanding of these concepts, or even worse, incorrect understanding of these concepts, then it takes extensive effort for teachers remediate these situations. This in turn creates the danger of children not loving learning because they haven’t ever been taught that learning is fun. Instead, from day one in primary school, their behaviour or knowledge is being corrected because the effort was not put in during kindergarten. Children who feel that they aren’t good enough or that they are behind their peers often struggle to catch up or become disengaged very quickly and seek to gain attention or fade into the background.

At Young Minds, we believe in play-based learning, however we definitely don’t believe that this concept should be used as an excuse to not actually show, or model, or teach children the fundamental learning requirements that are expected in primary school.

A simple example at Young Minds of a child-led, fun activity that immediately translates to what schools want to see in their new children is as follows:

Olly* (not his real name) wanted to cut a banana and share it with his friends, so he got all the dishes that he needed from the shelf, and a small knife and cut the banana all by himself. Olly’s teacher had previously modeled the behaviour to him and he had seen other children do this as well. After carefully cutting the banana into small pieces, he put toothpicks through each piece so that he could share them easily.

This activity demonstrates far more that the simple act of cutting fruit. Note that Olly is only four years old, and he’s only been in our Montessori-inspired EYLF classroom for less than one month.

Handling knives and other kitchen instruments helps develop children’s fine motor skills, which are crucial for the next stage of their educational development – primary school. The pincer grip is vital for holding a pencil, crayon or a pen. The concentration that he displayed when cutting a banana is the concentration that he will need when completing tasks in his next foundational year of primary school.

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Olly was also able to cut the banana into enough slices to share with the class – demonstrating mathematical understanding at that basic level.

Further to this, preparing meals by themselves helps children focus on practical tasks and learn to be independent. This was an activity that Olly specifically wanted to do and that he found enjoyable. The sharing that Olly chose to do allowed him to demonstrate social interest and models positive behaviours to the other children around him.

Such a simple task really is an amazing insight into the development of a child, and it showcases all the fantastic benefits of combining Montessori learning with the Early Years Learning Framework. We can’t wait to share more of our journey and these stories with you. 🙂

 

 

 

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The Importance of Nutrition for Young Minds

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The great thing about Young Minds Early Learning Centre being owned and operated by Educators is that – first and foremost – we are driven by our passion to improve children’s lives.

At Young Minds, we believe in providing not just care for the children at our centre, but education too, during the vital part of their physical, emotional and cognitive development. We wholeheartedly believe that by combining the EYLF and Montessori, this allows us to bring the best constructivist, play-based teaching models to young children. We’ve already seen remarkable improvements within our first batch of children, from improved language, mathematics, gross and fine motor coordination and socialisation. We’ve even tried out a children’s yoga class for our Inventors and Innovators (3 year olds and 4 year olds) the other day and then followed this with a Science lesson on gravity.

What we’re hearing from the parents of the children at our service is that Young Minds really is something very different to every other centre out there. What they love about us is that we are attentive to the needs of our children as we plan for their development and are guided by their interests. We create environments that nourish their curiosity and encourage their creativity. As educators and as a Service, our fundamental goal is to guide children through puzzles and problems and help them become capable, enthusiastic and confident to tackle anything in life.

Our next revolution to the childcare industry is all about food. As we’ve mentioned previously, we have a beautiful organic garden in our ‘above three’s’ yard. We have harvested our first batch of tomatoes from this garden and very soon, the kids will be eating their very own corn on the cob. Our chickens are laying eggs every day and these are collected by our little Inventors and Innovators, and we’re putting in a veggie patch in our ‘under three’s’ yard. And all this is happening right in the middle of South Geelong too, not in a country town.

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To capitalise on our organic food garden, and to complement our philosophy, we’ve been inspired by Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution. For a great number of years, Jamie has been driven to bring healthy, nutritious meals for children around the world and to change their mindsets about how to look at food. As such, we’ve designed our summer menu with Food Revolution recipes that were specifically created by Jamie Oliver to provide the maximum nutrition to children. We closely follow the Victorian Healthy Together guidelines for Early Childhood, which recommend specific portions and types of meals for children each week to ensure ideal nutrition and growth. Unlike just about every other centre, we don’t use food delivery services or large supermarkets that often provide groceries in bulk at low cost with poor quality cuts of meat and vegetables. Rather, just like Jamie recommends, we personally select the ingredients and food from the freshest organic suppliers to ensure that we are getting the best quality for our children. We even think about how to prevent food wastage by giving our chickens the vegetable food scraps.

Our passion matches exactly what the parents at our service want. They want to see their children learn about food, be willing to try new things and actually eat the food made by the service. They definitely don’t want to hear that the only thing that their child ate at the centre was a sandwich because the Educators were unable to guide their children to eat the amazing meal prepared for them. This is where our system really seems to work – we’re seeing an immediate bonus of having children be part of the process of planting seeds and seeing their vegetables grow. Not only are they learning about the natural world, but they are also feeling proud of the labours of their hard work, gaining new found respect for the environment and this is translating to more vegetables and ‘green stuff’ being eaten by the children at Young Minds!

We’d like to think that our attention to the genuine needs of the children at our service is just another way that Young Minds stands out from the crowd. 🙂

Science at Young Minds

Little Scientist

Science is a term that we use often and easily to describe things that we think are known and tested truths. But what does it really encompass and is it something that we should be teaching young children?

The answer to the second part of that question is a resounding YES!

The reason for this comes back to the first part of the question: ‘What is science?’

It’s easy to be broad about science when describing it. Google tells us with a dictionary-like definition that Science is – ‘knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method and concerned with the physical world.’

But this doesn’t really tell us what it is exactly.

To take a more specific example, science is everywhere around us and applies to every single thing in front of us.

The computer or phone you are reading this on falls under Formal Science (computer science) that delves into technical development and construction. The air that you are breathing while reading this comes under Physical Science (Chemistry) that aims to understand atoms and molecules such as oxygen. The way you read using your eyes and hear sounds around you comes under Life Science (Biology).

And that’s just this moment in front of you.

Around the world, every human being is interacting with Science as if it is the most natural thing in the world. And it is.

The true definition of science in our eyes is that it is the explanation of how things work in the world.

The explanation that we get is sometimes just a hypothesis or guess, and sometimes it is something that is rigorously tested and proven by different people who have all reached the same conclusion.

It is very obvious that young children are constantly thinking and interacting with Science. They may not know it, but every single thing they do falls within a scientific discipline.

They learn physics as they learn to crawl and then walk and when they pick things up (and when they drop things). They begin to understand the forces of gravity on their own little bodies and learn to exert force back against gravity when they move about.

They have a very visceral biological interaction when they eat their dinner and taste all that yummy spaghetti or ice-cream as their taste-buds pick up dissolved chemicals in their mouths and send signals to their brains that say whether that food is sweet, bitter, savoury, salty or sour.

They wear their favourite onesie or tie their laces on their shoes and they are interacting with Chemistry as they touch an inorganic object (their clothes) that has been constructed out of other matter.

In addition, the thing that children do most is ask questions. Sometimes they are non-verbal questions, where they use their eyes or their expressions. But you can guarantee that everything that they see, hear, taste, touch or smell is being logged into their brains where little hypotheses are being made. ‘What did that taste like?’ ‘Have I tasted that before?’ ‘Was it nice?’ ‘Do I want more?’

When you think about the experiences of young children in this way, it’s very easy to realise that every child is a through and through scientist.

At Young Minds, we love Science! The concept and the discipline of science fits perfectly with constructivist theory and inquiry based learning (where learning is a true partnership between child and teaching and where teachers act as guides for children’s explorations of the world around them) that we subscribe to at our Centre.

The question that most parents will now ask (naturally) is ‘How do you teach science to children?’ The answer to this is ‘Easily’. 😉

We set aside specific times for Science Classes for our Little Scientists. And during these classes we will be going through all the disciplines of Science. Our lessons will be structured with a curriculum in mind, so we spend the right amount of time on each topic.

Biology will include living things in our classroom and exploration of what lifecycles are. Botany is focused on plant life and how things grow. In this case, children will learn about seeds and what exactly they need to become plants. They will grow their very own plants from seeds (this will be in addition to the opportunity kids will have to help grow things in our veggie garden). Chemistry will look at the interaction of certain chemicals with each other and children will learn about oxidation (how oxygen interacts with things like fruit once its skin is broken). Physics will look at the effects of gravity on objects – this will include physical movement such as rolling objects down slopes, launching paper aeroplanes and dropping parachutes from heights. And then we will look to the stars and discuss astronomy – and how celestial objects like planets exist and how they interact with each other.

A lot of this sounds complex, but with the right training, the right lesson plans (that build up concepts), the right materials and a child’s participation in experiments and activities – everything becomes simple. What we want is to teach the concepts of science so children become familiar with them, to encourage them to be comfortable with their natural world and to ensure their curiosity is underpinned by theory.

Hope that your own inner Scientist was stimulated by this WordPress Blog from Young Minds! If you want to know more and would like to enrol your child at our South Geelong centre, drop us a line on enquiries@youngminds.vic.edu.au

Have an awesome week!

How Montessori Compares with Other Learning Systems

The style of teaching that children receive in today’s world has a significant impact on how they develop cognitively, emotionally and socially. As such, we thought it would be interesting to discuss three unique and prominent teaching programs and help parents decide on where they want to send their children.

Montessori Learning

At Young Minds Early Learning Centre, we believe that the Montessori method is an ideal way to prepare children for primary school and beyond. But as many parents and educators are aware, there are a few other styles of teaching out there that make similar bold statements.

So instead of saying “Ours is better than theirs”, we’d like to actually talk about the merits of each system and let you decide.

The three styles of teaching that we will discuss are Montessori, Waldorf (Steiner) and Reggio Emilia. All three aim to provide children with something that is a bit more than standard, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Steiner

Steiner is focused on structured learning that gives children routines, as well as being designed to have specific activities on certain days. As children get older in this system, some schools offer mixed aged learning groups to allow mentoring and social care. Within Steiner, there is a strong emphasis on human freedom and autonomy – essentially being able to think your own thoughts. In fact, Steiner’s philosophy is so strongly focused on the human soul, that they believe it reincarnates into a new body. The Steiner philosophy also promotes that the journey for learning is eternal.

A very specific thing that Steiner stipulates is that it the system of teaching is against grading as a method of educational motivation. In fact, the Steiner system believes that children should not be involved in any academic learning from birth to 7 years of age, rather that they learn subconsciously by being immersed in environments. This means that there are no tests or learning activities associated with standard schooling systems and that children spend a lot of time outdoors learning about the world. Children who go to Steiner schools are encouraged to develop their individualism and curiosity.

Reggio Emilia

This style of teaching has a significant emphasis on creativity and exploration. Reggio Emilia schools often employ art teachers and spend a large amount of time teaching their young children about expression – primarily through art and other creative methods. A standard class is more focused on incidental learning where children drive the classroom activities. As an example of this, if a child sees a butterfly in his outdoor exploration and brings it to the teachers attention, then a class lesson may incorporate drawing and painting butterflies, followed by a discussion on the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly.

This style of teaching also utilises project-based curriculums – which focus on self-expression, are child-driven and teacher framed. Reggio Emilia teaching also regularly and closely documents what children do. Children who come from this style of system learn to work cooperatively and focus strongly on creative expression – whether it is art, dance or cooking.

While Steiner and Montessori educators have very specific qualifications governed by world-wide bodies, Reggio Emilia practitioners have a more autonomous learning style that does not rely on manuals, curriculums or achievement tests.

Montessori

Obviously, Young Minds is a Montessori influenced long day care centre and kindergarten, so there is some bias in what we write next, however one thing that we also provide is a blend of the Australian National Quality Framework and the Montessori method. The reason for this is to ensure that children receive the best of both worlds. Montessori on it’s own can be perceived as quite a rigidly structured system, while the NQF and it’s play-based learning can lead to situations where all children do is play (without receiving anything at all to prepare them for primary school).

At Young Minds, we use Montessori teaching styles that focus on academic learning, creativity and practical knowledge, as well as specialised learning equipment. What this means is that children are guided on educational items that are interesting and ultimately develop them cognitively to undertake more complex tasks.

Unlike Steiner, we firmly believe that children are ready to learn more complex tasks, such as mathematics and language, at an age below 7. But at the same time, we believe that this learning should be done in a fun and play-based way, and at their own pace. Children need to enjoy their learning to ensure that they actually retain what they are taught.

We believe that it is important to prepare children to integrate into the way society operates as it has a specific organised structure. We find that if children are left to their own devices, and are taught through methods such as incidental learning, or are left to discover the world on their own with no tests or academic opportunity at a young age – then they are get a little lost when they attend their next schooling stage.

The combination of the EYLF and Montessori at Young Minds means that we pay especially close attention to the way our children are learning. We want to give them opportunities to become ready for the academic environments in front of them, but we also want to ensure that they are playing and enjoying life as only children can. This combination also gives us a lot of freedom to incorporate some non-Montessori things into our curriculum – such as art, language and science. Art includes things like music, dance and movement. We believe that learning another language allows children to gain understanding of other cultures, as well as to give them linguistic advantages significantly into the future. In 2016, we are aiming to bring in a Mandarin-language teacher for our three-year olds and four-year olds. Science will be provided at our centre by a qualified scientist who has spent the last 10 years researching brain development. Science lessons will be provided for our three-year olds and our four-year olds and will be specifically developed to help them gain a real understanding of the world that they live in.

The outcome of our style of teaching is that children learn to be independent, to become leaders, to overcome challenges and to be confident. They will also be realistically equipped for the next stage in their learning journey – from classrooms in primary schools and secondary schools, to lecture theaters at university and able to successfully complete work tasks in their future vocations. This can only happen when young children have been exposed to systems and gain capabilities that are essential to learning and in life.

The AMAZING Life Series on ABC

Just recently, we had the opportunity to watch an amazing documentary on Australian TV. It was so good that we went out and bought the entire DVD set. The name of the series was ‘Life’.

Life is a documentary that follows 11 families through the journey of their children growing up. To date, there have been eight documentaries, each one focusing on a particular year of growth of 11 amazing children, from birth to currently 8. ‘Life at 9’ – will begin on TV in August 2015 and detail what the kids have been up to in the last year.

The series itself comes from a longitudinal study (which is just a survey over a period of time – where the changes are observed and recorded) called ‘Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children’. The study is the largest study ever carried out on children in Australia – where 10,000 children participated for the purpose of understanding child development. The documentary series shows a snapshot of the study by following 11 specific children from their first year of life. What the study and series does is look beyond theory to see what family impacts, such as relationships, employment, cultural background, lifestyle, interactions, financial situations have on these children’s development.

Adding to this, the children are also given the opportunity to participate in developmental tests run by the science team behind the study. This aims to unlock the development progress that each child has made and tries to understand the cause of that progress – whether by nature or nurture.

This study ultimately provides a clear understanding on how a child’s development is impacted by the type of environment the child grows up in. While genetics play a significant part at an early stage, environmental factors can have a greater influence on a child’s development. These factors include: the type of family that a child grows up in; the socio-economic opportunities that are provided; the engagement and warmth of parents; as well as formal and informal activities. Factors such as stress and major changes or events can have significant impact on the way a child develops and this in turn can determine how a child’s life will turn out. The value of observing and analysing data is that educators and carers can understand the importance of supporting children through all facets of their development to ensure that they are well-balanced, intelligent, healthy and socially integrated.

The key question that is ultimately being asked is:

How do early experiences and development opportunities impact on the children’s lives as the get older?

One thing that we really noticed was that children who received attention from their teachers and parents absolutely thrived.

And this attention was not simply task oriented, but encompassed active listening and genuine interest in what the children were up to and what their thoughts and ideas were. Children who found themselves in tumultuous situations, where their home lives were disjointed, and did not receive this attention and focus – were found to be lagging behind in cognitive and social development.

It was evident that the children that received attention, but also the opportunity to explore and play by themselves, became very confident and were able to develop at a rapid rate and gain independence, increased social and cognitive capability and retain a strong social bond to family.

We believe that at Young Minds Early Learning Centre, our teaching system is one that will allow children to get the developmental opportunities that they require to succeed in primary school and beyond. Our teaching system specifically looks to provide children confidence, independence, as well as to be able to thrive as a member of our community.  Within the Young Minds teaching environment, young children will get specific guidance on tasks and that vital one-on-one time, but will then be encouraged to explore for themselves, to play with materials that stimulate the interest and development. When this method has been used successfully, we have seen hundreds of young children developing and improving right in front of our eyes – as young children begin to teach themselves how to do complex tasks.

We also see that studies like this exactly match the Early Years Learning Framework, where children’s Becoming, Being and Belonging is considered to be the most fundamental and vital goal for all educators to nourish.

When we see documentaries and significant work such as the Life series, it excites us and makes us even more passionate to be educators and carers of young children in Geelong. It also reinforces that it is so important for parents to place their children in the right environment that will act as springboard for their future growth.

When we open our South Geelong Long Day Care Centre and Kindergarten (September 2015 is flying towards us at a rapid rate), we will have this series in our Library for parents of our enrolled children to borrow. The knowledge from this simple DVD series is astounding and will make you want to laugh and cry as these 11 beautiful children go through the ups and downs of life with their families.

For more information about the study click on this link http://www.abc.net.au/tv/life/about_the_study/

For information about us, you can click on our FaceBook page or on our webpage on the About Us section.

Have a great weekend!

The team at Young Minds Early Learning Centre 🙂

Young Minds Early Learning

Young Minds Early Learning

Why it is Essential to Introduce Maths to Young Children

At Young Minds ELC we firmly believe that young children should be introduced to mathematics at during their time in childcare and kindergarten. Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori education system, understood that mathematics was an integral part of children’s development. And to teach children at a very young age, she even created specialised tools for children to be introduced to counting concepts at a very young age.

What we want to talk about today is the value of grasping mathematics at an early age. Maths isn’t just something that we go to school to use, it really is a fundamental of everyday life. When someone asks you the following questions:

“How old are you?”

“How many apples do you want?”

“How far away do you live?”

“What time is it?”

They are using basic maths principles and are expecting you to understand this very special language and respond in kind.

For young children to embrace mathematics and become fluent in its use, teachers must provide meaningful understanding, not just rote lessons on the maths subjects. That is generally where most of us develop a distaste for what we expect mathematics to be. When you are a young child sitting in a classroom environment and the teaching is asking you “What is 6 x 9?”, you can only go two ways – you can be right or you can be wrong. And that is the wrong way for children to be introduced to mathematics. Maths should not be thought of as a classroom setting skill.

At Young Minds, we introduce children at toddler, pre-kinder and kinder age groups to maths through interactive learning. Children get to touch objects and play games that involve counting and generally develop their own interest for the topic. We find that little children are naturally attracted to numbers and are able to learn concepts rapidly through their own curiosity and enjoyment.

As an example, at Young Minds we specifically tailor learning experiences to each child depending on what their likes and dislikes are. If a child loves nature and gardens, then we will teach them mathematics through digging holes and planting seeds or counting petals on flowers. This way, they can do what they love and we can piggyback a fundamental skill into their cognitive development.

Learning Mathematics Naturally

And the ideas that we have on teaching at Young Minds aren’t just coming out from thin air. We base them on developmental theorists and our own experience in the field of teaching young children. Professor William Brownell was a famous educationalist and mathematician who identified that behavioural theories when applied to mathematics did not help students truly incorporate mathematics into their everyday lives. His research stated that memorisation was in fact a poor way to help children understand mathematics and the most ideal way to teach mathematics was to focus on learning processes.

Professor Brownell further identified that it is vital, when teaching mathematics, that the concepts taught relate back to everyday life. A term that defines this is ‘number sense’ where children effectively use numbers in and out of a classroom setting.

Within the our pre-kinder and kinder classrooms at the Young Minds Early Learning Centre in South Geelong, we used specialised Montessori materials for children to be guided into mathematics and then to explore and discover themselves. These include: unit Trays with units of thousands, hundreds, tens and ones; the dot game; an introduction to the decimal system and number cards (small and large).

Through our decades of experience teaching, it is evident that infants and toddlers observe and experience their environment in a sensorial way. They touch and taste and see and hear their way through the world. This sensorial journey of development teaches them that things that appear to be abstract actually have physical qualities and properties. By experiencing things, children begin classifying things and form mental order. This means that every new thing they come across gets placed into their knowledge and uniquely identified as being related to something else that they have previously learned. This type of learning, of creating mental maps, is actually ideal for learning mathematics, which not only assists children in creating order in their minds, but acts as a natural classifying tool that helps them learn other non-maths related things far more easily.

At Young Minds, we really believe that maths isn’t separate to life, maths is part of life. And we want to give your child the joy of learning maths in a way that mirrors their cognitive development and allows them to incorporate it into their life without even realising that they are learning!

We’ll be opening our gorgeous purpose-built long day care and kindergarten facility in South Geelong in September 2015. So email us at enquiries@youngminds.vic.edu.au or call us on 03 5224 2322 to book a place into one of our programs!

How Montessori Complements and Benefits Traditional School Methods

At Young Minds Early Learning Centre, we believe that Montessori and Traditional School methods are not at polar-ends of a learning spectrum. In fact, there are significant benefits that both methods of teaching impart to each other.

That’s why we incorporate both methods in our educational system.

Here are some examples of the benefits of traditional methods of teaching which you would find at standard kindergartens and within the Australian primary and secondary system of education:

– Learning is consistent across all kindergartens and schools and based on a National Curriculum.

– Children are taught key educational segments that allow them to get a broad understanding of educational disciplines (maths and English/language are the basics).

– Children are taught to focus on academics and to develop intellectually as their priority.

– Children have structure and have to operate within certain periods of time (primary and secondary).

– A Teacher provides constant instruction and learning to the class.

So, how does this system go at University? And how does it go in a work environment?

At University, students are expected to perform academically as a priority, but are asked manage their own time, to attend classes without being prompted to, and to essentially self-teach away from class through exam preparation and assignments. Ultimately, students are expected to rely on their own motivation and develop their own academic capabilities and most importantly, to have the drive to succeed.

In the work environment, we work within teams and are asked to undertake our own workload within timeframes that give outcomes to the business/company/department. We are expected to be independent and at the same time, work with the overall team goal. Once again, the key things that come out of this are – the need to manage time well, the ability to have a common goal, to provide a high quality of work that benefits the business unit.

Where does the Montessori system fit into this?

At Young Minds, we believe that the Montessori system doesn’t compete with traditional schools and systems. Rather, it builds upon them by giving children a base of learning ability which allows them to thrive in all environments that they come across. We truly believe that this system allows children to come into primary school with the tools to understand what is expected of them and to comprehensively succeed in that environment. And these skills and abilities will continue into secondary school, university and work

At Young Minds, academic learning is encouraged and valued. But equally so, we value the ability for children to become independent thinkers, to be self-confident, to identify their own strengths and improve their weaknesses, to love learning, to teach themselves, and to be happy humans that contribute strongly to their communities and societies. We believe that by providing our method of teaching we can help your child to develop a method of viewing the world and thinking through problems in ways that are far broader and insightful than traditional methods. At Young Minds we teach children to invent and innovate, to step outside of the standard cookie cutter mold of learning and to use a broader and more comprehensive tool kit to thrive in every environment.

At our South Geelong Early Learning Centre, we closely follow the EYLF and we also teach them the systems that they will be able to utilise for all their environments of learning outside of kindergarten. We know that the best time to help children build a toolkit that helps them do well in life is in the early learning setting where they are sponges that want to learn everything. Unlike standard kindergartens, at Young Minds we realise that teaching isn’t just about letting children learn incidentally with some EYFL protocols in place. Rather, teaching is about teaching children systems of learning so that no matter what subject, topic or experience comes their way, they are able to understand it, try it and appreciate it.

Adding to this, at Young Minds, we teach children by guiding them. From a young age, children are shown how to complete tasks and then encouraged to work by themselves on that task. We are all about letting children discover and learn and build through natural progression – we just ensure that they have the right environment to stimulate them appropriately. This creates fantastic self-discipline, self-confidence and self-reliance, as well as the ability to explore and to learn. The Young Minds classroom environment is one of specialised materials where children have access to learning tools that accelerate development in traditional school subjects.

We teach children systems of learning that can be applied for all situations throughout their lifetime. Not just for a classroom setting in primary school. Children graduating from Young Minds will have the toolkit to succeed and thrive from primary school, to secondary school, to university, to the workplace. And it doesn’t just stop there – we believe that the Young Minds helps children develop socially and in the home environment.

At Young Minds, our learning system can just about be summarised with this famous saying:

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.

The difference between Incidental Learning and Intentional Teaching

Recently, we’ve come across a term that keeps getting repeated at a number of other childcare and kindergarten centres. The term was ‘incidental learning’ – and it was brought up whenever the question came up about whether the children in the kinder rooms were learning numbers and letters.

The explanation of what incidental is as follows:

“Children learn their names and sometimes, if they are interested, they can learn other letters. Numbers are learnt through songs like ‘the five little ducks’. But we don’t sit with them to teach them these things. Their learning is incidental.”

The three questions that immediately come up with this type of learning are:

How exactly do you know what exactly each child incidentally learns? Does incidental learning allow progressive learning? And is incidental learning the best way to prepare a child for sitting inside a classroom when they go to primary school?

If a child is incidentally learning vital things, then they are essentially building a learning system that is dependent on picking up something that is mentioned every now and then or is based on their personal interests.

The danger of this type of learning is that it can really leave children behind. It’s really left up to your child to learn something, anything. If they were sick on that day, or they simply were doing something else, then they miss out.

At Young Minds, we believe that by utilising a Montessori system to complement the Early Years Learning Framework, we are able to impart a learning system that aims to progress children through specific levels so that they actually ready for the next stage of their development.

It’s very easy for any kindergarten or childcare centre to state that ‘we prepare your child socially, academically and physically for primary school’, but what is the method that they are using to actually do this? Can you see a learning guideline where children’s current progression is matched to their expected progression? Are your children’s essential building blocks of learning, which show a transition and growth of their knowledge actually present in the Centre’s curriculum?

The EYLF sets a wonderful framework for service providers to follow. The key tenet is that the utilisation of play into children’s learning is essential, where they discover and create their way to gaining capability and knowledge.

However, when service providers give children unstructured play opportunities, and minimise their guided learning, the outcomes become varied and less than optimal. When this happens, an early learning centre becomes simply a childcare centre.

Within the EYLF, the words Belonging, Being, Becoming are identified as the strongest characterization of children’s lives in their early years. Further to this, the key foundations that makeup Belonging, Being, Becoming are Learning Outcomes, Practice and Principles. These three foundations clearly articulate that Children must be confident and involved learners, that there is intentional teaching and that there is ongoing learning and reflective practice.

Nowhere is it mentioned that incidental learning is a key facet of the EYLF.

Within the Young Minds ELC curriculum, we provide intentional teaching within a play-based environment. By following the EYLF and giving children opportunities to learn and be involved, we set the stage for them to take the next step into primary school. The focused learning opportunities that we provide are exclusively provided through the use of specialised Montessori materials – where at the very basic, children actually learn their letters and numbers. At Young Minds, it won’t be just their names, but all of the letters of the alphabet. We are unapologetic to say that none of the learning we provide is incidental. It is focused and designed to giving children the opportunity to explore learning rich environments. And it’s not just for the kinder kids – we will be providing learning-rich environments and guidance for all our age groups. Whether it is primary colours, patterns, shapes or vowels, children will be able to build their knowledge and capability progressively. We know that they want to learn and we know that you want them to learn beyond just ‘picking it up as they go’, so we simply give them the teaching, the system and the environment to enable this to happen.

Essentially, what Young Minds provides is the Goldilocks situation – where the learning is not too intense and rigid and where it is definitely not too carefree and uninhibited – but where the learning is just right.

So next time, when you attend your centre, ask them “is your program focused or incidental learning?” and “what intentional teaching are you doing to ready my child for primary school?” A good centre will be able to explain exactly what they are planning for your child and how your child will be actually ready for school, it will show you the tools that they have in place to teach children, not just keep them occupied.

Learning to Read: The journey from infant to kindergarten

Montessori Reading Materials

It is such an amazing thing to see young children learning to read. From the first time that they comprehend that words give meaning when strung together – we can see whole world emerges for them that they never knew even existed. We can see cognitive development occur right before our very eyes.

When children learn to read, they go through a continuum of development. There are several different theories of what exactly happens in this continuum: Environmentalist theorists such as Watson, Skinner and Bandura, believe that the environment that the child is in plays the biggest role; Gessel developed the Maturist theory, and he believed that biological development ensured that cognitive capabilities of all humans increased as their brains developed; and Constructivist theorists such as Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori believed that it was the interaction of young children with people and the environment around them.

What we do know is that while stages of development exist, not all children take the same path to the end goal. The stages themselves were first identified and discussed when New Zealand researcher Marie Clay introduced the description ‘emergent reader’ in the 1960’s. From this came further words that identified where children were in the stages: Emergent, Early, and Fluent. While other researchers use other terms to describe the path that young children take to reading, ultimately it is done in stages where children discover language, attempt language, build their language capability and then finally utilise language fully.

At Young Minds ELC, we believe that the best way that we can assist young children read is to set the appropriate environment for them and to ensure that they are given the attention and care they need to develop. We believe that the earlier that children are introduced to concepts like reading, the earlier they become familiar with the skill of reading. Therefore it is important to actively teaching children to read beyond the standard group story time methods utilised elsewhere.

By utilising specialised Montessori materials, such as tactile letters, word-to-picture matching and writing aids, and also conventional methods such as group reading time, we believe that we can accelerate children’s ability to read.

With the right materials, the right environment and the right interactions with young children – Young Minds sets the perfect conditions for young readers to thrive.

This can occur from a very young age where Infants or toddlers absorb and discover a vast amount of information. At these early stages, educators must spend the time to show them books and educational materials, so that they become familiar and interested in reading. The next stage of reading after interest is to imitate and practice the patterns of words and symbols that they are seeing, as such reading will have greater interactivity and educators must be able to nourish this growth. As children pass this stage and move into pre-kinder, they need further reinforcement and also access to new objects that push their development further. By this stage, children will be familiar with words written and spoken and be interested in exploring tools that encourage them to take that next step. It is at this stage that children can attempt to imitate words through play with tactile letters.

By ensuring that children are able access a full continuum of teaching and learning from very young ages, we aim to ensure that the children in our care love reading and excel at it.

How exactly will Play develop My child?

Specialised Montessori Materials

This is a follow-up to the article we posted the other day ‘The Power of Play’ from mariamontessori.com.

Often, we see a lot of other kindergartens/preschools and childcare centres where children are left to their own devices, with the carers stating that ‘oh, they are exploring their environment’ or ‘we let them choose what they want to do’.

While the premise is sound – children must be encouraged to explore and teach themselves – it falls apart badly when there is no structured learning opportunity for the child. Children at such a young age are developing rapidly and are hungry for knowledge. It is up to the educator to feed this knowledge and do so by setting up the child’s environment to nourish them.

If an educator sits back and lets the child do all the work, then it is highly unlikely that the child’s learning can be considered purposeful or directed and therefore it is highly unlikely that a child will be learning what they need to know for their transition into school.

At Young Minds, our curriculum is designed for children to choose their activities within a structured work-environment that is heavily influenced by the constructivist teachings of Maria Montessori. Our centre in South Geelong, has specific materials that are designed to engage children’s interests while developing key cognitive function – such as pattern recognition, numbers, letters and both fine and gross motor skills. All of this is done within the bounds of the Early Years Learning Framework, which gives centres a structure of teaching to prepare young children for school.

Children at Young Minds ELC are able to enjoy the freedom of what play is defined to be. They can explore their environments – both the internal learning areas and external landscaped play grounds – but the difference that we bring to the table is that it is not unrestrained ‘do whatever you like’ play. Yes, we have arts and crafts, and blocks and lego, but we also have things like geography puzzles, shapes, counting and numbers, and we have teacher directed and led lessons so that children are already thinking about useful concepts before they are even introduced to them in primary school. What we provide is elite development.

We will be opening in just few months. So come in and see for yourself. 🙂